Music is a profoundly emotional experience. It both arouses and expresses our feelings.
Joy is the chief emotion of the Christian. Paul, the Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, commanded “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I will say Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). One of the main ways Christians rejoice “in the Lord” is by singing hymns.
A hymn is a song of God’s praise. The classical Greek writers used the word “hymn” to signify a song written in praise of gods or heroes. There are two elements to a hymn – the praise of God and singing.
We praise someone whenever we express approval or admiration for their ability, achievements or qualities. A Christian hymn declares the greatness of God, especially in saving the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is about how magnificent he is and how wonderful are his ways. That is why the words of a hymn are so important.
The music is also very important; for singing is the way we express our emotions. By singing the praise of God we express our central emotion: joy in the Lord. So James wrote, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone among you cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13).
The non-Christian world finds it strange that we Christians experience these two things – suffering and cheerfulness – together. Paul taught:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Because our joy is in the Lord, we can always sing his praise. Our joy is not dependent upon circumstances. All our circumstances are under his control. His character and greatness are always worthy of praise – for they never change.
What Paul taught he also lived. In Philippi he and Silas suffered dreadfully. They were unjustly and illegally arrested, beaten and imprisoned in stocks. Rather than be discouraged or defeated we read in the book of Acts “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,”(Acts 16:25). Here were men suffering terrible abuse yet of such good cheer as to sing hymns to God, for they knew the greatness of the Lord.
Similarly, years later when he was again in a prison Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi repeatedly urging them to “Rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1, 4:4).
Even in the midst of the unjust sufferings of the fallen world, Christians can always rejoice in the Lord by singing his praises.
As the season of Easter commences this week we are again called into rejoicing in our Lord. We remember again what he suffered for our salvation. We call the day that celebrates his assassination “Good Friday”. We rejoice in the memory of his suffering for we know God’s plan for our salvation.
So, at Easter time we see again clearly how great God is. That he should love us so much as to send his one and only Son to die for our sin reminds us of his mercy and kindness. That he should be so powerful as to raise his Son from the bonds of death reminds us of his mighty work in our life bringing new birth. That he conquered sin, Satan and death in the cross and resurrection reminds us of the fullness of our forgiveness that we have in him. There is no better time to sing his praises with joy than when we remember the sufferings of that first Easter.
Thankfully many of our greatest hymn writers down the centuries found great stimulus for their compositions in the death and resurrection of Jesus. So we are able at Easter time to express our joy in the Lord as we sing his praises for who he is and what he has done in saving us.
So let us rejoice in the Lord by cheerfully singing his praise.