I hadn’t been a Christian very long when I discovered surely one of the most revolutionary verses in the Bible. ‘Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Eph 5:19-20 TNIV)
I’m not renowned for my logic and I’ve been made very aware of that throughout the years through my contact with logical people. I became a Christian through the testimony of a very logical mathematician, made friends with mathematicians and physicists at university and married an engineer. All of these people have taught me a lot about reasoning and logical responses and I believe there is a place for intelligence, understanding and reason in our faith; I think apologetics (‘reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine’) are as desperately needed in this day and age as they have ever been. But funnily enough, I didn’t need anyone else to explain the logical conclusion of these verses to me. That little word ‘for’ in verse 20 meant that I could never legitimately respond to life with bitterness or resentment. The logical conclusion of my belief in God as all-sovereign and all-sufficient was that every single thing that happens to me has been filtered through His loving purposes and therefore my response can be one of thankfulness and praise. (I’m definitely not saying that God is the author of evil, but I did understand that thankfulness for everything was possible if we truly believe God is sovereign over all.)
I haven’t always managed to respond as I should, with thankfulness and praise. It’s a lot easier to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:18 TNIV) than it is to give thanks for those circumstances, as my husband pointed out to me (I think this was the very first theological argument I ever won in our relationship, as a matter of fact, when for once he couldn’t fault my logic in saying that we needed to give thanks for everything, not just in everything!)
But I did learn at an early age, and have endeavoured to live by this principle, that God is worth praising all the time. Aaron Shust says of his new album ‘Morning Rises’, “What makes the story of Job so powerful is his decision to praise. Job’s response, in light of tragically horrific circumstances, was to praise… If we believe all we declare about God, what is next for us to do? We can begin by praising Him, despite our circumstances, because He is worthy of praise… Praising God is like pushing aside the clouds, allowing the Light of the Sun to pierce its way into my darkness.” (Aaron Shust) He says it more eloquently than I do, but I agree with that conclusion!
Praise and worship are life’s heartbeat. I’m not just talking about verbally giving thanks or singing, though these are powerful methods to express what’s in our hearts. Romans 12:1-2 TNIV talks about worship being the surrender of our whole lives; in the Message version it says ‘Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.’ Worship involves all we have and all we are.
Perhaps because I learnt this principle from Ephesians 5:19-20 TNIV, perhaps because I have always loved music and believe it to be God’s gift to us (‘Music is God’s gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven’ said Walter Savage Landor), I have always thought that music and singing in particular are great ways to express truth and thankfulness. Initially, I learnt that this literally did me good:
‘Sing your praise to the Lord
I could never tell you just how much good that it’s going to do you!’ (‘Sing Your Praise To the Lord’, Rich Mullins)
‘Sing Your Praise To the Lord’, Rich Mullins (who can’t like a song that takes Bach and turns his music into a contemporary worship song?!)
But then I began to understand that worship is about more than just putting a smile on my face or cheering me up. I learnt that ‘the choice to worship daily is to glimpse eternity, colour, glory, beauty. It is a choice to see heaven open, to be re-envisioned and to be re-energised; to be involved in Jesus’ building of His church on earth.” (Charlie Cleverly, ‘Epiphanies of the Ordinary’ P 210)
I’ve worshipped God with tears streaming down my face, almost broken beyond the ability to sing, and I have glimpsed not only beauty beyond compare but have come away from every one of these encounters transformed, re-envisioned and re-energised. Worship is the serious business of heaven. I’ve already talked about the importance of persistence and how practice makes perfect. Since we’re going to spend eternity worshipping God, I think it’s imperative that we start doing that here on earth: gazing at God, savouring His worth, understanding His grace and love for us and applying those to our everyday actions (see here for what I think this can look like.)
“And Lord, we stand amazed in Your presence,
Astounded by Your mercy and love.
Our hands are lifted high in surrender,
Your grace for me is always enough.
And there is no one higher than our God.
There is no one higher than You” (‘No One Higher’, Aaron Shust)
’ No One Higher’, Aaron Shust
“Together we worship
Together we cry
‘You are worthy, worthy.
You are worthy, worthy.
For the Lord God Almighty reigns.” (‘Great Is the Chorus’, Aaron Shust)
‘Great Is the Chorus’, Aaron Shust