Daring to stand up and be counted

Last Sunday the sermon in church focused on the concept of praise and how praising God goes much, much deeper than singing songs with an attitude of veneration and gratefulness.  Praise is an attitude of the heart and as Christians, it should define everything we do and the manner in which we do it every single day from the moment we wake up to the time our day ends.

During the sermon the speaker raised a very straightforward question which judging by the volume of our voices as we sung worship songs, we should have all been able to answer.  He said: “What are the kind of things you can praise God for today?”  It was not a rhetorical question.  It was asked and directed to the congregation in an attempt to encourage us to witness what God is doing and has already done in our lives that brings us to a place where our hearts are overflowing with praise and worship, or are they?

As we all remained absolutely dead quiet, that deadly silence pierced right through my heart, as I sat there not being able to utter a single word to express my love and gratitude for my Saviour, the ONE who gave his life to free me from sin and allow me to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father.  There must have been well over 60 adults there, the majority of whom are born-again Christians and nobody, not even one person, not ME, raised their voice to claim the praises of a God who saves, restores, heals, delivers but above all loves unconditionally.  I was so ashamed. I felt a bit like Peter when he denied knowing the Lord on three different occasions.  I thought, if I cannot bring myself to speak up and declare in front of people who are already Christians how Christ has completely transformed my heart from the inside out, has restored my life from complete chaos and shown me a love and faithfulness that never fail, what chances will I have when/if faced and questioned by those who seek to persecute and ridicule Christ’s followers?  Absolutely none.

As I sat in church feeling utterly humbled by my cowardice to raise my voice at a crucial time, I wondered whether the reason that no one spoke up was perhaps just shyness to speak in public, but I soon got my answer to that, because a minute after the speaker put that “wake up call” question to all of us, he turned his sermon right around and begun a quiz aimed at recognising the titles of various different worship songs he gave us some of the lyrics to. The dead silence of the previous minute was instantly broken by laughter and the many voices trying to outsmart each other in winning the contest by getting as many answers right as possible.  My spirit cried as I witness that none of us were able to answer the real important question seconds prior, the one that will count, if we are ever in a situation where what we say will make or break someone’s willingness to welcome Christ into his/her life, and yet we couldn’t wait to speak up to give the answer to a silly quiz, as if knowing those answers made us any more worthy or deserving of being called Christians.

Knowing all the titles of all worship songs in the world will never bring anyone to Christ, but a heart-felt testimony of why it is that we love Christ and believe that through Him we can have eternal life, is paramount to the salvation of many who remain in the darkness by ignorance, pride or sheer stubbornness to keep the status quo in their lives.

As I heard the clamour of young and old fighting to be heard with the right answer to the songs to be identified in this quiz, I felt literally sick and my heart wept at the realisation that we treat Christianity as a bit of a game sometimes, we like to play at it but when it comes to the crunch, most of us fall by the wayside.

The speaker was obviously absolutely taken aback that not one person spoke up and gave him an answer to what should be a pretty simple question for a Christian.  His heart was also pierced by the dead silence and in an attempt to alleviate the tension in the air he said:  “It does not matter, because God already knows”.  I have to disagree.  I think that it does matter.  I think that we need to get real and start living out what we say we believe in.  Yes, God knows, of course He does, what is in our hearts and who amongst those gathered there on Sunday truly worship Him in the manner which He deserves and He is worthy of.  But imagine your best friend or a relative gave his/her life for you, and some time later you were questioned in public (by some other friends of that person who are perfectly aware of the sacrifice he/she made for you) about whether you have anything to say that expresses your sheer love and endless gratitude for what that person did for you.  When asked that question which to everybody else, even those who did not know your friend of what he/she did for you, you remain absolutely silent as if you were struggling to actually dig some reason out of nowhere for which you should be grateful.  How hurtful would that be for your friend if he/she was listening?  Well, God was listening last Sunday and perhaps, most likely, the Holy Spirit led our speaker to put such a question on the table so that we could run a check on our own hearts and attitudes, to bring us to the very core of what  constitutes authentic worship.

Well, I can only speak for myself and that opportunity to say what I already knew has now passed, so I use this new, fresh opportunity today to repent to Jesus Christ for my absolutely unjustifiable silence last Sunday; I repent for my cowardice and fear.  And I ask the Lord that He would forgive me for denying him in my silence when I should have spoken on his behalf.  I know that His grace will cover my silence and restore my heart so that I am able to step out in faith the next time I am called to stand in the gap.  I thank the Holy Spirit for convicting me in this situation and I thank God for placing this opportunity in front of me so that I could as when you look in a mirror, see the difference between who I am proclaiming to be and who I really am; for showing me the distance that I still need to run with perseverance; for not giving up on me when I have failed Him once more; for lifting me up on eagles’ wings when I have fallen and stumbled upon the same stone.

I would like to think that for most of us the reason we remained quiet was the fact that our reasons for praising God and being grateful are far too many to express during a service, but I have to be honest with myself and accept that the chances of that being true are indeed slim.  I am more inclined to believe that what stopped us from speaking up last Sunday was just as it was in biblical times: pride and fear.

                                           Jesus YOU are the reason

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2 thoughts on “Daring to stand up and be counted

  1. Hi there,

    I was listening to Jason Upton speak on his web site….

    He said this,

    “There is a difference between admiring Jesus and being a follower of Jesus…”

    There are many people in the church who know of Jesus and perhaps with the grace of the Lord they are saved but their relationship with Jesus would be shallow at best.

    I like what one theologian said….

    “We don’t worship God because He’s God. We don’t worship God because He’s powerful. We worship God because He’s good to us…..and He doesn’t treat the way our sins deserve.”

    I think Psalm 8 and 103 or 108 has a lot to say about this.

    The worship team at my church has issues with a person from Hillsongs who says he’s been struggling with terminal cancer. When he got the diagnosis he wrote this song. In it are the words…..

    I believe your my healer
    I believe you are all I need
    I believe you’re my portion
    I believe you’re more then enough for me.

    Incredible song and I can’t begin to describe how it feels to look at circumstance which seem impossible for God to do something about it, to heal, to change and perhaps to change in ways that most people would say is impossible.

    My point is this…

    While this other lady has issues because somebody else decided they were going to lie about being healed from cancer. And so she couldn’t wrap her mind around it simply because she doesn’t want people toying with her emotions. And she really wanted to see accountability.

    Besides the fact that she’s looking at one person and judging them based upon a previous experience she had with somebody else. That’s not the point for what I wanted to post here….

    It’s this…

    Perhaps the hardest thing that any of us can do is actually personalize the songs being sung. And perhaps the hardest thing in our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ to have a faith of our own.

    I went through my childhood, teen years, and even attended Bible College riding on somebody elses faith. It’s wasn’t until I began to get real with myself, open and honest with everything in my own life I began to encounter a very real God whose not afraid of all the ways in which my brokenness manifests itself. He’s not afraid because in the midst of my confusion the Lord knows the reasons behind it.

    The point…because I’ve been able to personalize this song I had mentioned I might become a little emotional and fired up when I can say that yes, I believe that He, the Lord is my healer, my portion and everything I need. I might become a little emotional because when I’ve had nothing and faced rejection from everyone including the church, the one who remained would be Jesus. I came to experience in my own personal journey the profound truth being sung and it had nothing to do with the man being from Hillsongs. It had everything to do with my personal relationship with Jesus and the work that He’s doing in my life.

  2. Hi Janey,

    Thank you very much for your comment.

    It is amazing, that Hillsong song is the very one, amongst others, that we sung in church last Sunday, and you are right, it is a beautiful song, and although the person who wrote it may have lied about the circumstances surrounding him when he wrote its lyrics, that is between him and God. For millions of Christians round the world the statements expressed in that song are as true to them as life itself, before they knew that the writer lied about his illness and afterwards too.

    I am not talking in my post, however, about any worship leader, worship team or the ability to praise God through music. My last post was an introspective exercise about where I may be failing as a Christian. It was not intended to pass judgement about anyone else, but to act as a mirror on my own faith. If you read my very first post, you will see that this blog is intended as a kind of mirror that will allow me to change the things I can and accept gracefully those things I cannot change.

    For me, praise cannot be limited to singing a few songs on a Sunday, even if they are sung with a heart genuinely moved by praise and gratitude. For me and this is just how I would like to live out my faith, an attitude of praise has to cover our every thought, every word spoken, and every action, EVERYDAY. It has to stem from integrity. My question would be: Are we the same person once we move away from our church, when nobody is looking or listening?

    I agree with everything you are saying, and I know that God loves me just the same whether I am able to sing/speak his praises in a public setting or not. But the question remains, what if one day Christianity becomes persecuted in this country and I find myself being questioned/interrogated about my faith? What if circumstances and the social context changes in this nation to such an extent that hiding under the guise of “the only thing that matters is my own personal relationship with Jesus” is no longer enough to get by? What then, will I deny my Lord to safe my neck or will I live out what I profess?

    I don’t want to wait to be in a situation like that to find out the answer to all those questions. A friend of mine emailed me this morning to say that I was being too hard on myself on that last post about praise. Yes, perhaps I am, but at the end of the day, how can one expect to witness for Christ, if when surrounded by friends and family in a church setting, is unable to joyously and freely shout about the wonders that God has done in their life?

    I hope you can understand where I am coming from.

    Please open this link and watch the video about Christians being persecuted for their faith in China. Those people live and die with a heart of praise. Their heart of praise defines their life and also their death, in most cases. If you are unable to open the link, let me know and I can email it to you.

    http://kingdavid.wordpress.com/2008/08/30/the-post-olympics-china/

    Blessings,

    ransom33

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