“This world can be saved from political chaos and collapse
by one thing only, and that is _______________.”
How would you fill in the blank?
- Wise leadership?
- Open-hearted worship?
- Liberal generosity?
- Unconditional love?
Before we consider the answer, allow me to introduce the author of that quote, William Temple, who served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942-1944.
You may remember those were three of the six years when Great Britain and her allies fought against the Nazis. In fact, when Bishop Temple took office, England faced the real possibility of a German invasion.
Temple did not cloister himself within the church walls. He worked to aid Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, supported a negotiated peace (instead of the unconditional surrender that Allied leaders desired), and traveled frequently throughout England, encouraging British citizens to take courage in their fight against evil and hold onto hope in God.
It was part of a radio broadcast during those grim days of German air attacks that Bishop Temple spoke about “one thing only.” His last word of that statement was Answer B, worship.
Now how did he expect a bit of hymn singing, scripture reading, and a sermon in church to make a difference?
He didn’t. Bishop Temple was referring more to personal worship than public.
His own definition of worship clarifies what he had in mind:
(“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God,
To feed the mind with the truth of God,
To purge the imagination by the beauty of God,
To open the heart to the love of God,
To devote the will to the purpose of God.”)
Imagine a world where each person worshiped God by:
- Submitting his conscience to God as David did, when he asked for a pure heart and steadfast spirit (Psalm 104:10).
- Seeking to fill his mind with the truth of God’s Word, recognizing that all his commands are trustworthy (Psalm 119:86a).
- Replacing negative, impure, unkind, and prejudiced thoughts with whatever is true, noble, pure, and admirable (Philippians 4:8).
- Availing himself of God’s love and then imitating him—his mercy to forgive, his grace to provide, his benevolence to bless (Ephesians 5:1).
- Putting aside selfish desires and focusing effort on what God would have him achieve (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Surely there would be less animosity and power-grabbing in our world.
But I can’t point fingers at others when the truth is, I have yet to experience the fullness of what Bishop Temple asserted. An honest inventory of my life includes:
- A heart not consistently pure, and a spirit not always steadfast.
- Faith that sometimes falters in God’s trustworthy commands.
- Thoughts that can grovel in the negative.
- Choices and actions that do not always reflect God’s love.
- Selfishness that still rears its ugly head.
On the other hand, guilt is not what God intended as the motivation for worship.
No, he designed it to be a delight, not a duty. He wants to expand our joy (Psalm 16:11), provide rest and refuge (Psalm 91:1-2), bestow his strength (Psalm 138:2-3), and more–through the acts of worship. We short-change ourselves by neglecting its pleasure each day.
Perhaps there’s a reciprocal relationship among all these processes. As we worship God with our adoration and appreciation, praise and prayer, might those other aspects of worship highlighted by Bishop Temple–submission, faith, a renewed mind, love-in-action, and selflessness–be the result?
Might there be an upward spiral effect because, the more a person worships, the more she’ll be transformed? And the more she’s transformed, the purer and more passionate her worship will become?
The influence of such a person—even against political chaos and collapse—knows no bounds, as God magnifies the impact.
One thing only is necessary: worship—with all its many facets.
God will do the rest.