Did you know that the heart was the only instrument used in N.T. worship? (Eph. 5:19)
Interestingly enough, I did not cry or get upset when I heard the news; an unexpected response spontaneously took place within my mind; at the moment of my diagnosis, I found myself internally singing the old gospel hymn “Sing and Happy” by Emory S. Peck. I would suppose I have sung that song hundreds, if not thousands, of times during worship services from my youth. The scriptural words were always meaningful and “upbeat” but suddenly they meant much more. The hymn reads:
If the skies above you are gray, You are feeling so blue,
If your cares and burdens seem great all the whole day through,
There’s a silver lining that shines in the heavenly land,
Look by faith and see it my friend, Trust in His promises grand.
Often we are troubled and tried, Sick with sorrow and pain,
There are others living in sin blest with earthly gain,
Take new courage we cannot tell what the morrow may bring,
When the dark clouds vanish away then your heart truly can sing.
Oft we fail the see the rainbow up in heaven’s fair sky,
When it seems the fortunes of earth frown and pass us by,
There are things we know that are worth more the silver and gold,
If we hope and trust Him each day, We shall have pleasure untold.
Sing and you’ll be happy today, Press along to the goal,
Trust in Him who leadeth the way, He is keeping your soul,
Let the world know where you belong, Look to Jesus and pray,
Lift your voice and praise Him in song, Sing and Be Happy Today!
The purpose of “songs, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) which we sing collectively during the public worship service is to “teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16). Ignorantly, I almost always viewed myself as the teacher and not the student. On March 3, 2014 I realized that for over twenty years faithful Christians were teaching me how to respond to physical and mental adversity by singing Gospel hymns such as “Sing and Be Happy.” Finally, it was time for me to use their training and continue “to trust in His promises grand.”
In Mathew 26:17-25, Matthew, inspired by the Holy Spirit, recorded the last Passover meal Jesus would eat with His disciples. It was during this meal that Jesus revealed the unfortunate truth that one of the twelve was going to betray Him (21). There was angst among them as they wondered who would be the betrayer (22). Jesus, in a veiled way, identified Judas as the betrayer and Judas went forward with his evil plan (23-25). With the betrayer now absent, Jesus instituted what Christians often call the “Lord’s Supper” (Matt. 26:26-30). It is a beautifully simple, yet meaningful memorial that Christians observe every Sunday to remember the death of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:7). Yet I can only imagine how Jesus must have felt as He established a memorial to remember His death that had yet to come to fruition. How odd it must have been to “give thanks” for His blood that had yet to be “shed for the remission of sins” (28). One is able to read of the emotional anguish that came forth from Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (37) as He prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (39). It must have been, to a lesser extent, a troubling memorial for the apostles as well. Their leader was going to die; He would not partake of the memorial with them until after His church was established on the Day of Pentecost (Matt. 26:29; 16:18-19, 28; Acts 2:1-13, 38, 41, 47). Yet after the Lord’s Supper was completed, it is recorded, “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives” (30). Apparently it was common to conclude the Passover feast with the singing of the Hallel Psalms (Ps. 115-118) (Lewis 442, see Roper, 442 vol. 2). The word “Hallel” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word which means “praise.” What an exceptional response to the distress that must have been thick among Jesus and His apostles! McGarvey wrote, “The shadow of the cross did not quench the spirit of praise in Christ” (685). The final words of Psalm 118 read, “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever” (29). What an astounding example our Lord and Savior left His people! When we are confronted with difficulties in this life we must continue to praise God! We must continue to “Sing and be Happy” to the best of our ability – with all of our strength.
Friends, Jesus has commanded us to assemble with the saints on the first day of the week for many important reasons (Heb. 10:25; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; et. al.). One of those reasons is to allow us to “teach and admonish one another” in songs, hymns and spiritual songs. It is undeniable that the songs we sing help us prepare for times of distress. If we do not attend, how will we respond when life brings us trouble? Let us do our very best to respond properly to adversity, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (20) as Jesus and the disciples did on the brink of a life changing event. Yet I Trust.