Treasuring the Presence of God by Faith
A luck of trust has all kinds of consequences for how we navigate life. It means we are more likely to want a signed contract than accept a handshake. It means we won’t entrust our children to the care of anyone who hasn’t completed the required paperwork. And it affects our relationship with God.
Learning to trust is a key part of becoming a Christian – without it we won’t be able to worship. Worship is an expression of faith in God. As we worship we are expressing confidence in God and his fatherly care for us. Without this kind of confidence, trust and faith we won’t treasure God’s presence as he wants us to. This means our corporate worship needs to build faith as well as express it.
The faith that is expressed and nurtured as we worship takes at least three forms, which the songs we sing should reflect:
1. Creedal faith
The content of our worship matters, as faith grows when it has truth to feed on, so we need to sing songs that teach us truth. Stuart Townend’s magnificent hymn ‘In Christ Alone’ is a great example of this, being a song that has gone around the world and nourished the saints in their faith. (It is also worth pointing out that Stuart wrote this song in and for a charismatic church, Christ the King, Brighton: Charismatic churches can be creedal!) When we come together to worship we need to feed faith with truth.
2. Faith under pressure
When we gather to worship there will be church members present who are experiencing tragedy and hardship – they need to find faith under pressure, and the content of our worship can help this. A great example of this kind of song is Horatio Spafford’s ‘It Is Well With My Soul’. Spafford wrote this hymn following financial ruin and the death of his four daughters in an accident at sea. It is worship born of adversity, an assertion of faith in God despite the bitterness of life. Our worship needs to express the reality of this kind of faith.
3. Faith that projects into the future
As well as stirring faith through truth and finding faith in difficulty, we need to know faith that looks into the future. The simple 70s chorus ‘I live, I live because he is risen’ is an example of this. A congregation should be declaring together, ‘Because you’re alive I live!’ Forward looking faith is essential.
Worship that is this faith-centred is inevitably worship that is intended to glorify God and to build up the saints. Increasingly the church circles in which I tend to move are thinking about how to be intelligible to those who are not believers. This is wise, but a danger is that we can become so focussed on trying to make the guest feel comfortable we forget God is with us! Coming in faith to Jesus means coming enthusiastically, something which itself can be a witness to those with us who don’t know him. If we’re not worshipping with faith, all we’re doing is singing.