That my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever! (Psalm 30:12)
I am one of those people that as soon as the worship music begins, I always have my arms stretched up high. I like to clap and sway to the music, and sometimes you can even catch me jumping, dancing or kneeling to worship my King!
This was not always me.
There was a time when I would look around during worship at those who had their hands raised up high and think, “I don’t want to raise my hands, and I really don’t want to dance, that is not who I am!” I used to be very shy, and I still do not like to draw attention to myself. I was afraid to lift my hands, afraid of letting go, and afraid of what others might think.
One Saturday night my friend and I attended the concert of one of my favourite bands, Switchfoot. We stood and cheered loudly when the band entered the stage. We sang along with great passion to each song, we clapped, we danced and at times I even raised my hands up high to applaud!
The next morning I was in church, and I thought about my night before at the concert. I had shouted, danced, and raised my hands – all these things that I was so against doing in church! That’s when this question came to my mind: “How would I be worshiping if Jesus was physically present in the room?”
Would I still be standing with my arms crossed? Would I be on my phone? Would I be mentally complaining about how I don’t like this song, or that it’s too loud? Or would I be singing my heart out? Would I maybe be shouting and dancing? Would my hands be raised? Would I be on my knees?
For where two or three gather in my Name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:20)
God challenged my heart that morning! Here I was, standing in the midst of a few hundred people, all who were gathered to worship the Name of Jesus. The Bible says that when even two people gather together in His Name, He is present with them. Clearly, in that moment I was standing in God’s presence, and yet I was completely motionless, lamely staring and repeating the lyrics that were up on the screen.
Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Psalm 150:1-6
The Bible is filled with commands to praise God! We are called to thank Him, to sing to Him, to get loud, to get excited, to play music, shout and dance before Him.
As I read my Bible and found verse after verse about praising God, I realized that I had been making worship all about me!
I don’t want to raise my hands.
That is not who I am.
I don’t want to sing.
I don’t want to dance.
I don’t like this song or worship style.
I’m not in the mood to worship today.
That is a lot of I! It is not about how I feel in the moment or if I like the song being played – I’ve been called to praise God, whatever my circumstances. I have been called to give up my wants and personal preferences, and to follow after God.
As I stepped out of my comfort zone to worship God in a way that I wasn’t comfortable with, I was surprised with the results. I started to feel more at peace, I was more joyful and I began to feel a closer connection with God’s presence than I ever had in worship before!
Come near to God and He will come near to you. (James 4:8)
We are called to live a life of sacrifice, to give up ourselves to chase after God’s heart. I felt like God was asking me to give up my image and pride to be able to worship Him with new passion. Sure, I had been singing along but I certainly wasn’t giving God my best! When I put myself aside, I was met with a new freedom and confidence in God.
I am always amazed that the God of the universe keeps His promises. I am no one special, and yet He continually comes near to me, He gives me love, peace, strength, endurance, and wisdom. There is never a moment where He is not worthy of ALL of my praise!