Our church family enjoys a good reputation for congregational singing. No brag, just fact; thank God! But with that being said, for sure we have much room for improvement. Often as I cast a glance around the room while we sing on any given Sunday, I can’t help but notice that many either do not sing, do so only occasionally, or if at all, hardly audibly.
What sort of praise and sacrifice are we laying on the altar before our Lord when we either fail to sing or sing only half-heartedly?
I dare say, it wouldn’t take much effort to improve our singing. As surely as anyone who has a quite visible or “public” role in our public worship gatherings surely prepares a bit ahead of time in anticipation of the moment, we surely all need to prepare to sing and to begin that preparation in our mind before we even gather to worship together.
With that in mind, let me share with you some thoughts of John Wesley that I came across just today on this very matter. He penned these words two hundred and fifty years ago (1761) but, they’re just as applicable today. Be challenged and grow. “Sing to the Lord!”
Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first…
Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.
The reading for today in the Fresh Eyes reading project is Mark 4-6. The focus text for this devotional is Mark 4:39-40, Jesus’ words to the wind in the midst of a storm and to his disciples after he calms the storm.
“He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the wind, ‘Silence! Be still!’ Then the wind settled down and there was a great calm. Jesus asked them, ‘Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?’” (Mark 4:39-40 CEB)
Which is more astonishing: (A) Jesus’s ability to instantly control chaotic and life-threatening weather or (B) his expectations for us to replace our fears with faith?
Before you answer, put yourself in the boat. Feel your white-knuckled grip on the boat as the wind threatens to pick you up and toss you out like a rag doll. Feel yourself soaked to the skin and your feet growing cold as the boat rapidly fills with water. Feel yourself struggling to catch your breath, trying to breathe in a high wind. Feel the vise-like grip of pressure as your fear begins to clamp down on your chest. Feel the fear in the cries that come from the lips of everyone else onboard. Feel the flood of adrenaline causing you to shake all over as you drink in all that is.
Feel it. Feel it deeply. Then hear Jesus say:
“Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
No small wonder the next verse says the disciples were “overcome with awe.”
We need to pray.
Sweet Jesus, you expect great things of us! To see everything in upheaval around us and not be afraid. To stare death in the face with complete calm, trusting you have everything under control. All the while asking us “Why? What’s the hold up?” Holy Father, we crave this sort of courage, but confess we often have no faith. Forgive us. We pray not for storms to test our faith, but we do pray for trust in you to weather any storm. Settles our spirit and help us keep our eyes, full of faith, on you. Amen.
It needs to be said at once that the Bible supplies no thorough solution to the problem of evil, whether ‘natural’ evil or ‘moral’, that is, whether in the form of suffering or of sin. Its purpose is more practical than philosophical. Consequently, although there are references to sin and suffering on virtually every page, its concern is not to explain their origin but to help us overcome them. …
What then is the relationship between Christ’s suffering and ours? How does the cross speak to us in our pain? … First the cross is a stimulus to patient endurance. … Secondly, the cross of Christ is the path to mature holiness. … Thirdly, the cross is the symbol of suffering service. … Fourthly, the cross of Christ is the hope of final glory. … Fifthly, the cross of Christ is the ground of a reasonable faith. … Sixth … the cross of Christ is the proof of God’s solidary love. (John R.W. Stott, The Cross of Christ, pp.312,314,315,316,320,322,326,329)