What do the following have in common: Watching reality shows; trying to eradicate stinkbugs; running as a third-party candidate; convincing your wife you need a boat more than a new carpet; training a cat to fetch; expecting a live customer service rep; keeping a banjo in tune; trying out for Jeopardy; worshiping God? Answer: Most people would consider them a royal waste of time.
When an activity doesn't accomplish something useful, society may deem it a waste of time. This doesn't stop people in their quest to accomplish something of questionable value, but it does make one question the purpose of pursuing what may seem a waste of time.
It may seem shocking to lump "worshiping God" together with watching Jersey Shore and training Fluffy to fetch instead of retch, but there is a connection.
Society is results oriented. We do things because there is a payoff, be it wealth, honor, fame, a feeling of accomplishment, or some other satisfaction.
During the decade of the sixties, the motto was, "If it feels good, do it!" A popular song of that era sported the memorable lyrics, "It's your thing, do what you wanna do. I can't tell you who to sock it to." Despite the obvious contradiction of telling us to do what we want without telling us what to do, the lyrics express the zeitgeist of the age: "Feelings rule." The ultimate arbiter between right and wrong is how an action makes you feel.
That same ethic is found today in a less brazen way, even in the church. Many charities and benevolent societies emphasize how good it makes you feel to donate or volunteer. Pronouncements about moral issues are preceded by the assertion, "I feel we should" or "How do you feel about this?"
Sadly, in many churches, worship of God is equated with how we feel and what we experience when we "worship." Sermons are crafted to avoid hurting the listener's feelings, craftily avoiding commandments in favor of suggestions. When the feelings wear off, the cotton candy melts into emptiness, and there is nothing left to sustain our spirit. Worship might then be forsaken as a royal waste of time.
Lest one think we are stoically discounting feelings as irrelevant, the bible speaks of the legitimacy of emotions. It speaks of feelings as the result of right and wrong actions, not the basis for truth and goodness. In fact, God promises eternal pleasure to those who worship Him alone (Psalm 16).
To many, going to church, reading an ancient book, praying, singing about and to Jesus, dropping coins into the collection plate, and going to the mission field seem like nice but useless exercises. There generally are no immediate results or benefits, other than temporary good religious feelings--a royal waste of time.
However, when seen in light of true faith, the purpose of worship is not to make us feel good. That could compel us to minimize or ignore prayer, giving, bible reading, praise, and other acts of worship when we don't feel like it. One wonders if Jesus really felt like going to the cross. Judging by his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:34-36), God's will, although unpleasant at the present, trumps good feelings. It would have seemed a relief to be spared the cross. Without understanding the redemptive purpose behind it, it would seem a royal waste of time.
Service done--worship offered--in spirit and truth is never a royal waste of time. It is a royal duty and privilege that exchanges fleeting feelings for future felicity forever.