Proclaiming God’s nature and power brings peace and perspective, says Lucy Peppiatt


Source: Stuart Corlett / Alamy Stock Photo

We shouldn’t only worship God for what he does for us. We should worship him for who he is. 

You may well have heard this teaching before; I can vividly remember the first time it was said to me. If you always focus on what God might do for you then you’re making your worship dependent on the benefits of being in a relationship with him, and not upon the truth that God is worthy of our worship because he is God! Our praise, love and adoration should be given to God because he is the creator of all that is, the perfect being full of truth, goodness and beauty. To know God is to love him, and loving him brings forth our worship and praise. 

I got the point, but I wasn’t entirely sure how to tease these two things apart in my mind so that I could ensure I was worshipping correctly. I was first drawn to God when I encountered Jesus, and realised that he was my saviour. I recognised that he rescues us from sin, death and the devil, and that God was unrelentingly ‘for us’ - for me even. I was beyond grateful for that salvation. Secondly, I experienced the Holy Spirit as the one who lives in us and among us, teaching us the deep things of God and pouring out the love of God into our hearts, witnessing to us that we are children of our heavenly Father (see Romans 5:5). This knowledge and these experiences were all wrapped up in how I expressed my love, gratitude, praise and worship to God. They were reasons to worship him. 

Putting praise first

At the beginning of this year, after many years of participating in sung worship, something happened that gave me a much clearer sense of the difference between worshiping God for who he is and worshiping him for what he has done. At our January residential teaching week, we were led in praise and worship. In one song after another, we simply declared who God is. We declared that God is holy and worthy of all praise. We sang of his goodness, his mercy, his unending love and faithfulness. We repeatedly sang the chorus of ‘O come let us adore him’. And we stayed in that place of praise. We didn’t move towards more intimate or personal expressions. There was no reference to ‘us’ or ‘me’ at all! As we praised and worshipped in this way, many of us felt closer to God than we had experienced in a long time. 

God is worthy of our worship because he is God

We spent four days establishing a practice and discipline of praising God for who he is, and not what he has done. We lifted up the name of Jesus as the name above all names. We sang to the Father, the Son and to the Holy Spirit as the triune God. We were led in a meditation on Romans 11:33-36: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?’ For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen.”

As we did this, so much changed in us and around us. Firstly, I felt we were expressing something deep from within us; something we were sure of but, as we declared it in the gathered assembly, we believed those truths all over again. In this way, our praise functioned as a creed, a statement of corporate belief that this is the God we serve. 

Secondly, as we proclaimed the goodness of God, the world came into perspective. It’s not that the world disappeared, but the troubles and worries took their place under God’s powerful and beautiful presence and so had a different proportion in our lives. I believe praise and worship brought peace for many of us. 

Thirdly, it lifted our spirits. I was surprised by how much energy we had for evening worship at the end of a very long day in stimulating, but also demanding, classes. We were more, not less, ready to worship; having spent our days learning about the inexpressibly glorious nature of God, we got to sing about it at the end. 

Establishing the foundation

There is nothing wrong with thanking God for what he has done for us. There is nothing wrong with praising God for his works among us. Seeing God move in saving grace, healing power, restoring lives and relationships is deeply moving and rightly brings forth praise. But if his works are the foundation for our praise and worship – the reason that we sing – what will we do when we see nothing change? Or, even worse, when we see everything around us falling apart? 

Now, I understand better. It is not wrong to praise and worship God for all he has done. Of course, we want to do that. But God’s benefits can’t be the foundation of our praise and worship because they sometimes fade from view. Disciples of Jesus “will have trouble” (John 16:33) but when we remember who God is above, over and in the world, it puts our lives in a different perspective. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17).