What are your expectations when you come to worship? Do you anticipate hearing an edifying sermon? Do you look forward to singing favorite songs or seeing friends? Are you eager to come to the weekly services of the church? Or has worship become just one more item to manage on your schedule?
As we prepare for gathered worship, it is important that we regularly check our expectations. They too easily can become mired in our own motives or pulled down by our own lack of aspiration. We are easily dulled, distracted and discouraged. We sing about God’s glory while wondering how long it is until lunchtime. We pray for the preaching of His Word, then step out for a drink of water when the sermon starts. We speak well of God and yet forget that He is with us and is the very reason that we are gathered.
We must remember that worship is not about us; it is about God. We are coming into the presence of our Creator, who made all things, including us, for His own glory. We are coming into the presence of our King, who rules and reigns over us and all things. We are coming into the presence of our Father, who loves us and who gave His own Son to rescue us and bring us near. Christ shed His blood that we might have bold access to the throne of grace. David reminds us in Psalm 16:11 that in God’s presence “there is fullness of joy.” At His right hand there “are pleasures forevermore.” Our expectations, when rightly kindled, should be that worship is a glorious opportunity for us, together as the people of God, to draw near and enjoy the very One who is our joy and life and salvation.
We see an example of such expectation in the opening verses of Psalm 42.
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
Last time we considered the need to pray for the power of the Spirit as we come to worship. As we pray, we should anticipate that God will hear and answer our prayer—that He will be present and active in our times of worship, and as a result, we will leave challenged and changed by His Word.
May God guard us against simply marking time in our services. If we really grasp the reality that we are coming into the presence of our God, it will change our attitude and actions. We will not be casual or careless. We will come full of expectation, ready and intent upon looking to Him, rejoicing in Him, and loving Him. We will come with humble expectation, delighting in His truth and ready to submit our thoughts and lives to His Word. We will come with great expectation, knowing that we love and serve a great God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). May this be the passion of our hearts as we look forward to gathering together to worship the One true God.