Hugh Wetmore is a songwriter and student of worship trends. He invites you to join the worship conversation by commenting on his monthly column.
“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” — Col 3:16.
Under the Old Covenant, a prominent purpose in singing was priaise. Under the New Covenant, a prominent purpose in singing is grattitude, or thanksgiving.
Is this a contradiction? Not at all. Praise and thanksgiving are two sides of the same coin. As we thank God for what He has done, we are praising God for what He has done. In fact, our praises are deepened and enriched as we thank God for all He is and all He has done. Our praises become personally specific —
and that’s a positive plus! This twist to the old-time favourite song stresses thanksgiving:
Count your blessings, see what God has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
and you will be grateful for what God has done.
Avoid vague non-specific “praise” songs that merely talk about praise and thanksgiving without giving specific reasons for such praises. Check the lyrics to ensure they are substantial in their reasons for praise and gratitude.
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:18. The implication is that if we are habitually complaining then we are outside of God’s will for us, and Jesus isn’t pleased. That’s a bad place to be.
We should be grateful in all circumstances. It is easy, natural to be grateful for pleasant circumstances. But it is difficult and unnatural to be grateful for unpleasant circumstances. That’s why James 1:2,3 lists the benefits of such “trials”: We can be grateful for trials, for these reasons: They test our faith, they develop perseverance, and they lead to maturity so that we become complete Christians. Few songs express gratitude for unpleasant circumstances. I encourage songwriters to fill this obvious gap.
Our thanksgiving should be expressed in our social chit-chat, in our private and public prayers, and in song. That’s why the Psalms are full of thanksgiving. That’s why in every song-compilation there are always many thanksgiving songs.
I love the way many theme and topical song indexes are headed “Praise and Thanksgiving”. For, as we noted at the beginning, these are two sides of the same coin. Make sure your song lists always have “praise and thanksgiving” songs — as well as the other necessary categories of “teaching” and “admonishing” from God’s Word.
And remember to praise and thank God for “all circumstances” — the pleasant and the unpleasant.