I read today about a guy who went on a mission trip that, while maybe not the worst trip ever, certainly had one of the worst beginnings ever. For starters, the trip began with dissension. This guy had recently completed a successful mission trip with a fellow missionary but when it came time for the new trip there was a huge disagreement about who should be on the mission team. Apparently the other missionary wanted to bring along a guy who hadn't yet proven himself. The disagreement was so sharp that they ended their ministry together and went separate directions, each with his own mission team.
Next, he was denied access to the areas that he wanted to go. There was no legal reason he couldn't go preach there but on two separate occasions, after praying and seeking God's will, he was denied entry into these regions.
Finally, sensing God's will to preach in another location, he arrives and begins to preach. After some initial success the locals get stirred up by his preaching and after falsely accusing and beating him they throw him in jail.
Put yourself in this situation for a moment. The trip starts badly. You're prevented from ministering where you want to, where you think God wants you. And then you end up in jail. How would you respond? The missionary in our story responded in a very strange way--with worship and prayers.
When I read this story I was struck by the dedication of this missionary. With all that had happened to him he didn't question God, he didn't say, "Why are you doing this me after all I've done for you?" Instead he worshipped. His response reminds us of something that's crucial for us to understand; worship has nothing to do with our circumstances. Worship is based on who God is rather than what's happening to me. We don't worship God for what He does, we worship God for who He is. He is worthy of worship. That means he deserves our worship. Not because of what he does but because of who he is. I want to be like this missionary. I want to be able to worship God, to glory in who he is, to drink deeply from Jesus and be satisfied in the greatness of who he is. And I want to be able to do this regardless of what is happening to me. Circumstances change. God doesn't. He is worthy no matter what we face.
By the way-the missionary in our story is Paul. Acts 16 records his second missionary journey and these are some of the highlights (or low lights) that he faced: a sharp disagreement with Barnabas that led to the end of their ministry relationship, being prevented by God from ministering in two specific areas, and being thrown in to jail on false charges. In the face of all this, Paul and Silas responded with praise and prayers. Jesus is worthy of my praise no matter what I face.