Have you ever been in a musical worship experience and thought “I could feel the Spirit of God moving through the music!” or “The presence of God was so strong during worship today”. Or perhaps you’ve thought the opposite, “Today felt dead – what was with the songs today?”, or “I couldn’t feel God’s presence during worship – must be because the drums are gone”. Whether those statements sound familiar or make you smirk, let’s talk about them and what exactly God intends to happen when we sing together as the body.
Does God’s presence come more fully when we sing? Do we “usher in” more of the Spirit when we worship in song? Must the worship leaders lead in such a way that somehow invokes more of the Spirit to be present among us? Does the excellence of musicianship make our worship more pleasing to God? These are important questions that have extremely important answers. The short answer is no, no, no and no. But still…what is happening and why is it that sometimes our hearts DO feel things as our affections are raised to worship Christ?
In the book of Colossians chapter 3 Paul is telling the believers in the church what it looks like to walk in the new self – that is to walk according to the Spirit now in them, and not according to their flesh, (the part of them that was once enslaved to sin). In verse 16 he says this:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
This is a picture of our gathered worship services. Our pastors teach and admonish us with God’s Word – helping us to understand and apply wisdom to our lives. As a congregation, we sing a variety of songs of worship together, meant to stir our affections for and give us hearts of gratitude to God in Christ.
Notice the connection that Paul makes between the Word of God dwelling in us as we sing songs. If you find yourself singing on a Sunday morning and are aware that your heart is welling up with gratitude, thankfulness, awe, worship to God, it is not because there is suddenly more of God in the room, it is because God is doing more in YOU. Praise God for this! In a way only the Spirit can, He is making His Word, (his truth, his promises, his gospel) to dwell in you, as you sing songs to Him. He is working out in your individual heart the truths that He wants to affirm, perhaps the sin He wants to convict, and the joy He wants to overflow in you. He is readying your heart to receive His implanted Word that will be preached, so that you can then go out and do the good works He prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).
But what if you don’t feel anything as you sing? Does this mean God is not working? No. Our feelings are not the barometer of His work. He is always working. And yet, when I have had mornings and moments of feeling despondent, apathetic, dry, tired, weary and aware I cannot muster up my own affection for God, this is an opportunity for me to cry out to Him- to ask God to show me anew who He is and to “let my glad heart sing” to Him.
Truly, coming to worship as a body of Christ on a Sunday morning is powerful. It’s powerful because God dwells in each of us and is already present, and already working. It’s edifying because He is drawing us nearer to Himself through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and is making His Word more richly dwell in us.
So whether you are aware of God’s present or not, whether you enjoyed the music set or not, whether the drums rumbled through the sanctuary or not;)….let this truth remain: if God dwells in you believer, then He is faithful to use our worship to make His truth dwell more richly in us. Let’s ask and trust Him for that as we sing together!