Standing among 18,000 fans in the upper section of the once-named Energy Solutions Arena, I found myself in awe. The stadium lights shut off, the Utah Jazz logo began spinning on the floor, fireworks burst, and a motorcycle roared onto center court igniting the fans in celebration.
Then the words all Utah sports fans know, “Bring em’ on out, them Jazz!” led the the sold-out crowd into a frenzy. This was my first NBA postseason game and the experience didn’t disappoint. I had never been in such an environment before. Yet, instead of joining in the celebration, my mind couldn’t escape this one thought, “All of this for a basketball game! All of this to celebrate men playing the game of basketball.”
I admire and respect all the hours of work poured into the game-day experience by the organization and players. However, as I stood in the upper deck of the arena all I could think about was heaven. If this is the praise we give to men to play a game, how much more would the worship and praise be to God? The worship for the Almighty King, the God of the universe, the One that created it all, and the One who gave all in His Son Jesus Christ. I imagine it would make a Jazz postseason game look tame. This reflection prompted me to question: What about here on earth, what do we worship? Who do we worship? And no matter what it is, why do we worship?
Found in the Bible’s Old Testament, God gave commands, or instruction, on how the Israelites were to conduct their lives. The first two among those commands stated, “You shall have no other gods before me, and you shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”
These are pretty straight forward instructions. We may read them and believe we haven’t violated them. I personally don’t know anyone that has made an image and worships it, or has a shrine with statues. So we are in good standing, right?
I heard a quote from Russell Brand — and yes, the often crass comedian and actor — that I believe does a great job answering this question. He said, “We are a species that worships. And if you do not access the divine, you will worship the Mondial (world), you will worship the profane, you will worship your own identity, you will worship your belongings, you will worship the template laying before you, by a culture that wants you, not wants you, but gets you distracted and relatively dumb.”
I would offer that while we don’t have shrines and images in our homes that we worship, we do find ourselves worshipping the things that Russell listed. We worship our phones, giving up on average four-and-a-half hours of devotion to them each day. We devote 35 hours each week to TV. What if we spent that time pursuing God? That could be through prayer, reading the Bible, or being in healthy community with friends and family. I believe we would be empowered with love and joy. As Russell said, we are a creation that worships, and if our worship is not directed toward God, it’s going somewhere else.
What we don’t recognize is that in our misguided worship we are missing out on so much. When we focus ourselves toward Jesus, prioritizing Him, we gain a perspective that He is bigger, is more, is able to move in any situation. I am filled with joy, because I am not distracted by the world, and that in my weakness I am made strong because of Jesus.
Every week across this beautiful nation, and here in Tooele, people come together in places of worship. They gather in church buildings, a living room, park, or stadium. There are many life-giving churches within our community, Life Church Tooele being among them that focuses our worship on Jesus Christ. May I suggest we be mindful of where our devotion and worship is directed? If you’re wondering what this looks like, our doors are always open.
And I am not saying you shouldn’t cheer for your favorite team. I do, and it’s fun. But our praise and adoration for God should be greater than that of a sports team, TV show, phone, or video game. As recorded in the New Testament, religious leaders were discouraging crowds from worshipping Jesus and He said, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
God is worthy of praise and worship, so let’s not allow the rocks to cry out in our place. Because one day, we will have the opportunity to stand in a great crowd of witnesses shouting and cheering and praising Jesus for all that He has done — giving His life on the cross and raising from the dead for our salvation. But let’s not wait until then. We can worship now, because worshipping the King of Kings is greater than cheering for any sports team in any arena.
Forrest White is the pastor of Life Church Tooele.