As a follow-up to my previous post about spiritual health, I’d like to share some thoughts about maintaining spiritual health over time, as well as growing in maturity as Christians.
An important touch-stone is Jesus’ summary of the Law, because that’s probably the most basic command for how to live a godly life: love the Lord your God with your entire heart, soul, mind, and strength. The primary way we show our love for God is worship. In worship we literally show God what he’s worth to us. And we do this emotionally with our hearts, spiritually with our souls, logically with our brains, and physically with our bodies. It is this holistic understanding of worship that enables us to see just how wide the scope of this worship is, as well as begin to piece together how these different parts of our being relate to each other in the context of worshiping God.
This is not a rank of importance, but a cycle or progression: we must worship first with our souls, then minds, then hearts, then strength.
Worship God with all your soul.
It is impossible to please God without faith, and yet faith itself comes from God. So it is with love: it begins with the love between the three persons of the Trinity, and it is shared with those who are baptized into Christ. Worship follows on the heels of love: as Christ has made his Spirit dwell within us, it becomes the disposition of our soul to respond to God with worship. We must realize that this is part of God’s gift to us; worship does not originate with us (as I wrote in the middle of this article). Once we grasp that worship is something that begins outside of ourselves and only includes us through our spiritual connection to Christ, then we can start sorting out how to contribute to it ourselves.
Worship God with all your mind.
If we learn anything about worship from the Old Testament, it’s that it’s highly intentional and objective. It is centered around certain acts and is pointed toward a real audience. Christian worship is centered around the atonement sacrifice – Christ on the cross – and pointed towards the audience of the Triune God. As we seek to worship God in our own lives we must first give consideration (with our minds) to this reality, and establish disciplines of worship. Bible-reading, prayer, fasting and feasting, standing, sitting, kneeling, singing, and silence are common examples of ingredients that go into worship. We’re not left to our own devices here; the Church has always had traditions of Common Prayer (see the third section here) to keep our worship lives at least partially connected to the Body. One way or another, though, we must be mindful and intentional about our disciplines of worship.
Worship God with all your heart.
Just as in a relationship with another human being, the heart needs to be involved for this to work. Our worship to God should also be heart-felt. Just like with long-term relationships, though, sometimes we get into a funk where “we’re just not feeling it.” That’s why the mind comes first – there are times when our emotions just don’t cooperate. And since we can’t just give up worshiping God until the feeling comes back, we’ve got to have a willful or intellectual worship life already established. This doesn’t make the heart secondary in importance, though. We must foster love for God in our hearts and infuse our worship with that love. For some people, this means that the mind-based spiritual disciplines we undergo are to be infused with personal emotional enthusiasm. For others, worshiping God with our hearts means going beyond those intellectual disciplines and expressing our love and worship in other creative ways. Either way, the heart and the mind are to be complementary, not competitive.
Worship God with all your strength.
Once the intentional and hearty life of worship is established, then we’re equipped to worship and honor God in our regular lives. One of the main purposes of the Sabbath Day is to have one day set aside for worship each week so that there’s a grounding for the people to continue worshiping God throughout the rest of the week. It’s much the same thing with our heart/mind and strength – once we’re grounded in objective worship from our minds and hearts, we’re able to honor God in the more mundane tasks of life. As we’ve already hinted at earlier, it’s impossible to please God without faith, because everything that doesn’t come from faith is sin. It’s the same with worship: we can’t honor and worship God in our everyday lives unless we can first honor and worship God through intentional acts of worship!
Keep the balance healthy.
Each of these are equally important. Yes, there’s a progression from one to the next, but that doesn’t mean that any are more important or more spiritual than the other. We aren’t meant to move on from one to another, skip any steps, or settle for anything less than worshiping God with our whole being. Many of us have strengths and weaknesses among these areas which need to be dealt with (and not used as excuses to skimp out on something). If you’re intellectually-focused but not very emotionally expressive like me, you need to spend more effort learning how to love God with your heart. Look at your mind and your strength (lifestyle) for help as you learn to love and worship God from your heart.