“Then they believed his promises, and they sang his praise.” Psalm 106:12
Worship is an expression of faith. It is an opportunity to declare what you believe wholeheartedly, joyfully and gratefully. For a Christian, singing (spiritual songs that is) is not only a pleasant recreational activity; it is a means of declaring faith.
Many Newfrontiers churches originally started with a handful of people in a home, but now gather hundreds in what were once warehouses or schools or cinemas. This has involved raising millions of pounds. How come? It happened through faith, devotion and sacrifice. They are communities of substantial faith, and one of the contexts in which faith grows is worship, the heart felt expression of what we corporately believe.
Faith is expressed in a variety of ways.
Graham Kendrick wrote a song which was an announcement of faith: “We believe in God the Father, Maker of the universe…” We need songs like this and others such as “Before the throne of God above, I have strong and perfect plea..” that state clearly and strongly the basic tenets of our faith and undergird our confidence in it.
Martin Luther, the great reformer, wrote many such hymns. He knew the saints were going to need courage and strength for the battles ahead. Some would die, some would be burnt at the stake: it was an age of revolution. Not all could read, so Luther put truth into songs to reinforce their faith and courage. Likewise Charles Wesley.
I remember when I first heard that Stuart Townend had written a great new song called “In Christ Alone.” I heard it on CD in my car, but couldn’t discern all the words. I remember thinking, “That sounds OK.” Then the following Sunday we sang it in church and when I saw the words on the screen I was blown away! It is a mighty creedal statement of truth.
This is very different from singing, “Jesus, Jesus, there’s something about that name…” Pretty melody but vague and woolly sentiment. If you are choosing songs to sing this coming Sunday, bear this in mind! Are you aiming to soothe the saints into a soft fluffy mood, or help them get fortified in what they believe?
Faith that Celebrates
Melody and metre are not irrelevant. Faith delights in singing joyfully; so mighty truths sung at a mournful pace to uninspiring melodies sadly miss the target. Who doesn’t love “Amazing Grace”? But I know that when I have had the joy of preaching on grace and people suddenly receive fresh revelation of what grace has done for them, they are more enabled to respond by affirming it with Simon Brading’s song,
“I’m alive in Jesus Christ, and I know its not ‘cos of me;
Jesus your light has opened my eyes , I’m free!”
than trudging through the wonderful but slow John Newton classic. Fresh revelation sometimes needs fresh melodies and metre to express appropriate joy and delight!
Faith under Pressure.
Faith For Advance.
We also need songs that declare confidence for success, that nothing is impossible with God: songs that move us on from defence into attack, from comfort in distress into expectation of victory.
I don’t think we have enough of songs like this! To be honest, its hard to find many that look to God with expectation, inspiring militant faith that declares that God will give us breakthrough. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. This is the kind of faith that wins battles. This is how the church should be: robustly declaring confidence in a God who acts on her behalf.
At the same time we need to be cautious about propagating an unreal triumphalism. We sometimes used to sing songs containing lines like, “We’re going to take this land for Jesus,” which while we pray for the kingdom of God to break out more and more, we want to do it with faith, not bravado. (What did we really mean?) True faith is built on declaring promises of God, not on belting out sentiments that have no real substance.
People grow in faith as they sing Biblical truth. Make sure it is Biblical, confidently asserting our trust in the promises of God.
This post is adapted from a sermon preached at New Community Church, London called Worship: Liberty, faith and devotion