“Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a loud shout.”
Have you ever been at church and just closed your eyes, experiencing a moment of heartfelt praise to God? There is nothing better. Your physical body is in one place, but your heart, soul, and mind are in another—passionately expressing your affection for this overwhelmingly good God.
And then, oftentimes, as much as we might wish to avoid it, a distraction drags us out of that moment of worship. Maybe it is an inharmonious note sung from the stage, or a misplayed chord executed by a musician that hijacks our mind, briefly derailing us from that time of true worship. Despite our best intentions, we open our eyes and allow the interruption to sweep away our attention.
In my case, such occurrences were once a tremendous nuisance. As a musician, I naturally tend to be sensitive to these kinds of distractions. However, as my relationship with the Lord has grown, I’ve found that peripheral interferences during worship bother me less and less. I am gradually maturing to a point where I can enter His gates in praise, no matter the circumstances, and focus solely on God’s glory, despite the environment around me. I am humbly learning to praise Him anywhere.
Whether it’s professional musicians leading hymns or the sincere but perhaps pitchy singing of praise, I am confident that God is glorified. I believe He can be supremely honored whether the presentation of worship music is pristine or merely the best joyful noise one can squeak out. After all, our Father looks at the heart rather than outward things (1 Samuel 16:7). Besides, doesn’t He have a host of angelic voices constantly adoring Him? He certainly does! So, I’m quite sure that even our imperfect offerings, when blended in chorus with those angelic songs, fall kindly on the ears of our Lord. I often joke that “God runs us all through a fabulous pitch correction program” as we cry out His praise!
Nonetheless, the skill that we implement in using instrumental worship music is important. God sets a Biblical precedent that we ought to play with a display of quality unto Him. Scripture compels us in Psalm 33:3, “Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a loud shout.”
So, if God is pleased with our praises regardless of our abilities, why does our skill matter?
The reason is that it affects our human ability to engage in worship. Quality musicianship can make it easier to worship. Sloppy musical workmanship can make it harder to focus on Jesus, much like any other distraction we might encounter in our lives.
As an example, consider being on a romantic date. When I am having an evening out with my beautiful wife, I purposely choose a restaurant that does not have televisions scattered around the venue. And if we do happen to dine at such a place, I intentionally seat myself so that I can’t see the screens. When I am intimately enjoying the company of my bride, my foremost objective is to ensure there’s no competition for my attention with her.
So it is with the use of musical instruments. We can use them to complement an atmosphere of worship or to detract from it. Worship can be greatly impacted by the manner and quality of how we utilize these tools, giving them a mighty magnitude of significance.
It’s worth noting that this concept of wielding our instruments well applies not only in music but in all aspects of worship. According to Romans 6:12-13, our whole body is an instrument to be used in the art of worshiping God: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
The physical body is also an instrument—a tool that God gifted each of us. It is a powerful piece of equipment that can be played badly or beautifully. When the notes of our lives align harmoniously with His plans and purposes, they can accomplish remarkable things. Used carefully, they magnify our awesome God, minimizing the disruptions that hinder others from receiving Him and focusing their attention solely on our Savior.
Compare this to my own life as a recording artist: I, like most artists, work diligently to hone my craft and produce albums which amplify a particular message, and I want my audience to receive that message in the way I intended. So also, our bodies should operate as if their sole purpose is to amplify Jesus.
In my work, I use my guitar to move people, impacting and influencing others through the songs I perform. However, my body is a far greater instrument—it’s equipped with emotion, logic, and a variety of abilities. It should likewise be played for His glory in all things.
Every action of your life is a note played. Even those pitches that are misplayed matter; they help you to learn to be the living instrument of worship that God commands us to be. As Romans 12:1 prompts us: “Therefore I exhort you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—living, holy, and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
Lastly, remember that playing an instrument takes time. Learn all you can and practice a lot. You will likely hit wrong notes from time to time, but do not allow those missteps to define you. May we eventually refine our talent and lives so that in all ways, we draw all the attention to our amazing God.
For further reading
Travis Lee is a Nashville recording artist and ordained minister of Hope Church in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. He founded Faithwalk Ministries in 2009 and has authored several books including DEEPER: Launching a Faithwalk with God and the children’s book series entitled Adventures of Fred and Sylvia. The Travis Lee Band currently tours the United States and abroad teaching God’s Word at churches, recovery groups, and prisons. Travis and his wife Allegra, minister together and travel with their six young children, Arrow, Sabre, Scythe, Lance, Dagger, and Mace.
October 13, 2023
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