Enter the unquenchable worshipper. This
world is full of fragile loves-love that
abandons, love that fades, love that divorces,
love that is self-seeking. But the unquenchable
worshipper is different. From a heart so
amazed by god and his wonders burns a love
that will not be extinguished. It survives any
situation and lives through any circumstance.
It will not allow itself to be quenched, for that
would heap insult on the love it lives in
* * *
These worshippers gather beneath the shadow of the
Cross, where an undying devotion took the Son of God to
His death. Alive now in the power of His resurrection, they
respond to such an outpouring with an unquenchable
offering of their own.
The Bible is full of unquenchable worshippers-people
who refused to be dampened, discouraged or distracted
in their quest to glorify God. I love the heart attitude
of the prophet Habakkuk, who decided he would
choose to respond to God's worth, no matter how bleak a
season he Found himself in:
Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are
no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no Food, though there are
no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet
I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my
Savior (Habakkuk 3:17,18).
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas also resolve to overcome less
than Favorable conditions and worship God. Sitting in
their jail cell, they could be Forgiven For not being in the
mood For singing. They had been unjustly arrested, beaten,
severely flogged and thrown into the deepest part of
the prison, with their Feet in stocks. Yet, somehow, Paul
and Silas Found it in themselves to sing out praise to God.
Refusing to let their souls be dampened, they worshipped
with everything they had left.
Most off us don't own fig trees and haven't been imprisoned
For being Christians, but the principle is the same For
us as it was for Habakkuk, Paul and Silas: We can always
find a reason to praise. Situations change for better and for
worse, but God's worth never changes.
I recently heard the story of Fanny Crosby, the
American hymn writer who lived during the nineteenth
century. She described a life-changing incident that happened
to her as a baby:
When about six weeks old I was taken sick and
my eyes grew very weak and those who had charge
of me poulticed my eyes. Their lack of knowledge
and skill destroyed my sight forever. As I grew
older they told me I should never see the faces of
my friends, the flowers of the field, the blue of the
skies, or the golden beauty of the stars Soon I
learned what other children possessed, but I
made up my mind to store away a little jewel in
my heart which I called "Content."
In fact, Fanny Crosby was only eight years old when she
wrote this song:
O what a happy soul am I! Although I cannot see, I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy, That other people don't.
To weep and sigh because I'm blind, I cannot, and I won't.
This contented worshipper went on to write around 8,000
hymns of praise. Those thousands of songs were simply the
result of a fire that burned in her heart for Jesus and could
not be put out. Someone once asked her, "Fanny, do you
wish you had not been blinded?" She replied, in typical style,
"Well, the good thing about being blind is that the very first
face I'll see will be the face of Jesus."
Many people might have chosen the path of bitterness
and complaint as their response to God; but she chose the
path of contentment and praise. The choice between these
two paths faces us each day, with every situation that's
thrown our way. Bitterness dampens and eventually
destroys love for God. It eats away at the statement "God
is love" and tells us He is not faithful. But contentment
does the opposite: It fuels the heart with endless reasons
to praise God.
And there are endless reasons to praise Him. I once
heard Pete Waterman (of the production team Stock, Aitken
and Waterman) talking about love songs in the world of pop
music. He cynically suggested that you can write only four
songs-"I love you," "I hate you," "Go away," and "Come
back." I'm thankful, as someone who writes worship songs,
that there's a lot more songwriting material to get your heart
into than that! I'll never be able to think, Right, that's God pretty
much wrapped up . what shall I write about next? The brightness
of His glory and the wonders of His heart will no doubt
have us pouring out new songs for all eternity.
At the end of Song of Songs comes a fantastic declaration
of unquenchable worship:
Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as
the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty
flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot
wash it away (Song of Songs 8:6,7).
Too often my worship is tamed by the complications
and struggles of this world. But I long to be in a place
where my fire for God cannot be quenched or washed
away, even by the mightiest rivers of opposition-I long for
a worship that can never be extinguished.
Fire extinguishers work by removing one of the three
things needed to keep a fire ablaze: heat, oxygen and fuel. So,
in other words, there are three main ways to put a fire out:
cool the burning material with water (or some other such
substance), cut off the oxygen or cut off the supply of Fuel.
And I think there's a parallel here with our hearts of
worship. We long to be a people whose hearts burn for
God; but if we're not careful, there are ways we can lose
something of that fire.
First, just as water can put a fire out, so too the pressures
and the trials of this life can dampen our hearts of
worship. It's so easy in a time of hardship to cool off a bit
and lose that sense of wonder and trust. We ask why God
would let such things happen to us and we wind down our
worship, kidding ourselves that we'll start up again when
things are better. Or maybe we don't Feel like worshipping
anymore, so we don't. I've seen many worshippers thrown
off course by difficult situations. But I've also seen people
who have endured even more difficult situations and
emerged with their hearts of worship burning as strongly as
ever, if not stronger.
There is a kind of worshipper who "always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres" (1 Corinthians 13:7), and
who gets through the storms of life with a heart still blazing.
Sometimes it comes down to a simple choice. We may
be hard-pressed on every side, weary and not able to sense
God. But then a choice faces us-to fix our eyes on the circumstances
or to cling to God and choose to worship
Him, even when it hurts. The heart of God loves the offerings
of a persevering worshipper. Though overwhelmed by
many troubles, they are even more overwhelmed by the
beauty of God.
The second way to extinguish a fire is to cut off the
oxygen. In worship terms this means to quench the Holy
Spirit. It's plain from the Bible that we worship by the
Holy Spirit (see Philippians 3:3); but it's also clear that the
Holy Spirit can be grieved. Ephesians 4:30 urges us: "Do
not grieve the Holy Spirit of God." Then it tells us some of
the ways not to grieve Him: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage
and anger" (v. 31). The implications of this are huge.
Take our church services, for example. We talk a lot
about Spirit-led worship, but if we truly want to be led by
the Holy Spirit, we need to make sure we're keeping in step
with Him in our everyday lives. As a worship leader this is a
challenging and even scary thought. I need to make sure
that I'm making my life an appropriate dwelling place for
Him. An unquenchable, burning worshipper needs to be
full of the Holy Spirit.
The third way of stopping a fire is to cut off the fuel
it thrives on. If you've ever watched TV footage of a forest
fire, you may have noticed the firefighters burn or chop
away a whole section of forest so that when the fire reaches
that place it cannot spread any further.
The revelation of God is the fuel for the fire of our
worship. And there is always more fuel for the fire. When
we open the eyes of our hearts, God's revelation comes flying
at us from so many different angles. He has revealed
Himself to us in creation, throughout the history of His
people and overwhelmingly at the Cross. And to this day,
every breath we breathe is a reminder of our maker, and
every hour holds the possibility of living in His presence.
We simply need to keep putting ourselves in a place where
we're likely to receive this revelation. The heart of worship
is fueled by essential things, such as reading God's Word,
praying to Him and going to church to share Fellowship
together. There are other ways too, such as getting out
into nature-the ocean, mountains or just a field-to soak
our souls in the wonder of our creator.
Romans 1:20 tells us there's no excuse for those who
don't believe, as God has revealed who He is to everyone
through all that He has created.
My wife, Beth, and I have just had our first child-a
beautiful little daughter called Maisey. I wonder how people
could ever deny the existence of God after having witnessed
the birth of a baby. The nine months leading up to Maisey's
birth were a fascinating time and spoke volumes to us of the
wonder of God and His creation. Ultrasound scans gave
fantastic insight into her growth and development. How
could it be that this tiny baby was living and kicking with its
little heart beating inside the body of my wife? How could it
be so well formed, with miniature fingernails, at such an
early stage? I was amazed at the goodness of God to us, and
with the wonder of what He had made. Every little movement
and kick I felt when I placed my hand on Beth's stomach
was the revelation of God to me.
So often when my worship has dried up, it's because I
haven't been fueling the fire. I haven't set aside any time to
soak myself under the showers of God's revelation. Often,
time is the key factor. But if we can find space to soak ourselves
in God's Word, His presence, His creation and spend
time with other believers, then we'll find that the revelation
floods back into our lives; and our hearts will respond with
a blaze of worship once more.
Earlier in this chapter I mentioned worshipping God
even in our darkest hour. But that doesn't mean we're to be
shiny, happy Christians, living in unreality and not admitting
when there are things wrong in our lives. There's definitely a
place for brokenness and weeping in worship; but there's a
right way and a wrong way to express this.
When we pour out our heart-cries to God, they must
not ever become a criticism of who He is. Apparently,
about 70 percent of the psalms are laments-in other
words, songs of sorrow and crying out. A true lament
never challenges or questions the worth of God. Instead,
it reveals that His goodness and greatness are the only
hope for a bleak situation. Even at our lowest ebb, there
should be an underlying trust and, therefore, worship.
It's a precious song of praise that can overcome any
obstacle and rise from the heart of the troubled believer
to the very heart of God. Such songs cry out, "Even in my
darkest hour I can still glimpse the brightness of Your
worth, and the goodness of Your heart. I am in a desperate
state, but no circumstance or trial could ever overshadow
You." It is praise that costs, even hurts. But sacrifices
The psalms have in fact been described as "praise in the
presence and absence of God." In other words, a worship
that survives every situation, whether God seems close or
nowhere to be found. These laments are deep cries to God
from a place of despair. But is that really worship, or is it
simply complaining? In one sense, yes, they are complaints.
These petitions to God are the worship songs of a broken
people. But almost without exception they also display an
underlying confidence and trust in God, and so are truly
worship. As B. W. Anderson explains, "The laments are really
expressions of praise-praise offered in a minor key in the
confidence that Yahweh is faithful."
I love Psalm 89 for that reason. At first glance it doesn't
look like a lament at all. Starting with the optimistic lyric,
"I will sing of the Lord's great love forever" (v. 1), it seems
to be the worship song of an untroubled heart. But that
isn't the case. When we get to verse 49, we discover the
struggle going on in the psalmist's soul: "O Lord, where is
your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore
Hasn't he just contradicted himself?. Does he seem to
thank God for His great love and then wonder where it is?
Exactly! At present he cannot see or feel the measure of
God's love, yet he knows it to be as real and strong as it ever
was. He's a man who has looked over God's track record
and found it to be perfect. And so he rises up with an
unquenchable song of faith and trust.
Jesus Himself used the words from the psalms of
lament as He suffered the cruelty of the cross. In agony of
heart, mind, body and spirit, He cried out, "My God, my
God, why have you forsaken me?" from Psalm 22:1. It is a
cry of torment, yet of strangely submissive devotion. The
Son of God then breathes His last with a verse from Psalm
31-another lament psalm: "Into your hands I commit my
spirit" (v. 5). Amazingly, at this point of utter torment, Jesus
is offering up one of the common worship songs of His day.
And in so doing He becomes an inspiration to us. Whatever
trials lie ahead in this life, unquenchable worshippers are
found with a song of undying worship on their lips.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on
a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled
the temple. Above it stood seraphim And one cried to
another and said, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of His glory!" And the posts of the
door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and
the house was filled with smoke. So I said: "Woe is me, for I
am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I
dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes
have seen the King; the Lord of hosts."
Isaiah 6: 1-5, NKJV