I was on a scriptural safari. Prowling through the Ephesian letter, I was tracking an elusive, totally unrelated verse when God’s sharp sword flashed, suddenly slicing me to the core.
...speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:19 NASB)
Everyone knows Ephesians 5:18, where we are told to “be filled with the Spirit”...but have you ever noticed that verse 18 ends with a comma, not a period? The next verse describes the very first result of being under the Spirit’s control...we sing! We make melody with our hearts. We communicate His presence within us by presenting our own, individual concert of sacred music to Him.
Let’s take it another step. The church building is not once referred to in Ephesians 5. I mention that because we Christians have so centralized our singing that we seldom engage in it once we drive away from the building with stained glass and an organ. Stop and think. Did you sing on the way home from church last Sunday? How about Monday, when you drove to work...or around the supper table...or Tuesday as you dressed for the day? Chances are, you didn’t even sing before or after you spent some time with the Lord any day last week.
Why? The Spirit-filled saint is a song-filled saint! Animals can’t sing. Neither can pews or pulpits or Bibles or buildings. Only you. And your melody is broadcast right into heaven—live—where God’s antenna is always receptive...where the soothing strains of your song are always appreciated.
Believe me, if Martin Luther lived today, he’d be heartsick. That rugged warrior of the faith had two basic objectives when he fired the reformation cannon into the 16th-century wall of spiritual ignorance. First, he wanted to give people a Bible they could read on their own, and second, to give them a hymnal so they could sing on their own. The Bible we have, and its words we read. The hymnal we have, but where, oh, where has the melody gone? Mr. Songless Saint is about as acquainted with his hymnal as his six-year-old daughter is with the Dow Jones averages. Christians know more verses by heart from Ecclesiastes and Ezekiel than from the well-worn hymnal they use over 100 times a year! We simply do not sing as often as we ought, and therein lies the blame and the shame.
Allow me to offer a few corrective suggestions:
Whenever and wherever you sing, concentrate on the words. If it helps, close your eyes. Let yourself get so lost in the accompanying melody that you momentarily forget where you are and what others might think. Frankly, I find it impossible to praise my Lord in song at the same time I feel self-conscious.
Make a concentrated effort to add one or two songs to your day. Remind yourself periodically of the words of a chorus or hymn you love and add them to your driving schedule or soap-and-shower time.
Sing often with a friend or members of your family. It helps melt down all sorts of invisible barriers. Singing before grace at mealtime in the evening is so enjoyable, but I warn you, you may become addicted.
Blow the dust off your music library and put on some beautiful music in the house. The family atmosphere will change for the better if you do this occasionally. And don’t forget to sing along, adding your own harmony and “special effects.”
Never mind how beautiful or pitiful you may sound. Sing loud enough to drown out those defeating thoughts that normally clamour for attention. Release yourself from that cage of introspective reluctance—SING OUT! You are not auditioning for the choir, you’re making melody with your heart.
If you listen closely when you’re through, you may hear the hosts of heaven shouting for joy. Then again, it might be your neighbour...screaming for relief.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, “Songless Saints” in Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Portland, Ore.: Multnomah, 1990), 545-47. Copyright © 1983 Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.