October 29, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
According to Ephesians 5:18-19, as we are filled with the Spirit we will “sing and make music from [our] heart to the Lord.” What does it mean to sing to the Lord, indeed, to worship God from our hearts?
It’s good to ask this kind of question when we read the word “heart” in Scripture because we tend to associate the heart mainly with emotions. The Greek word translated as heart, kardia, from which we get words like “cardiac” and “cardiologist,” had a literal meaning of “heart” as in “the organ that pumps blood.” But kardia was also used to refer to the “center and source of the whole inner life.” This included the emotions, to be sure, but much more as well. In particular, the heart was the place where decisions were made—the center of the will for human beings.
So, when Ephesians urges us to make music from our hearts to the Lord, this is partly an encouragement to allow our emotions to be expressed in worship. Music has unique power to help us feel and rejoice in God’s love. Music invites us to share with the Lord our deepest longings, losses, joys, and fears. So, yes, emotions are included in singing from our hearts.
But not just emotions. Singing to the Lord from your heart is also a matter of choice, an act of will. Sometimes when you gather with God’s people for worship your feelings will be dull or distracted. You sing wonderful words without wonderful sentiments. You may wonder if you need to work up some feelings, to get your emotions in gear. Or perhaps you feel guilty because you’re not sensing much love for the Lord.
When this happens to you – and it happens to everybody at one time or another – don’t fret. You can still sing to the Lord from your heart. How? By choosing to sing to him. By using your heart to focus on the meaning of the words and sing them to God. Sometimes this will lead to an inner warming of the emotions. Sometimes it won’t. But you will still be singing from your heart in the sense intended in Ephesians 5:19.
How can you sing to the Lord from your heart? By choosing to sing to the Lord; by choosing to address him in song; by choosing to focus on him, not yourself; by choosing to pay attention to what you are singing; by remembering that worship is for God. He is our audience, our Lord, our Savior, our loving Father who delights in us and our worship.
Something to Think About:
When in your experience of worship have you felt powerful feelings? Why?
What do you do when your worship lacks emotion?
Do you choose to worship the Lord even when you don’t feel like it? What helps you to do this?
Something to Do:
The next time you’re struggling to feel anything special in worship, don’t focus on yourself. Rather, choose to communicate to God through songs and prayers. Focus on God, not yourself. If feelings come, that’s wonderful. If not, that’s okay. God is honored in your choice to worship him.
Gracious God, one of the greatest joys of life is feeling strong emotions when I worship you. I wish I could bottle this experience and bring it out whenever I need it. But I know true worship isn’t like this. It isn’t primarily a matter of me and my feelings. Worship is for you and your delight. Help me, Lord, to choose to worship you. May I worship you when I’m gathered with other believers and when I’m alone. May I worship you while sitting in traffic or sitting at my desk. May I choose to offer my whole life to you as worship and in this way to worship from my heart. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Discovering the Power of Singing to God
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.