By Don R. Hastings
We are going to look into the hearts of two worshippers. We shall try to see them as God does. We know that God judges the thoughts and intents of our hearts (1 Sam. 16:7; Heb. 4:13; Lk. 16:15). Therefore, for our worship to be acceptable to God, our hearts must be right with him. God wants true worshipers and these are the ones who worship him “in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:23,24).
Nathaniel has been a member of the Lord’s church for several years. Occasionally, he will lead in prayer or help serve the Lord’s supper. On a typical Lord’s day morning, after much admonishment by his wife to be dressed on time, he arrives at services just as the song leader has called out the number for the first song.
He sits in Bible class and has not filled out his Bible lesson. He rarely makes a comment in class. He longs to catch up on his sleep since he got to bed late last night. He closes his eyes, but is unable to sleep due to the uncomfortable bench and his wife’s poking him in the ribs. This causes the sour mood to intensify. He is hoping the Bible class teacher will stop on time.
When the worship service begins, he notes that the announcements were four minutes and 25 seconds long. He wonders why announcements even need to be made. The song leader has picked out a song with five verses and leads all five verses too slowly. He thinks the song leader is trying to show off his voice. The one, who is in charge at the Lord’s table, tells what the Lord’s painful sacrifice and resurrection means to him. Then, he reads some appropriate verses of Scripture. All of this takes five minutes. This really upsets him. Nathaniel thinks to himself, “Why does he need more than two minutes to say that the Lord’s supper is symbolic of the Lord’s death and call on brother ‘so and so’ to lead us in prayer?”
Now that long-winded preacher begins a message from God’s word. Instead of preaching a 25 minute sermon so the worship service will be over within an hour, the preacher takes forty to forty-five minutes. He thinks, “Any good preacher could ‘boil’ his sermon down.” To help make the long minutes pass a little faster, he gets up to go to the bathroom about ten minutes into the sermon. He crawls over a few people and marches up the aisle. After ten minutes, he comes back. Then, five minutes before the close of the service, he decides to go get a drink of water. So, he disturbs the worship of others again.
Nathaniel caught himself just before he said out-loud, “Oh, No!” Someone went forward to be baptized into Christ. He knows that this will add ten more minutes Finally, the closing prayer is led. The one leading the worshipers in prayer takes four minutes to thank God for the precious soul that was cleansed of sin. He prays that God’s daughter will remain faithful to him.
As Nathaniel quickly leaves the building, he tells the one leading the closing prayer, “Don’t be so wordy!” He feels a lot of resentment over the services going twenty-five minutes past the hour. He tells his wife, “I didn’t get anything out of the worship!” She reproves him for the discouraging remark made to the one who led the closing prayer. He replies, “Anyone, who will make me stand for four minutes, needs to have his feelings hurt!”
Sister Phoebe is getting “up in years.” She is happy today because today she will assemble with her brothers and sisters in the Lord to praise her Redeemer. She drives to the building with a prayer in her heart that the Lord will help her to get there safely and that her worship will be acceptable to him. With a smile on her face, she greets her brethren and visitors. She is there in plenty of time.
After the Bible class, she tells the teacher that some of the spiritual truths brought out in class are particularly helpful to her. She listens to the announcements carefully for she wants to call or send cards to those not present. She cares about the welfare of each not there. She opens her song books and makes “melody” with her heart to the Lord. Her voice is breaking with age, but her heart-strings vibrate with more vigor.
The words, by the one in charge of the Lord’s table, bring tears to her eyes. As she partakes of the emblems, she feels so deeply her love for the Lord grow stronger. She is determined to keep herself pure and bring glory to his name!
She doesn’t take her eyes off the preacher. Hearing again, about God’s great love for mankind in sending his beloved Son to die on the cross that all might be made pure by his blood, thrills her soul. Time passes so quickly that it is difficult for her to believe that the lesson is over when the preacher concludes by calling upon sinners to turn from their sins to God.
Oh, how her heart rejoices when one comes forward to confess her faith in Christ! Watching one being buried with her Lord in baptism and raised to walk after the example of Christ, brings back precious memories of her own conversion. She hugs so fervently her new sister in Christ and tells her that she wants to help her be a faithful Christian. She looks forward to showing hospitality and having her into her home.
She listens carefully to the closing prayer and quietly says, “Amen!” she takes time to find and commend the song leader, the one presiding at the Lord’s table, and particularly appreciates the beautifully expressed thoughts of the one leading the closing prayer. She tells the preacher that is seemed as though he had just gotten up to preach when he was finishing the sermon. She appreciated the fact that the sermon exalted Jehovah for it was based on his holy word.
On her way home, she is so spiritually alive that she sings for joy. She takes comfort from knowing that God cares for her and in only six hours she can assemble to worship her Creator again.
Which worshiper best describes your worship? Which worshiper offers worship pleasing to God?
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 4, pp. 108-109
February 18, 1988