For a day in Your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
"Do you do anything musical?" That’s what the man asked me as he reviewed the results of my aptitude test. As a senior in high school, I didn’t grasp the gravity of the question. I said something about playing piano in elementary school and singing in the shower. The man wasn’t amused. "You have these high musical aptitudes, and if you don't do anything with them, you'll probably come to a point in life and have a mid-life crisis." My parents were just trying to help me find a college, course of study, and career path. I wasn't ready for the mid-life musical crisis. But I got the message: I asked for a guitar for Christmas.
I never could have imagined where this musical journey would go. At first, music was a hobby for me, and I liked it that way. Playing guitar by myself was one of the few unhurried parts of my life. But the Lord had other plans. I was asked to lead worship for a campus ministry as a freshman in college. I really didn’t want to be in the spotlight, but I reluctantly agreed to do it. As I began leading worship, I found that I was always in a hurry to get “off stage.” It may have looked like humility, but it was really fear. What if I didn’t play or sing well enough? What were people thinking about me? I was too concerned about myself.
Whether we are “up front” or not, many of us worship in the grips of fear. We’re afraid of what other people think. We’re afraid of what God might do if we really give ourselves to Him. And so we hurry through it. Hurried worship may seem like a time problem, but it’s really a heart problem. Perhaps we should ask ourselves, "When—if ever—am I not in a hurry?" Don't we make time for what we love? If we slow down or make time for TV or social media or something else, perhaps that thing is the true joy of our hearts.
"For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere." What has happened in the psalmist’s heart? Clearly, he has seen something. What is it? The Lord is better. More glorious. More satisfying. More desirable. Better. When the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and we see Jesus for who He really is, we see and experience and declare that Jesus is better, and the Lord's majesty messes with our math. What never made sense suddenly does: a day in the Lord's presence is better than a thousand elsewhere. We’re not in a hurry because we are right where we want to be. There's no need to fear, and there's no need to fly.
I recently returned from the PCPC Florida Trip. Standing on stage, worshiping with a room full of high school students, I think I have the best vantage point. On the final night, we had a time of worship after the students returned from spending time alone on the beach. During the worship time, students had the opportunity to step out of the room and pray with a leader. We had already sung five songs earlier in the evening, and there was no way of knowing how long the prayer time would last. In the past, this situation would have been my nightmare, but the Lord gave me grace this year. I prepared a bunch of songs, and I asked the Lord to help me be in that moment and to enjoy worshiping Him. So we played and played, and the students prayed and prayed. Students stood together, joyfully singing to the Lord, and no one seemed to worry about when we would finish. Just as I realized that we were down to our last song (bringing our grand total to 17 songs!), the prayer time came to an end. The Lord had orchestrated everything perfectly. I’ll never forget that night of unhurried worship. I'm only sad that these moments are so rare.
I'm not asking for 17 songs this Sunday, but I am asking myself, "Why am I in a hurry to get through three or four?" We never hurry our way to knowing a friend or loving a spouse. Enjoyment takes time. So why do we think that we can be in such a hurry and still bask in the love of Christ?
I'm not really talking about songs or church services either. I love songs and corporate worship, but the Lord invites us to worship Him all the time, in every place. So we're not just hurrying through a service of worship; we're hurrying through a life of worship. It’s sad to “miss” a song on Sunday, but it’s a tragedy to forget that our life is the song. The remedy is not in critiquing the place or the program of worship. The remedy is gazing at the Person we worship until the eyes of our hearts are opened and the pace of our lives is slowed.
In an unhurried moment with the Lord, we finally find the space to voice our heart’s cry: “Lord, why am I in such a hurry? Convince my heart that You are better. No matter where I go today, help me to live in the joy of Your presence.”