Psalm 100:1-2, Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!
In 1 Chronicles 16, the ark of the covenant is brought into the tent of meeting and David leads the congregation of people in worship at this church dedication. They are rejoicing that they have a place where they can pray, worship, and receive abundant gifts from the Lord together. Today, as we gather together at church, we receive God’s gifts of Baptism, the hearing of His Word, and the Lord’s Supper. And we respond with praise as we thank Him for these gifts and, ultimately, the gift of salvation in Christ alone.
At times, we may not always feel like praising God when the pressures of life are stressing us out. How can we praise God with joy when we’re living from paycheck to paycheck? How can we thank God when we or a loved one are in poor health? How can we express our gratefulness when we always feel angry or sad? I have good news for you: God’s gifts do not depend on our emotional responses. Even though our checking account may waver, God provides. Even when our health is poor or someone we love is ill, God is our closest friend. When we are angry or sad, God provides us comfort. We may not feel like praising God in these situations, but He still pours out His blessings in our baptism, the preaching of His Word, and the Lord’s Supper.
The problem with the American Church is that it says you have to have an emotional experience in order to feel the Holy Spirit and to worship God. This is not biblical teaching. It is true that the Holy Spirit, at times, can make you emotional and you can get emotional when you worship God, but emotions are not necessarily required to know that God is present in the Holy Spirit. I don’t get emotional every time I remember my baptism, or when I read God’s Word or listen to my pastor’s sermon, or every time I receive the Lord’s Supper. I also don’t always feel emotional when I worship God and thank Him, because I don’t need to. This is not to say that it’s wrong to feel emotions when we worship God, because at times the Holy Spirit moves deeply in us through His Word and causes us to react emotionally. For example, I get emotional every time I hear or sing the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness because of its deep, personal significance to my life and suffering. However, our emotions do not make these gifts of God—the means of grace—effective. God’s Word is efficacious in His means of grace. God knows my heart; I don’t need to prove to Him through my emotions how grateful I am. Even when I’m not particularly joyful, I can still express my gratitude to Him because I truly am thankful; I’m just not in a happy mood for whatever circumstance because I’m a sinner.
We can still recognise God’s abundant gifts even when we don’t feel like praising Him. When this happens, we can pray, “Father, in my sin I’m not feeling particularly joyful or thankful right now to praise You. Forgive me, a sinner, and help change my attitude. Thank You for these gifts You bring, especially that I am able to talk to You as I am now.” When you don’t feel like praising or thanking Him, do it anyway. It just might change your heart and attitude. Every now and then, when I’m in such a grumpy mood and don’t even want to think about God, I’ll force myself to turn on some worship music and it soon changes my attitude. I don’t always do this, but when I do my mood always changes. It’s not because I’m doing something, but it’s because God is doing something in me, whether I feel something or not. I may not feel suddenly happy afterwards, but I’ll no longer be upset. In fact, I was in such a foul mood before I started writing this blog that I almost put it off for another day. Because of all the schoolwork I have to do, I was grumpy and had no desire to dwell in God’s Word. Instead, I opened my Bible, dug into the Word, and His Word changed my attitude as I’ve been writing this, and now you’re reading these words. I’m not feeling particularly emotional, but I’m no longer grumpy.
It may not be instant, but God’s Word and worshipping Him changes our hearts because He works through them to do so. The next time you feel like ignoring God, try opening your Bible or turning on some worship music. You might be surprised with the changes they bring.