Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, give thanks to him and praise his name. - Psalm 100:4 (NIV)
As Christians, we live in the tension of two realities every single day—the reality of the physical world in front of us and the reality of the unseen, spiritual world. We continually have to choose which one is going to influence our choices, actions and perspective. One of the significant things worship does is engage us in the battle to live by spiritual reality—the reality of who God is and what He says, as opposed to what it seems our circumstances or even other people are saying.
Who is in Charge Here?
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. - Psalm 22:3 (NLT)
If you have been around church any length of time, you have probably heard someone say that God “inhabits the praises of His people.” These words are taken from Psalm 22:3, and a more accurate rendering of “inhabits” is “enthroned”.
Why does this distinction matter? Enthroned carries the connotation of authority. The image is of a king taking his rightful place to exercise dominion. In other words, when you respond to a circumstance with praise and worship, you are not only inviting His presence into the situation, but you are also acknowledging His authority. You are choosing to lay down your own will and let Him be in charge.
This is powerful. Worship involves the willful choice to do things God’s way instead of our own. By acknowledging His greatness, we realize that His perspective is the one that matters most.
This concept of a king and His authority is reinforced in Psalm 100 by the language of entering His gates and His courts. Worship gives us access, not because we need to gain admission into His presence—Jesus already gave us that through His death on the cross. But it serves as a reminder of what has been accomplished for us.
The presence of God is always, always available to us. It is not merely a phenomenon we encounter in a corporate worship gathering. In everyday life, thanksgiving and praise help us connect to His presence, which has the power to transform us and our circumstances.
When my little girl was born, she had an abnormality in her spinal cord that required surgery at three months of age. As first-time parents, we were already overwhelmed; the addition of a medical complication was extremely difficult, as you might imagine. We were exhausted, scared, and even disappointed as our prayers for her physical healing weren’t answered the way we had hoped.
During all of this, I remembered the countless times over the years when the presence of God had been my refuge, and that is where I went again. One particular Sunday, we carried our baby up front for prayer. As I stood there, the worship leader began singing words from a familiar song, “Nothing is impossible for You, nothing is impossible. You hold my world in Your hands.”
I stood there, hugging my daughter, tears streaming down my face as peace and hope washed over me. She was my world, and God was holding her. I knew, whatever happened, we were all going to be ok. I sang those words over her many times in the weeks and months that followed because every time I did, the presence of God transformed my heart and gave me perspective for our circumstance.
As you navigate the hard parts of living in a broken world, the fullness and substance of God are there for you. Consider these challenges as an opportunity to enter His gates and see Him move on your behalf:
1. When someone wrongs you. Acts 16 records the well-known story of Paul and Silas’ miraculous deliverance from prison. They were jailed for casting the demon out of a servant girl whose owners had been making money off of her fortune-telling. As they sat in their cell, praying and singing hymns, an earthquake shook the place and freed them from their chains.
When someone mistreats us, we tend to fixate on the wrong that has been done to us rather than on the One who has the power to vindicate us. I cannot promise you a specific outcome as the result of your worship, but I do know that our God is able to do incredible things on your behalf, whether it be exposing the injustice you’ve experienced or giving you the strength to persevere through the injustice.
He alone sees our hearts and the hearts of those who wrong us. He alone sees the big picture of the redemptive story He wants to write for all of our lives.
2. When you are disappointed and discouraged. Sometimes, we face incredible obstacles or painful events, and it feels like God is just not coming through. Perhaps it seems He should have answered a certain prayer or acted a certain way, but the current situations seem to contradict so much about His nature.
In Habakkuk 3, the prophet expresses some disappointment and frustration with God. In so many words, he says, “Ok, God, I’ve heard of all these amazing things You’ve done before, but I’m not seeing it happen right now.” He pours his heart out to God, and the chapter ends with these faith-filled words of worship:
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. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. - Hab. 3: 17-19 (NIV, emphasis added)
These words are an important demonstration of the truth that worship involves an act of our will more than an overflow of our feelings. We choose to rejoice in who God is, no matter what we see or what we feel. And the amazing thing about this often difficult choice is the way God honors and responds to our act of faith.
3. When you are afraid. We are often faced with big, daunting challenges that can leave us feeling so deeply shaken and helpless. Fear likes to make us feel powerless.
The story of Jehoshaphat (see 2 Chronicles 20) illustrates the power of responding to fear with worship. Messengers come to the king with news of a vast army approaching, intent on wiping out the kingdom of Judah. Scripture says that King Jehoshaphat was alarmed, but he resolved to inquire of the Lord.
He assembles all of the people together to fast and seek the Lord. His prayer can be ours when we are faced with terrifying situations: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chron. 20:12).
A prophetic word comes forth that God is going to fight for them, and they respond with worship. In verse 22, we find out that even as they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against their enemies. Just imagine—what if Jehoshaphat would have given way to fear and frantically tried to solve the problem on his own? The results would have been much different.
Jesus paid the price for you to be able to come into His presence—your invitation to enter His gates. And when you come with a heart of thanksgiving and praise, even in the midst of dark and painful moments, you clear the way for Him to reveal even more of His greatness to you.
Worship does not deny the problems or emotions we are feeling, but it does bring them into right perspective. There is no betrayal, no injustice, no disappointment, no discouragement, no enemy, and no terror that is bigger or greater than our God. The next time you are faced with any of these things, resolve in your heart to fix your eyes on the only One who can rescue you and make things right.