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