"She asks, “For years, attending church meant singing in the choir, playing bells, women’s Bible study, organizing funeral dinners, cleaning the church, making banners…now I’m in my mid 70s and all those things are not on my list anymore and I’m wondering: have I really been worshiping God all these years or was it just busy work? And how do we know if we are worshiping when we are sitting in church? Sorry to bother you but I’m locked in my house and my resources are limited.”
I’m deeply moved by you heart for the Lord and His people, and by your years of faithful, humble service. Never doubt for a moment that your work serving corporate worship, feeding the congregation, and helping others grieve, celebrate, or just enjoy a beautiful space has been anything but precious in God’s sight. I pray God will give you a glimpse on this side of eternity the difference your love for God and His people made. If not, you will know on the other side.
We live in a culture captivated by the dramatic and heroic, acts that make for attractive headlines and exciting movies. Tragically, the Church is too much like the culture in this way. I’m convinced that those mostly likely to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” will be those who, like this listener, were faithful in those things our world considers mundane “busywork.” A life spent in every-day faithfulness is the epitome of a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”
There’s more to this question, of course. With so much of church life and community service put on hold because of COVID, what does service to God and God’s people look like? The answer gets to the heart of what serving and worshiping God means.
When we find our identity in Christ, we are really finding our created identity, the one which God intended for us as His image bearers. Remember, Christ restores and renews that which has been lost in the Fall. God’s original command was to “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the Earth and subdue it.” This work He gave His image bearers was, in large part, the means by which they were to worship Him.
God calls every human to this worship, and Christ restores us to it. Some will find the work of their hands to be speeches, or battles, or curing disease, or passing historic legislation. Others will find the task at hand raising children, serving meals, creating a space for truth and worship or other world-changing work that seems ordinary. This worship is also pleasing to God.
Jesus highlighted this truth in pointing out the widow and her mite. While the rich dumped bags of gold into the temple coffer, this woman with barely two copper coins to rub together dropped them both in. Jesus said she out-gave them all.
The point is clear. The God who owns everything and has all power doesn’t need our resources, and He’s not impressed by our resumes. Like the sign that graced Chuck Colson’s desk which read: “Faithfulness, Not Success,” part of the Gospel’s very good news is that we can truly worship and glorify Him wherever we are and no matter our circumstances.
Of course, our circumstances change and it’s tough when our mission field shrinks. Every retiring CEO and every empty-nester wonders, “What now?” The point is that God doesn’t need us to do “great things” for Him. He wants us to do the next right thing no matter where we are.
As this listener has lived out, Christians should be with God’s people and serve wherever we can. At the same time, Scripture is clear that everything done well to God’s glory is also worship.
I love this line from poet Gerard Manley Hopkins:
“It is not only prayer that gives God glory, but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God glory if being in His grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a sloppail, give Him glory too. He is so great that all things give Him glory if you mean they should.”
So, keep up the good work to the glory of God, wherever you find yourself, and you’ll truly be worshiping. And find someone like this woman and start taking notes."