Worship wars are nothing new for American Christians. Most of us have a particular style of music that we prefer which produces in us a more profound sense of pleasure in worshiping Christ. I totally get that. Sadly, Christians seem to be prone to the habit of identifying their particular flavor of music as being the right one which other Christians should adopt as their own preference. We do not always act in respect and kindness to one another when it comes to the topic of our expression of devotion to Christ in song. Amy, my precious wife and best friend, has been singing for Jesus for nearly her whole life. She comes from a musical family and a solid Christian heritage, growing up in the local church, singing solos, and with others in choirs, ensembles and praise teams. Her words below spoke volumes to me, and I wanted to share with our Transforming Truth readers what Amy had to say concerning how God clarified her own thoughts about music styles. Interestingly, her growth in this area did not come at a worship conference or the music school she attended when she was younger. Her insights were gained when she was in a hospital – broken, lonely and having time to do nothing but think, pray…and sing. Here is what she wrote:
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” – Acts 16:25
Much has been said and written about worship and singing. If anyone asked me a few years ago what my favorite songs were, or which style I liked to sing, I could have certainly given a very declarative answer. I liked choir and Praise Team, and I liked singing big, anthemic songs that truly meant something. I liked to practice and perfect anything and everything that I offered the Lord in song. Excellence is always my goal because Jesus is worthy of nothing less from us. My answer would have been quite dogmatic about what was the best music to be sung. Then I found myself in the late Summer of 2011 in a hospital bed, immobilized by a head-on collision, awaiting news on the fate of my mom who was riding with me, and also waiting to learn whether or not my leg would be saved. Around midnight, completely broken in body and heart, I began to sing to the Lord. In those moments, I became very aware that I had the attention of Heaven in a way that I had never experienced before. I can assure you it wasn’t my most beautiful song that night, nor was it wasn’t my most rehearsed song. It definitely wasn’t my favorite way to sing – stuck there in that hospital bed – but what could be better and more fulfilling than knowing that the heart of God is touched by our singing.
I still enjoy rehearsing and singing in the local church. In fact, tonight I will be at the church with some incredible people for a few hours to rehearse and offer our best as we get prepared Sunday morning. I will offer my best to the Lord, and to our church, and I know the Lord is pleased with that. I also know that God’s angels sing, and that there is probably nothing more beautiful and perfect than their singing. If God wanted beautiful and skilled singing alone, He certainly didn’t need to allow forgiven sinners to sing. Certainly the most beautiful singing is done in Heaven. But what I and many others have offered from hospitals, sickness, funerals, etc. are songs that come from a profound brokenness and deep trust – and that is a song the angels can never offer. Angels understand awe and obedience, but faith and trust are not part of their relationship with God. The verse above from Acts 16 says that Paul and Silas sang in prison, and that the other prisoners listened. I bet they did! I bet they listened in a way that was different than if Paul and Silas had been singing outside the jail in their fine suits and filled bellies. These two men were singing in the midst of profound rejection, abuse and suffering. I just know God found it to be beautiful. It is my own opinion that the songs the Lord finds the most beautiful are the ones that come from a grateful, trusting heart. This is the type of music that must become the preference of us all – the grateful songs from those who comprehend just how much they have to be thankful for.
I remember someone asking me if I missed Praise Team when I was home for 6 months recovering from the wreck. I remember telling them that I would be grateful to sing in the church lobby from my wheelchair, if only the Lord would allow me the awesome privilege of feeling good enough to go back to church. Whether you are sitting in the back of the church, on the stage, at home in your kitchen or in a lonely hospital, the best way to offer a song that God loves is to sing with joy and gratitude from whatever place that God allowed you to be that day. If we truly believe that God is in control, then we must also know that it is HE who chose the place from which you would find yourself singing. We have often sung the words “You give and take away, You give and take away, My heart will choose to say, Blessed be Your name…”. I want to gratefully sing when God is giving. I want to gratefully sing when God is taking. Sometimes He takes away our favorite way to sing. Sometimes He allows the taking away of our comfort zone. Sometimes He intends to teach us a new way to praise Him. I believe that God is most pleased when we sing and praise, regardless of how much we enjoy the particular style, location or circumstances we are in. I also believe He rewards us, and many times gives back to those who choose to sing at their own personal midnight, in the midst of their own unique hardship. What could mean more to Him than to watch one of His precious sings when He knows they are having to sing through their struggles?
I love to sing. I love beautiful music. I love the melody, the harmony and the symphony. But what I love most is bringing pleasure to the Heart of God. His favorite song is the one that is being sung from a content and grateful heart. Rehearsed and spontaneous praise are both accepted by Him as long as they proceed from joyful hearts. Simply put, I love Him, and I thank Him for the brokenness that moved me deeper in my intimacy with Him. He truly gives songs in the night.
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