I am addicted to the Presence of God. “In Him we live and move and have our being,” and without Him and His atmosphere of grace and glory and all good things, we wither and dry and fade and die.
I first noticed this addiction after I graduated from college and allowed my job to eat into my practice time. I felt starved for music, and I would go around singing at work because I felt like I needed music to live. Music had been my life in college, and at school I practiced 3-4 hours a day, because I was behind schedule on the level of performance that I should have attained before entering. However, that was a blessing for me, because I learned to love the atmosphere of music and worship and “songs without words,” and skilfull, joyful piano music filled my mind and days. Moreover, many other music rehearsals and classes taught me years’ worth of experience in articulation, expression, lyricism, poetic voicing, balance, blend, harmonic architecture and design, and, above all, the elusive and undefinable quality of “musicality:” the reality that musicians are not computers. You can not put in notes and get out music. You must feel the line of your phrase, its rise and fall and emphasis and echoes—-and that is something that you do not learn from paper music or books. You learn it from listening to great musicians, and honing your focus and inner ear so that you hear the music inside you and see the picture of the story it tells. Then and only then will your audience hear the music’s possibilities.
I say all this to underscore that music does not automatically equal worship; worship is a decision. Submission to God and acknowledgement of His glory, wonder, grace and power, and most of all, epic love, prefaces and infuses all of our true worship. I am reminded of the story of Jacob’s last conversation with his children in Genesis, where it says that “Jacob bowed his head on his staff and worshiped.”
Now, although music does not by default create worship, music makes worship easier. “He inhabits the praises of His people,” says the Psalmist, and God’s Presence is Good. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving,” he invites, and implicitly warns us that God likes to be thanked. (“Was no one found to give glory to God except this foreigner?” asked Jesus. “Were not ten [lepers] cleansed? Where are the other nine?” Luke 17:18, 17)
Praise is the atmosphere of heaven. “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and praise is becoming” (Ps. 147:1). Worshiping His power and goodness and love and mercy and omniscience and sovereignty opens the gates of our minds to a realization of how big He is, how wonderful His love for us, and how powerful His care for us and His designs and purposes throughout the earth are carried out through His omnipotent will.
God does not like complaining. He made this clear by His anger with the Israelites in the desert who essentially thumbed their nose at God after He had just performed the miracles of liberating them from slavery, protecting their health and property, and sustaining them in the wilderness. “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” said Paul in 1 Thess. 5:18.
Another secret of worship is that it wins victories, opens prison doors, looses captives, and defeats enemies. In the old testament, God frequently told His kings and prophets to send out their praise team in front of their army so that God’s Presence would go before the army, and He Himself would fight and win the battle for His people. He continually told His people not to be afraid, because He was going with them and would give them victory at every turn.
This, then, is why worship is so important: it is just this–do we believe that Christ is Who He says He Is? Do we believe that God has the actual power to protect us and give us victory in life when we confront daunting situations? He was occasionally very angry when His people did not believe Him, when they doubted His ability to work a miracle or rescue them or fulfill a promise. Even of Jesus the Scripture says, “and He could not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.”
You know, maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal, or maybe it even seems virtuous to be incredulous and not go out on a limb to expect God to move on your behalf in difficult situations, but that is exactly the opposite of how He wants you to react. He wants you to trust Him. “Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent.’ ” (John 6:29)
“Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, ‘All my springs of joy are in you.’ ” -Psalm 87:7