“Praising God And Having Favor”
Mr. Donald L. Norbie of Greeley, Colorado, serves the Lord as assembly building and student work.
The early Christians were marked by joy and fervor. There was excitement and praise to God as they met together for fellowship, teaching, worship and prayer. The reality of knowing forgiveness of sins and of having a risen Savior filled them with ecstasy. They are described as “praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47).
This new-found joy and enthusiasm soon began to ebb in some of the churches. Signs of a loss of their “first love” appeared early (Rev. 2:4). “Leanness of soul” (Psa. 106:15) is no new malady for God’s people.
The remembrance of the Lord’s death at the breaking of bread often is a good indicator of spiritual health. Declining spiritual fervor will be seen when the time is filled mostly with hymns. There will be few, if any, fresh messages from the Word. And the prayers will tend to be forced, mechanical and stereotyped, rather than fresh and spontaneous. There will be long, awkward pauses (when will someone speak?). And the meeting will become increasingly poorly attended. Only the prayer meeting will have a smaller attendance. All these reflect the cooling of the fire of first love.
What can be done to reverse this deadening trend?
First of all, it needs to be emphasized that this is an important meeting of the church. A time should be chosen when it is possible for the whole church to be present. And all believers should realize that they are expected to be present. Some churches put the Lord’s Supper at the end of a preaching service, almost as an after-thought. This was not the practice of the early Christians.
Elders should not flog the sheep to enforce attendance but lovingly lead the way. They should come early with eager, happy spirits. Their hearts should be clean and prepared, ready to lead in hymns, prayer and the Word. During the week more time must be spent with the Word and less with the tube. If spiritual leaders are thoughtful, grateful, exuberant in their praise the flock will be swept along by this wave of worship. The meeting will come alive with praise. And our Lord will be delighted, even as His people will be blessed.
One further suggestion: Choose a good hymn book. It has been said that the most important book next to the Bible is a good hymn book. The truths one sings are etched upon the tables of his memory. For times of worship many assemblies used to have “The Believers Hymn Book.” In 1945, “Hymns of Worship and Remembrance” was published. This has a rich selection of hymns suited for worship and remembrance. Then later, “Hymns of Truth and Praise” was printed which incorporated some of these rich, worship hymns with more general hymns concerning the Gospel and Christian experience. And there are other good hymn books as well.
It is a pity if a church chooses a hymn book which neglects this rich heritage of hymns that especially breathe worship and appreciation of Christ’s Person and work. Often singing such a hymn will lift a whole congregation into the very Presence of God. Choose your hymn books with care.
If God’s people come together expectantly and reverently they will not be disappointed. The God of Heaven will meet with His people as He always has.