The best moments in leading worship at my church happen when Ray and I step away from the mic and give it all over to the audience, when I hear the voices of our brothers and sisters singing out to the Lord at the top of their lungs. All of a sudden, my voice sounds so tiny and insignificant. All of a sudden, I feel a part of something so much greater. All of a sudden, I catch a glimpse of heaven.As I hear the myriad voices of the congregation lifting their praises up to heaven, I am reminded of the beautifully powerful passages of Revelation, where the saints, angels, and mystical four creatures lift up their own voices to the Most High. My favorite passage is found in the fifth chapter, verses 11-14, which I quote here:
Then I looked, and I heard the voice
of many angels around the throne, the
living creatures, and the elders; and the
number of them was ten thousand times
ten thousand, and thousands of
thousands, saying with a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
to receive power and riches and wisdom,
and strength and honor and glory
And every creature which is in
heaven and on the earth and under the
earth and such are in the sea, and all
that are in them, I heard saying:
“Blessing and honor and glory and power
be to Him who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”
Then the four living creatures said,
“Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell
down and worshiped Him who lives
forever and ever.
How can we respond to this? I read it and am left speechless. This is our God. This is our Father. This is the One who has redeemed us, who has forgiven us, cleaned us up, called us His own, given us His inheritance, whom the heavenly hosts praise all day long, twenty-four-seven because He is worthy. How do we deserve to be His?! Actually, we don’t. That’s why I’m floored, flabbergasted.
I remember when my church worship team and I used to meet for rehearsals somewhat regularly. We would get the set list, practice on our own, and meet up at someone’s house (or in a super sketch practice room in a warehouse at night … good times) to get the arrangements right. On the morning or evening of the actual worship service, we would have about 45 minutes to go over the songs again and get it down pat. By the time we climbed up onto the stage and the lights dimmed, we felt pretty good to go—especially after a lot of prayer and remembering that we were covered by God’s grace and we couldn’t do this on our own, even with hours and hours of practice!
I can’t help but think that heaven is like a worship service. Okay, it is—the biggest worship service anyone has ever taken part of before. So do we know our parts? Have we practiced, warmed up our voices? Do we know who it is we will be worshiping for the rest of our lives? Can we say that we are offerings of incense, that we live lives of praise?
I sadly note to myself that even if every beat of my heart from the day I was born until the day I died was a shout of praise to God above, all of my life’s praises would not be nearly enough to scratch the surface of all that He deserves. All of the praises of all of my life will add up to a mere grain of sand on the beach or a star in the sky. Not enough. Ever. I am so glad that God created the bodies of stars and beaches filled with sand to remind us how pathetically insignificant and small we are—or rather, how substantial and how grand He really is.
I hear people say all the time that they wish they could sing, or at least sing a little better, especially in context of a worship service. But then I think of how great the angels must sound, the entire heavenly chorus. And I think of our feeble human voices. Even when our voices are at our best, when we hit high notes, belt it out and sound pretty amazing to our human ears, it is nothing compared to what God hears every moment of eternity. Those angels must know how to sing. Anyone who tries to compare voices on earth is wasting energy.Worship leaders aren’t up there because they have good voices, though that’s what I thought for many years. In fact, my worship leader, Ray, said he couldn’t sing a note in tune until God called him into worship ministry. And the first time I had ever heard him sing, I thought he had one of the greatest voices ever! But God forbid any worship leader or singer be put on a pedestal. None of us deserve to be up there. God knows why He has called certain people to lead His children into worship. It is a crazy honor. Crazy. Every time I clamber on up to the platform, I am in denial. I’m taken aback. Why on earth did You choose me, God?
Leading worship is humbling. And admittedly, it’s hard sometimes. Balancing intense focus on the musical technicalities of worship with the freedom of being filled with the Spirit so that it overflows onto the congregation is no easy feat. It takes practice. I haven’t even begun to master it. Learning how to take compliments and toss them back up to the heavens where they belong takes practice, too. As much as I love encouraging words (and I do need them sometimes), they have a tendency to thwart my attempts at humility.
But He keeps me humble through His consistent gifts of grace. I have never felt God’s grace so near as when I forget the lyrics and He feeds them into my mouth, when I feel so tired and dizzy I could fall off the stage and He holds me up, when I’m suffering with a sporadic cough and He holds it back for me, when my voice is so weak and His Spirit gives it wings. It is a constant reminder that I cannot do anything on my own power. It is all by Him, through Him, and for Him.
I could go on and on. I could make this a series of posts. And I could sing of His love forever (as our group sang tonight in worship). But bottom line is, He is so, so worthy of praise and glory and honor that every breath we breathe upon this earth should be turned into praise. Even when we don’t feel Him, though we can’t see Him, the legions of angels still cry out Holy, Holy, Holy, and all of nature continues to sing the praises of our glorious King.
And we all, in one tongue, for eternity will proclaim,
“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!” Exclamation point!
Rev. 4:8-11; 5:8-14; 7:9-12; 11:15-19; 15:1-4It’s even better if you read the passages in context.