When Life Falls Apart
On Thursday, January 6, 2017, my life began to change in a way I’d never experienced and wouldn’t dare to have imagined. My dad underwent surgery that morning, and before he was out of recovery, he went into cardiac arrest in an event unrelated to the procedure.
While he was initially resuscitated, he was put on life-support as the doctors spent 5 days doing everything in their power to keep him alive. However, my dad’s life was not in the doctors’ hands. It was in God’s. And on January 10th, God finally brought my dad home to Heaven.
Those that know me know how close I was with my dad. He was not just my father, but my best friend, my boss, and my Pastor. He was the greatest spiritual influence in my life, and so much of who I am today is because of him, especially in regard to my relationship with God and my passion for ministry.
The days and months that followed his death were the hardest of my life to this point. I’m thankful for the many family and friends who surrounded my mom and me with support, encouragement, and love during that time, even as they were grieving themselves.
I don’t spend much time thinking about that time of my life. It’s still too much to relive, and I don’t want to live in that place. However, there are times when I look back and marvel at how much God brought me through and how much grace I experienced in those days and months.
As I realized that it has now been 5 years since all of this took place, I began to reflect. But instead of dwelling on the experience in the hospital, or in the roller-coaster of life that I went through in the months following, I began to think about some of the things my dad taught me over my life, and how those things helped me get through the enormous trial that God had brought me to that year.
The name of my website is “The Surrendered Life.” I actually chose this title less than a month before my dad died. I had no idea at the time I picked this theme that I’d have to live it so fiercely and so soon.
So much of what I learned about the importance, the significance, and the realities of surrendered living I learned from my dad – not just in his teachings, but in his living.
Today, in honor of his 5th anniversary in Heaven, I want to begin a series where I’ll be sharing 5 areas of surrendered living that I learned from my dad in the 26 years that he poured into my life.
LESSON 1: SURRENDERED WORSHIP
There are many types of “worship” when it comes to our relationship with God. There’s personal worship, which involves prayer and Bible study. There’s corporate worship, which we tend to associate with a church service, and sometimes narrow down to the musical portion of said service. Finally, there’s also the idea of worshiping God in the way that we live.
My dad taught me, both in word and deed, that you can’t worship God through song or in church or at work if you haven’t worshiped God privately, at home, by your time in the Word of God and prayer. True worship is an overflow of our relationship with God. If our relationship with God is askew, our worship will be, as well. More than that, our worship will be ineffective.
This is something I still struggle with today, and I have a feeling I’m not alone in this. There’s a reason that Bible study and prayer are called “disciplines.” If it were easy to do these things, we’d all do them, we’d do them all the time, and we’d always find it enjoyable. The reality is quite different, though. However, the fact remains: if I am unwilling to worship God privately, how dare I worship him publicly?
Personal worship requires surrender because it is not easy. However, if I believe the truth of Scripture that recounts the benefits of spending time with God, I will surrender my own comfort and get up early. I’ll surrender my time and rearrange my schedule. I’ll surrender my need to be entertained, and instead choose to focus on what brings real and lasting satisfaction.
This surrender and discipline of spending time with God privately translates to how I live in other areas of my life.
When it comes to corporate worship, I’ll make it a priority because God values corporate worship and calls me to be faithful to a local church. Rather than arguing that I can “worship God anywhere,” surrendered living recognizes that God has called us to worship Him together as a church, and it’s through His church that we most effectively grow through relationships, accountability, service, and learning through song and through sermon.
And in that worship service, I’ll find myself more engaged and genuine in each part. I’ll connect with the prayers and find myself agreeing in prayer. I’ll sing openly, joyfully, and without worry of what those around me may think. I’ll be attentive to the message and looking for ways to apply it to my life. And finally, I’ll bring all these things with me so that I can continue to overflow the love of God to those around me.
My dad was the happiest person you’d see on a Sunday morning. He was full of excitement and joy, and though he couldn’t carry a tune very well, he was the most energetic person during the songs each week, singing loudly with a huge grin, because he knew and believed and had experienced the truth of what he was singing. He inspired me to be joyful in song.
He was passionate in his preaching, and determined to speak the truth regardless of who or how it may offend, while offering compassion and love for those who needed to be restored to Christ. He displayed the beauty of a life filled with both truth and grace, and it was the overflow of his own relationship with God that resulted in surrendered worship.
A Lifestyle of Worship
Another way that surrendered worship will impact my life is in the way I interact with others throughout my day. By default, I worship myself, and it’s seen when I respond in irritation, frustration, or annoyance at those around me. In contrast, when I am choosing to worship, surrendering my rights and my comfort, I’ll be more in tune with the Spirit and therefore ready to take advantage of the opportunities He places in front of me each day to love and honor those around me with my thoughts and my actions, pointing to Him instead of my own selfish attitudes. However, none of this is possible if I don’t start the day off with surrendered worship.
For all my life, I could always count on the fact that my dad would be the first one up each morning, and he would always be found in his study praying, spending time in God’s word, and preparing for the day.
The surrendered discipline he exercised to do this overflowed to the rest of the day, as he was joyful, optimistic, and open to what God would bring to him throughout the day. If he could surrender his morning to the Lord, why not his afternoon and evening, as well? He taught me that God was in charge of the day, not him; and the same should be true for me. To worship God with my life, my life has to be about God, not me. It has to be about His will, not mine; His priorities, not mine; His glory, not mine.
The Reality of Surrendered Worship
It’s tempting to make worship about us.
Surrendered worship is living in the reality that worship is about God.
Worship isn’t about what makes me feel good; it’s about what honors God.
Worship isn’t supposed to be convenient; it’s supposed to be committed.
Worship isn’t always going to be easy; but it’s always going to be worth it.
Surrendered worship is life changing because it shifts the focus of our lives from ourselves, our needs, our comforts, our rights, our insecurities, and our fears, to God, His power, His love and His abounding grace that’s offered to us as we choose to walk in surrender, fully in step with Him.
If I had not learned these truths about worship, I am certain I would not have been able to endure the trial of my dad's death nearly so well. But since my dad taught me that worship isn't about how I feel, but who God is, I was able to find the strength to worship God even when it was hard, and it was in those painful moments of deep surrender that I most experienced God.
Today I want to challenge you (as much as myself!) to live surrendered in your worship. Let’s take a step of faith, believe God, and choose to do the hard work of surrender so that we can live in the freedom and joy that comes from true worship.
In a word: passionate.