A good friend of mine recently recounted a story of a man rebuking him for describing the feeling of joy that comes from the experience of God’s presence. “Is Christianity just a feel-good religion?” he chided. As I listened, I started to think about the statement. Do we worship God because it brings us joy? Should we? Unconsciously, we can sometimes think it is more spiritual to serve God out of duty than delight; that God would have us bite our lip, buckle down and serve Him just because it is right.
As a worship leader, I recognize clearly one of the reasons we worship God is it is right. He demands our praise simply because He is the supremely beautiful and all-satisfying Object. Furthermore, He commands our praise simply because He is God, the Lawgiver. I am grateful for an awareness of this. I wonder if we are short-changing ourselves by stopping there.
As C. S. Lewis so profoundly points out in his book Reflections on the Psalms, “All enjoyment spontaneously flows into praise”. Lovers praise their beloved, readers praise their favorite book, food-lovers their dish of choice, and us “Coloradans” the beautiful mountains. You see, we love to praise the things we enjoy because praise is not just the expression of that joy, but also the completion of it. Our praise for God must overflow out of our joy in God. To praise God is to enjoy Him to the fullest.
This puts a little twist on our notion of praising God. With the old but popular idea that praise must be the grim-faced result of an inner coercion, it can seem that we are doing God a favor. But, in “giving praise” to God, who is really doing the giving? Can we give God anything? In the ancient Jewish rituals, the miracle and the beauty of the sacrifice was not the offering the people gave to God, but the one He gave to them. He had made a way for them to come and meet with Him.
“Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.” (Psalm 43:4) As we offer our lives to Him, He gives Himself to us—for us to enjoy; and it is that joy in Him that erupts in praise of our awesome and beautiful God. It is in fully enjoying God that we glorify Him the most. The life of praise is one saturated with joy in God.