3. Focus on drawing closer to the Lord rather than receiving His gifts.
A simple way of saying this is to focus on the Giver, not the gifts. The peace, strength, and blessings we seek flow out of an intimate relationship with God. Therefore, we must pursue His heart and trust Him to meet all our needs (Philippians 4:19).
In Isaiah 29:13, God says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” Here, the Lord is saying they chose other loyalties besides Him. They may have talked the talk, but they were not living out the truth. We do this too. We show up on Sundays and raise our hands in praise, only to swear, lie, lust, behave selfishly, or worry throughout the week. While sanctification is a journey, we should be displaying the fruit of the Spirit in increasing measures. If we’re not, or we’re intentionally choosing to live in sin, our worship is empty and meaningless.
When we worship, our motive must be to draw closer to God. He, not His blessings, should be our primary focus. Fullness of peace, joy, safety, security, and love are found in His presence.
4. Focus on listening for the voice of the Holy Spirit rather than criticizing the pastor or worship team.
In a recent poll, 83% of Americans said the quality of the preaching played an important role in their choice of congregation. Feeling welcomed came in a close second, with the style of the worship services ranking third. While we all have a preferred style of preaching, we should be focused primarily on one Voice—that of the Holy Spirit. If we’re more focused on catching the pastor’s mistakes, criticizing the worship team’s music selections, or complaining that service is too long, we’ve missed the point.
The Holy Spirit can speak through any Spirit-led Christian, from the most charismatic to the least eloquent. If you find yourself in a church where the sermon and music aren’t perfect, but God’s Word is being preached, maybe it’s not time to jump ship. Maybe it’s time to arrive ten minutes early to pray, assume a posture of humility, and quiet our minds to hear what He has to say.
To avoid self-serving worship, show up with the expectation that God will speak. Believe that He will use His Word, song lyrics, and conversations with other mature believers to confirm your God-honoring dreams, desires, and convictions. Your role is not to criticize or seek out mistakes, but to seek the voice of the Holy Spirit and obey.