On the third floor of the Church of God of Prophecy International Offices there is a painting that says: “Character is who you are when no one but God is watching.” It doesn’t matter how many times I come across this painting, every time I see it, it compels me to meditate and continually ask myself the question: “Who am I when no one but God is watching?”
The current society we live in and where we carry out our lives highly values the concept of productivity. What we do and what we can show for ourselves is what defines who we are. We are impressed by titles, we thrive on trophies, awards and other symbols of merit and acknowledgement because we view them as proof of our success and self-sufficiency, and they have become a tangible representation of our purpose and worth.
Because of this concept of productivity we are continually surrounded by, being busy begins to say a lot about us and what we are busy with says even more. And once this mentality has found its way into our minds and hearts, it discretely creeps into our churches and we begin to slowly focus more and more on doing for God.
We would not be wrong to say that works and the product of our hands are important and are directly connected and related to who we are. However, the problem is in which order we put those two things. Who we are deep inside always defines what we do, but what we do doesn’t always define who we are deep down inside and where no one but God can see. The most important thing is where our focus is.
I love the story of Martha and Mary because it reminds me what the better part is. In Luke 10 we find Martha so preoccupied with the details and focused on working and doing. Her desire was to offer Jesus her best and for his stay at her house to be pleasant. However, Jesus tells her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Martha’s desire to serve Jesus was a gesture of love and kindness, yet Mary was the one who chose what was more important. Mary didn’t feel the need to impress Jesus with her service or use her work as a symbol of her love and attention, she understood that the simple act of being before Jesus was more important that doing for him. Jesus wasn’t interested in her service; he was interested in her heart.
As a worship leader I began to meditate on how this mentality of productivity and defining ourselves by merely doing has filtered itself into our hearts and affected our lives of worship. When we draw near to God in worship with this productivity mentality, we become like Martha. We come with the mentality that we need to impress God, earn his love by doing, or that we need to put out some kind of performance. We sing a couple songs, we throw our hands up in the air, we may even dance a little, we let a couple tears run down our cheeks and we succeeded at feeling overwhelmed by an emotional experience. If we had some kind of combination of these expressions then we go home happy and satisfied because we believe that was a ‘true worship experience’. It is wonderful when such expressions are genuine and come from the inside-out, however, when our worship becomes about our expression rather than the recipient of our worship, then our hearts are far away and disconnected from God, and we have failed at choosing what is better.
Worship goes beyond a song; it is far more than a combination of expressions or an experience. To define worship as an experience is to limit it and constrain it to a short period of time, either a couple minutes or even an hour, when in reality worship is something that transcends an experience. True worship is who you are from the inside-out and the state your heart is in; the place that only God can see. What is in your heart will dictate who you are when no one but Him is watching, and who you are lasts longer than a couple minutes or an hour; it will take up your entire existence and will extend even further into eternity. And that is why true worship becomes not a moment or a series of experiences, but rather a lifestyle.
I love how The Message Bible expresses John 4:23-24 in a contemporary language: “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
What we do is not the most important thing in life. Who we are in relation to God is the most important thing in life. The things we do and the decisions we make should be motivated by who we are deep down inside, instead of the things we do define who we are.
We need to regenerate our minds. We need to give priority to who we are before what we do. Because you can do great things for God and your heart still be far away from God. However, if you genuinely love God with all your being, you won’t help but do great things for God and offer your genuine worship in each heartbeat.
Let us remember that God doesn’t look at what society looks at. He watches our hearts! So whether we are singing at church, or working in an office, or cooking at home, learning in school, or enjoying a day of rest, we can worship with our being. And from the purity and transparency of your heart will stem your works, like fruits of a life that has chosen what is better.
Perhaps you need to ask yourself today the question I ask myself every time I walk by that painting in our offices. “Who am I when no one but God is watching?” Could it be that my works are mere fruits of who I am deep down inside, or could it be that my works and accomplishments are nothing but a disguise masking who I am with the person I pretend to be. Is my worship more than just a song? Will I choose like Mary what is better?
Who are you when no one but God is watching?