Psalm 16:11 “You will show me the path of life, In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (NKJV)
Being in sales, I have made a habit of observing marketing ads and campaigns. It’s really not even a habit – I just can’t help it. It’s who I am. Over the past couple of years, I’ve come across one particular slogan I’ve found very effective… mostly because it’s simple and direct.
“Yes. A small word that does big things.”
Very true statement. “Yes” is a word that speaks of making progress, moving forward, and is agreeable. It does get things done. I like it. I always have. Who likes to be told no anyway?
As a worship leader, I’ve thought of “borrowing” this slogan and using it to apply to our worship philosophy – pretty easy to do… just change the first word.
“Joy. A small word that does big things.”
Big things for sure. Joy renews us when we’re drained (“The joy of the lord is our strength”). Joy helps heal us during times of sorrow (“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones”). Is it any wonder joy should be a primary characteristic of our cooperate worship as we gather in His name?
On any given Sunday I’m painfully aware there are many people who are out in our congregation who have had an exhausting week, received terrible news, or are struggling with real life issues such as depression, financial hardships, relational issues, etc… Because of this, it is critical that our songs help lift the heart, remind us of God’s promises, and help communicate hope.
About two years ago, my wife and I found ourselves in a very difficult place. We had been told she had breast cancer. Logically, we knew of other individuals who had walked the same road and most with great testimonies of God’s healing which certainly helped, but we’d also known of others who traveled a darker road. There were no absolutes in the situation. I will never forget the Sunday morning after we received the news. Going to church was actually one of the most difficult things I had to do. Joy was nowhere in my heart, and I definitely did not feel like lifting praise to God. Quite honestly, I had never felt like such a fake in all my life. If I could have, I would have turned my truck around and drove right back home. But I couldn’t and didn’t… you see, my church was paying me to lead worship, and I couldn’t just not show up. So I continued on… talking to the Lord the entire way – no – telling the Lord I was dreading having to be a leader today, and I didn’t feel like worshiping Him. I’m so glad He was big enough to handle my honesty. I heard Him say…
“The joy of the Lord will be your strength”
And I replied – out loud – “Oh yeah? Where am I supposed to find that?”
“There is fullness of joy in my presence.”
The Lord made it pretty clear to me that joy was not dependent upon a fast song. It was not dependent on my circumstances. It was not dependent on my feelings. It was dependent on my obedience – my obedience to be with Him – to put myself in place to experience Him.
The church service started.
I experienced Him…His presence.
Looking back, it’s clear my decision to keep driving to church and following through on this part of His calling on my life was what I needed. What a great accountability being on staff was for me. In that moment of decision – God knew I needed it.
(FYI – God healed my wife of her cancer…his tools were doctors, surgeries, medical bills, and hospital visits. But she’s good! Very good! And, HE is good!)
As we approach the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, we’ll definitely be singing some of the hymns with new understanding – “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” and “Joy to the World.” And when I ponder on how “joy-filled” our worship services are, it won’t be so much on how many smiles I see or don’t see on faces in the congregation (which I tend to do) or how many upbeat songs we sing… it will be (and this is so simple)… did I allow myself the opportunity to be with Him?! That’s where the joy comes from.
Dale Bleam is LifeWay Worship’s Sales Supervisor & Strategist. Or as he says, “Supervisor of the best sales team I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.” With 20+ years in church music sales…he would know! In addition, his other titles include: Husband, Dad, Worship Pastor, Songwriter, Teacher, Volunteer Firefighter, XBOX Champion and Weightlifter. And here’s a fun fact, he listens to his music LOUD. He keeps our hallways filled with joyful sounds. If LifeWay Worship was a radio station, he’d be our DJ.