Prioritizing Jesus matters for every part of your life. Worship calls Jesus great!
This is part four of a five part series on prioritizing Jesus in our lives. If you haven’t read the first three articles, go do that now!
Prioritize Jesus: Part 1 Small Decisions
Prioritize Jesus: Part 2 Biblical Meditation
Prioritize Jesus: Part 3 Prayer
As a quick refresher, we started this series off talking about why we need to work on our walk with God now if we want to be the people God has called us to be. In doing so, we prepare ourselves for the trials and tribulations that will inevitably hit at some point in our lives. Our first step needs to be meditating on God’s word. Meditating on truth begins to focus our minds on heavenly things and trains ourselves to respond rightly in everyday interactions. When we properly set our focus on daily meditating on God’s word, we should find that prayer comes naturally to us. Prayer helps cement our hearts in right emotion with God. Feeling sorrow for what pains God’s heart, and joy for what makes Him happy.
When our minds are set on God and our hearts are reaching out in communication to Him, we find that our soul can’t help but get involved in worship. This brings us to today’s topic: Personal Worship.
Worship, by definition, means to give God the glory and honor due Him. We often think about praise and worship as being the time of singing on Sunday mornings. Singing is certainly a part of worship, but worship is much more than that. Worship should be a part of our every action. When we raise our kids, we should be teaching them to honor and glorify God through our actions and words. We should teach them the value of kindness and patience through how we live life in community with them. When we work our daily jobs, we should do so in a way that glorifies and lifts up our Father. We should not be seeking the praise of man or working solely to get a better job; instead, we should be seeking the best way to glorify God in whatever we do. That may mean turning down promotions or declining to go on business trips so that we can serve God by serving our spouse and our kids. Whole books can be written and have been written on how best to serve God in our everyday lives, but today we’re going to focus on worship via the act of singing.
Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is a sign that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18-21). This admonishment comes directly after Paul exhorts the Ephesians to be wise in their actions and with their time. Knowing that wisdom comes from God (Prov. 2:6-8), we can see that singing to the Lord is often a sign of one who is wise and full of the Holy Spirit. Singing then goes hand in hand with the fruits of the Spirit. Those that are experiencing the peace and joy the Spirit provides will find it much easier to worship. Singing should be such a part of our lives that our lives look like a musical. Ok, maybe that’s an extreme, but singing should be a bigger part of our lives than it often is.
We are commanded to use songs to lift each other up (1 Cor. 14:26). Here Paul tells us that it is part of an orderly gathering of the body of Christ to encourage one another through song. Song has the power to amplify our moods (just look at the Psalms and you’ll see how so many Psalmist began with despair and ended with joy and elation). I’m sure you’ve experienced it. When you’re happy and an upbeat song comes on, it resonates with your soul and increases your joy. But when a spirit of depression has overtaken you, sad songs cause the negative feelings to intensify. We see this too when we sing to children. Our songs have a natural lilt to them that instantly cause our children to laugh, dance, and sing. Here we see that there is wisdom in encouraging fellow believers through songs that are born out of our own personal worship. If the Spirit moves our hearts to sing a new song, there is good reason to write those words down. They may only be used by you in your private worship to God or they may find a place in corporate worship where we can all be blessed by them.
We are encouraged to use songs to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:12-16 & Eph. 5:18-21). Paul commands us to put on compassion, humility, kindness, meekness, patience, and love as a response to the sin that we are to put death. Singing then is a continuation of how we are to put our sin to death. Singing helps us put to death our own sins while we also encourage others to do the same. We put our sins to death when we sing songs of contemplation and repentance. We remind ourselves of the pain we’ve caused our Lord and encourage ourselves to no longer act against Him. It comes from a heart of thankfulness to the Lord for all that He has worked out through the Gospel in our lives.
We are also commanded to sing with more than just our voice (1 Cor. 14:15). Paul says we should sing with our spirit and our minds. And that makes sense doesn’t it? To sing in word only is to give lip service, but not much more. To sing with your spirit and mind is to first reflect and meditate on the words of Christ (Col. 3:16) and then to pour out love to God with all your heart, mind, and soul. By giving God our everything in song, we properly place Him in adoration, praise, and worship over ourselves. We make Him the priority the greatest commandment demands.
The great psalm writer, David, shows through his psalms of repentance that prayer is what brought him to the point of praise and worship. In Psalm 32, we see David anguishing over his sin “my bones wasted away… for day and night your hand was against me.” When he finally comes to God and admits his sin he then cries out that we should offer prayer to God because He is a refuge and His steadfast love surrounds believers. In The Power in Praising God, Spurgeon wrote: “It was almost always the case that David warmed himself into praise by the fire of prayer” (pg. 59). Praise and worship come naturally from a heart that talks to God. By communing with our Lord we remind ourselves of His overwhelming grandeur and all our worries and fears fade away. When faced with an all-loving and all-powerful God, no fear can overtake our soul. When we are in our best communion with our Heavenly Father our very bones cry out to sing His praise.
These commands to give God praise and worship may feel like they are only calls for corporate worship (that’s certainly a part of their purpose) but they are also calls to private worship. Private worship is something to strive for. It is that joyous time where we are so filled in awe of our God, that warm emotions flood our bodies and our lips can’t help but squeak out praise to our Creator. It’s those blessed moments, where all the troubles of this world fade into the background as our minds focus in on the One in whom we live, move, and have our being.
No corporate worship can happen unless private worship happens first. Think of it, what song of praise to God was written and developed in the midst of a worship service? Our songs come to us from men and women who have studied God’s word and been moved by the truths they found there. The very songs we sing are born out of personal worship.
When our hearts are not giving God his proper daily adoration, they will not suddenly be moved to true and deep worship in a corporate setting. Private worship is the foundation to the house of corporate worship. Without it the building sits on the brink of disaster, ready to fall down at the slightest rumble of thunder. When we don’t give God His all privately, we chip away at the foundation of our relationship with Him. We take a few steps away from being the spiritual heroes He’s called us to be and a few steps toward becoming luke-warm Christians.
Whole-hearted corporate worship does not spring from half-hearted private praise. Corporate worship will be at its best when God’s people come before him privately first. They must first have been moved through meditation on God’s word and seeking Him in prayer in order to be moved to their deepest levels in corporate worship. Sure, we can praise God and meditate on the words of the songs without private worship, but if the truths in the song are new, our hearts and minds will be unable to fully process what we’re singing. We will miss out on some of the blessings of corporate worship.
Photo by Jon Tyson / Unsplash
Common Objections to Worship
So why don’t we sing to God? What is it that causes us to disobey God’s command?
- We fear our voice lacks talent and quality. Our talent or ability to sing is irrelevant to whether we do or don’t praise God. It is prideful to withhold our songs from God, because we’re more worried about how we’ll appear to those around us. God doesn’t even care what your voice sounds like. Spurgeon again, “Do you think that God has ears like those of a man, ears that can be tickled with sweet sounds? … The music that delights Him is the love of a true heart, the prayer of a seeking spirit. He has better music than all your organs and drums can ever bring Him” (ibid pg. 137). Don’t let your pride keep you from singing to our God Most High. Your opinion of your voice and the opinions of those around you are irrelevant. We are commanded to sing, and God listens to the quality of your heart, not your skill with your vocal cords.
- We don’t feel like singing. Generally speaking, we love to sing. We sing in the car, we sing in the shower, and many even sing karaoke. But despite our normal passion for singing, we sometimes just don’t feel like it. There are a thousand reasons we may not feel like singing, whether it’s a cold, a bad attitude, or we don’t like the song. When those times come, we should ask ourselves if we are truly seeking God as the Bible commands. When David reached out to God after his sin with Bathsheba, his prayer started off with him mourning and despairing over his sin. But as he progresses with his prayer he begins to desire praise saying, “Open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Psalm 51). David’s meditation and prayer put his heart back in right relation to God and allowed him to worship. When you find yourself not singing on Sunday morning, do you challenge yourself to honor God or do you check your watch?
- We have lost the ability. There are many physical ailments that can cause us to lose our ability to sing temporarily or permanently. If you are experiencing something along these lines, please see your doctor to see how you can improve your malady. You may have to take a break from singing for time as your voice recovers. Most of the time, your physical ailment shouldn’t stop you from worshipping, because the Scripture calls us to make melody in our hearts. If our voice has gone away, we are still capable of singing in our hearts. Don’t lament your missing voice and thereby make a priority of the wrong thing. Worship is not about how good you sound or if you make sound, it’s about your heart. If your ability to sing is lost on a more permanent level, I might suggest you learn sign language. My ability to sing seems to be diminishing; I am sometimes reduced to sitting and coughing. I’ve learned some sign language so that I can continue to sing even why my voice refuses to cooperate. The joy I feel in giving God His due in another language is hard to put words to. Losing your voice is a tough thing to endure, but praise God! It doesn’t have to be the end of worship!
- We don’t feel thankful. When we don’t have the right attitude toward God, it is hard to sing His praises. When this happens, we need to do what David did, and pour over Scripture and pray to the Lord. We shouldn’t look to any random Scriptures, but to ones relevant to our current circumstance. If we’ve been meditating on His word, we should be able to find those sections quickly and meditate on them anew. As we meditate, we can pray Scripture back to God and let our hearts be strengthened in the power of truth.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, there are many more reasons we disobey the command to worship such as being distracted, showing up late to church, not enjoying the style of worship, et cetera. My hope is that this list starts your mental gears spinning so that you can examine your own heart and mind and see where you need to grow in your worship. Praising God is such an important (and often neglected) part of the Christian walk. Spurgeon put the importance of it like this: “If I did not praise and bless Christ my Lord, I would deserve to have my tongue torn out of my mouth… for I am utterly in debt to the mercy of God—head over heels in debt to the infinite love and boundless compassion. Are you not the same?” (pg. 23). If we fail to praise God the way he deserves, we deserve no part of Him. Truly, if the fields and steams and rocks yearn to cry out to him, and we do not, we deserve to have our tongues ripped from our mouths. If however, our hearts are elated with the weightless joy of a deep yearning to meet with the God of all compassion, the God of forgiveness and mercy, then our tongues should ever dance in our mouths and our hearts flutter in our chests as we pour forth praise.
In your efforts to praise God as He deserves, I beg you to incorporate personal, private worship. This may seem a challenge as most of us haven’t thought to add that to our daily routine, but it’s worth it and it will change you in ways you can’t yet imagine. There are many ways to incorporate this into your routine. When you take a 15 minute break at work, go for a walk while playing Christ centered music so that you can sing to your God or redeem your commute by playing worship music. How you incorporate this in your own life is up to you; what’s important is that you do.
Have any creative ideas for how to make worship part of your life? Let us know below!
Next week we’ll talk about why we need accountability to help us prioritize Jesus.
This article was originally published on Celebrate Marriage on 5-24-2018.