One of the arts of worship that its potency has remained a mystery to several people is thanksgiving. Have you been in a meeting where there were mighty manifestations of God’s presence during a music praise session? Have you ever wondered why it seems music brings down the presence of God and why it seems God responds to our songs? This may be more than what you have been taught on music and what many people call worship.
Many times, the arts of worship isn’t about God, it is about us. We have heard that if we worship, God will make our war cheap, if we praise God, he will come down and many other statements but there is more to this.
God doesn’t come down when we praise him, praises don’t bring down the presence of God, it opens up our consciousness of his presence and makes us get even more sensitive to the fact that the Lord is here. Another thing thanksgiving does is that it raises our focus from our problems to the greatness of God.
First of all, you need to understand that your happiness should not depend on the things happening around you, you should be able to generate joy internally and if you can do this, you cannot be overwhelmed by the toughness of life. The Bible says in Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
If you can’t determine the level of your joy, the Bible wouldn’t have asked you to rejoice always. We were asked to rejoice always because it is possible to rejoice always. It is God’s will for you that you stay joyful, pray and give thanks always. When you allow circumstances decide for you how you feel, it means you are accepting that the situation is bigger than God. If you agree that God is greater than every circumstance, then you will be willing to trust him and stay thankful.
The Bible says in 1 Chronicle 16:34
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
While there may be evidence of challenges, the love of God outlives them all. We give thanks to God knowing that he is good. Thanksgiving reminds us of God’s greatness and distracts us from the weight of those challenges. It is in this disposition that it seems all things are possible. All things are always possible but our faith will determine how much we can receive. When we live a life of thanksgiving to God, we are building the capacity of our faith by reminding ourselves of God’s goodness and greatness.
Your mind needs to be constantly reminded of all the wonderful things the Lord has done. The devil wants you to always think of the failures and problems, he wants these things to take the place of God. Exalting your problem above God’s greatness is a form of idolatry. Each time you see yourself being overwhelmed by circumstances, remind yourself of God’s greatness, it doesn’t matter if you have to shout it or sing it! Tell yourself “I know God is always good! Regardless of my experiences, God is good and I will always put my trust in Him.” The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 9:1
“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”
The mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart (Matthew 12:34) and the heart is also the tank from where all issues of life are poured out (Proverbs 4:23). You must do everything to guard your heart. Often, you must write a letter to your heart reminding it of God’s greatness. Surely, you may experience tribulations, surely you may experience lack, and surely you may experience a certain degree of rejection but as much as it will bother you, don’t let it thrive! In the place of thanksgiving, we reset our hearts!
One of the reasons I am careful about the songs I listen to is because of my heart. Music can be powerful because music has rhythms and words. The rhythms of music can unlock the heart making it vulnerable to the words in the music. Music has a lot to do with the emotions and that is why music can greatly impact it. Music makes us dance when we never felt like, it makes us cry and it can make us think deeply. Paul wrote to the Colossians in 3:16-17 saying
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts…”
Psalms, hymns and songs inspired by the Spirit are all music and these are powerful ways to set your heart on God’s greatness despite challenges. In the Bible, we read a story about the wall of Jericho and how it was brought down. There is a part of this story that has never been explained so greatly. One of the things God did was to get the Israelites to shift focus from the mighty men of Jericho to the greatness of God.
In Numbers 13 and 14, Moses had sent people into Canaan to spy the land, they were twelve men. When these men returned, ten out of twelve had bad reports born out of fear. They were afraid even though God had promised to hand the land over to them. Joshua and Caleb had a different opinion, they saw the greatness of God but the other men magnified the greatness of the people over the greatness of God. A majority believed the report of these ten men and God lamented in Numbers 14:11
“How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them?”
Because of disbelieving and lack of trust in God, these men wandered in the wilderness again for forty years. When God had called up Joshua after the death of Moses to lead the Israelites, God had a way of making them keep their focus on his greatness during the war. Speaking about Jericho, God wasn’t saying “I will give you Jericho…” It wasn’t a promise anymore. He was rather saying “I have given you Jericho…”
The same Giants that those ten men saw were the people who were afraid of the people of Israel. Sometimes, the problem isn’t that our prayers weren’t answered, the problem is that we aren’t seeing what God has done, and we are magnifying the greatness of the problems. Ten men saw great giants but Joshua and Caleb saw great God in the same situation. Spiritually, Jericho was already a defeated city and it would only take faith in God to key into what God has already done.
They didn’t need to do anything to pull down the wall of Jericho. If they were to pull the wall down, they didn’t have such resources but trust in God was enough. The instruction was “when you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the wall of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”
Going to war, instead of having able-bodied men on the war front, they had trumpeters! And the people were instructed not to talk or discuss anything except to shout when they were asked to. I see the reason for this, God didn’t want them to communicate fear and discourage others. For six days, the priests were doing nothing but blowing their horns. On the seventh day when the long blast went out, Joshua commanded the people to shout but there was a specific thing they were commanded to shout about.
“Shout! For the Lord has given you the town!”
They weren’t shouting to get the people of Jericho scared; those already had the Spirit of fear in them! They weren’t shouting a shout of defeat and they weren’t shouting a shout of victory based on their efforts. It was a shout of joy that expressly has in it words of faith “…for the Lord has given you the town!”
As the trumpets were sounding, the focus of the people had shifted from the negative reports forty years ago to the greatness of God. The sounds were a constant reminder, not that God was going to give them the city; he already gave them the city! Each sound spoke one thing “God has given us the city.” This way, they didn’t have to do anything; the wall came down on its own! This is what thanksgiving does even when fused into sounds!
In this story, we see that God already gave them Jericho even before they were able to lay hold on it. Sometimes, the reason why we haven’t seen certain answers isn’t that God hasn’t released answers but because of the state of our mind. When ten men were seeing defeat, Joshua and Caleb were seeing victory! While the ten men were spying the city in fear, Joshua and Caleb spied the city in the excitement of the authenticity of God’s word.
When the wall was down, they still had to go into the city to take over what God has given to them. In our previous teaching where we discussed the place of action, we saw that there are certain things that we don’t have not because God hasn’t given it but because we haven’t laid hold on it. God said “I already gave you the city” but they had to move into the city and seize it!
In the New Testament, Acts 16, we read the story of Paul and Silas who after casting out an evil Spirit from a lady got mobbed in the marketplace. It didn’t just end in being beaten; they were both thrown into the prison! They were supposed to be groaning out of pain because they were badly injured. However, they knew better; it wasn’t the time to complain.
Around midnight, amid the pain, they lifted their voices and started praying and singing hymns. They were shifting their focus from their challenges to the greatness of God; they were admonishing one another in hymns! I would love to think that they were singing “Our God is great, and greatly to be praised. He’s lifted higher, higher and higher…”
Other inmates were looking at them, some would be marvelled at their faith, and others would be laughing at them saying “where was your God when you were beaten black and blue?” They didn’t stop singing and praying, they didn’t stop distracting themselves from the pains and focusing on God. This is what music does, I have been in such situations where all I had to do was sing and sing until I am completely focused on God.
The Bible records that as they were singing, there was an earthquake! The prison wasn’t just shaken, it shook right from the foundation, the doors flew open and the chains fell off every prisoner! The power of God had always been there, the presence of God didn’t come visiting because they were singing, they rather conditioned their hearts and the environment to be receptive of God’s power through the instrumentality of prayer and music.
We have seen meetings where blind eyes were opened while spiritual songs were being sung; we have seen mighty manifestations happen during the act of worship in music. What happened in that prison brought glory to God and even caused more and more people to be saved! In 1 Samuel 16:23, the Bible records thus
“And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and plays it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.”
It is important to note that it wasn’t the Spirit of God that was tormenting Saul. Rather, God allowed the Spirit to torment Saul, Saul gave way for this Spirit through disobedience. Whenever David played his instruments which I believe must have come with words of worship to God, it conditions the mind of Saul and shifts his focus to God and in this way; the Spirit that tormented him looses hold on him. This spirit was tormenting him in his mind and whenever he shifts focus to God’s greatness, he stays free! Music that has words of thanksgiving to God brings us to a positive state of mind and this was the case of Saul.
Problems of life can alter the positive state of your mind with too many negative thoughts and sometimes trying to stay positive isn’t just enough. You may need music that has words of God or words of thanksgiving to God because, through the systematic rhythms, your heart is softened and made open to be receptive of those words. Just the same way music can get you into a mood; it can bring you to a positive state of mind where you think nothing else but the glory and beauty of God.
This is why Paul recommended it for the Church saying “…admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts…” I like how the Amplified Bible renders Colossians 3:16
“Let the [spoken] word of Christ have its home within you [dwelling in your heart and mind – permeating every aspect of your being]…”
The word of Christ has power when it is spoken and you can speak these words to yourself through music, it has to dwell in your heart and your mind! This includes words of thanksgiving to God regardless of how circumstances are. The Bible says I Thessalonians 5:18
“Be thankful in all circumstances…”
No circumstances are worth your fears, stay thankful and encouraged at all times. Condition your heart with songs and the word of God knowing that God can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.
These are a few things to note:
- Thanksgiving in the face of challenges shifts our focus from the greatness of our problems to the greatness of God.
- Thanksgiving isn’t limited to the good times but to the bad times too.
- The worst the situation gets, the better our thanksgiving should get.
- Praising God doesn’t make him more God than he already is; it makes us stay in remembrance that he is God.
- Music doesn’t bring down the presence of God. The rhythm and the words in Christian music condition our hearts to be more sensitive to the presence of God.
- Miracles don’t happen because of music, we experience the power of God because our minds have been moved from our problems to his greatness.
- Thanksgiving in the face of problems is also faith being put to work.