Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
~ Colossians 3:16 (NIV)
Our Open Doors colleague, Ron Boyd-MacMillan, shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I Need to Encounter the Persecuted Church.”
Once I spent a week in the company of a famous female Chinese evangelist. Many characteristics that made her stand out; her courage, her long hours on her knees, her carefully cultivated simplicity of faith. But at the time, these were not the features that stuck with me and ended up transforming my faith. What actually impressed me about her was the same thing that impressed me about everyone else around her too. They were always singing. Singing hymns!
Three features of the singing were striking. First, the hymns themselves were not in the least profound. In terms of content, they lacked theological depth and poetic phrasing. Wesley or Newton would not have been proud of these offerings.
Second, they couldn’t sing very well. Chinese are not renowned for their harmonic skills in any case. They warbled, croaked, and droned and screeched...all with a complete disregard for the tune.
Third, they sang primarily to themselves. Oh sure, they sang in groups and to each other, but the most of their singing was done by themselves, to themselves. But all this did not matter. The songs worked.
Travelling around with these persecuted believers made me realize I had forgotten how much Christians sing praises. For me, the only time I sang was in church or an occasional chorus at a home group. I had never really sung hymns to myself, or seen singing to another as a ministry. I didn’t have a terribly good singing voice, and felt like I should leave it to those who were good at it. But after hearing everyone in the persecuted church of China singing virtually all the time, and seeing the difference it made to them spiritually, I wondered, Why do I not sing by myself, to my own spirit, or see singing as a ministry of encouragement?
So when I came back, I picked my seven favorite hymns. Ones like, “We rest on thee, Our Shield and Our Defender,” and, “Breathe on Me Breath of God.” I learned them, and during my quiet times, I sang to my spirit. And I found it to be true. A song lifts the spirit like nothing else. And as I read the Bible, I saw how central singing was to the practice of faith. The Israelites sing all the time in the temple; prisoners Paul and Silas sing in the cell; the early house churches sing to each other, and the scriptures climax in the great throne visions of John in Revelation, and what is going on in that most hallowed place but the singing of a “new song”.
Thank you persecuted church, for restoring a lost but key component of my quiet time.
RESPONSE: Today I will sing to the Lord in my spirit and gain encouragement for service to Him.
PRAYER: Lord, I ask You to help me be one who is always singing Your praises with my spirit.