Have you ever had a bad day where everything seemed to go wrong, and then a song comes on the radio and mentally transports you to another time and place? Scientists have proven that listening to music increases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is the same brain chemical responsible for the feel-good states obtained from eating chocolate and runner’s high. Music literally “lifts you up”. And further, enjoying live music stimulates the brain hormone oxytocin (called the “trust molecule” and “moral molecule”) since it helps us bond with and trust others.
As our Father created us, is it any wonder that He tells us “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” (Eph 5:18b-19) We are also told: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Col. 3:16) He understands that music is rooted in our brains and hearts.
When we are filled with the Spirit we will sing praises to God. Singing stands alongside of preaching as one of the two great ways that God has ordained for His Word to dwell richly in each one of us. When His Word “dwells richly” in us, the Word is implanted in us. Implanted (rooted) means “to make it a living extension of your life so that it can produce spiritual fruit in you” (see James 1:21). I have a friend who frequently breaks out in singing hymns during Bible study. The Psalms and hymns are God’s Word, implanted in her heart and mind, making it easy for her to recall Scripture.
We sing to God, but we also sing to build up fellow believers “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit”. When we sing together as a church family, we are hearing confessions of faith and testimonies when we sing “In Christ alone, my hope is found”.
A singing, praising heart is at war with the work of the evil one and the power of sin. It is difficult to lie, be greedy or give in to temptation when you are “Singing and making music from your heart to the Lord”.
Often times, we think only of singing when we’re happy and times are good. But singing brings us strength for trials. Paul and Silas were unjustly imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel, and what do they do while they’re in prison? Sing! “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25) Think of the impact on those prisoners who heard joyous exaltations to the Lord, even while they were in chains? What about those who are in our churches who don’t know Christ when they hear all of the body singing their testimonies?
One pastor recently imprisoned for his faith, sang to the Lord in a modern-day prison: “…When we were in prison we sang almost every day because Christ was alive in us…they put chains on our hands and feet. They chained us to add to our grief. Yet we discovered that chains are splendid musical instruments! When we clanged them together in rhythm, we could sing, ‘This is the day (clink, clank), this is the day (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank).'” (persecutionblog.com)
When we sing, we walk a God-designed pathway to joy, one of the fruits of the Spirit. “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” (Ps 59:16) The Lord is our strength and our refuge because He loves us more than we can comprehend. “For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” (Ps 63:7) And because of what He has done for us, we can sing with joy, no matter our present circumstances. “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” (James 5:13) If you struggle for joy, sing! If you are joyful, sing! In God’s perfect design and understanding of the human condition, He has bound joy and singing together for His people.
True obedience, deep roots in the Word, building up others, making war against Satan and sin, persevering, finding joy in the Lord: All these things bring glory to God, which is each person’s chief goal and purpose. Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 bring this out simply but powerfully, telling us to sing “to God” and “to the Lord” because He is the object of our praise. Ephesians 5:19 says, “singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” It is to Him and about Him that we sing!
Singing has such a unique way of bringing your heart, soul, mind, and strength together to focus entirely and completely on God. In an age of distraction, singing grabs the attention of all our senses and focuses us on God.
Here is one of my all-time favorite worship songs: How Great Thou Art
Lyrics can be found here: How Great Thou Art Lyrics