By Jonathan Moore
I am driving down the road=alone, trying to get out of town, minding my own business, when I come across a song about Momma on the radio. Suddenly my world slows down and within seconds, I am blubbering away, wiping my eyes, and trying to see the keypad on my mobile phone as I dial my Mom’s number.
Yes, I am easy pickings for the Momma songs and also for songs about kids. Well, for that matter, the songs about dads and grandpas get to me as well. Then there are the ones about home, my wife, Christmas in the old days, the front porch, family dinner, and on and on. Finally there are the songs that talk about my greatest love of all, Jesus. Music gets me. I love it—all types of it, and it gets me.
What is it that connects our deepest emotions to music? What is it about music that uncovers those emotions and motivates us to act? Why does this gift communicate so powerfully to our soul?
In his book Object of His Affection, Scotty Smith refers to music as “the language with which we feel.”
We are emotional people. Our spirits are hungry to emotionally connect with something higher than ourselves. Music often provides a medium for that emotional connection to the Spirit world.
According to Don Campbell (founder of Institute for Music, Health, and Education) music can communicate to us even when we are not influenced by the lyrics in the song. He says “music impacts physiology on a deep, basic level. The human heartbeat is especially attuned to sound. Changes in tempo and volume act as natural pacemakers. Our breathing slows down or speeds up along with the music.” In addition, “Music has a direct effect on the function of the brain. It can slow down and equalize brain waves to create a meditative state or it can energize brain waves, quickening the thinking process and enhancing creativity.”
Even the cells of our bodies respond to music. A study at Michigan State University found that just fifteen minutes of listening to music could increase levels of immune chemicals—vital to protect against disease. By contrast, the release of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) dropped by up to 25 percent.
God knew this—He created music in the beginning. This is why David did not preach a fiery message to Saul to soothe him. ‘And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him” (I Samuel 16:23). He played music for him. There were times that a prophet was used to motivate Saul, but in this case, it was the gift of music that refreshed his spirit and made him well.
It would appear, according to this passage, that music has a healing quality that, when used correctly, can drive away tormenting spirits. By using the gift of music and the innate responsiveness to it that God has built into our beings, we can meet people at their point of need with messages that have the power to heal.
Some have downplayed the role of music in the church service. As a speaker and a singer, I passionately believe that a combination of these gifts is the most effective way to communicate to a soul. Music was intended by God to be a major force in our spiritual lives. Why would someone fight against the use and power of this amazing gift?
We should never fear the exercise of music to reach a hurting, sinful heart. There are cases in which the Spirit of God through music, and music alone, has the power to bring about a response. That is OK because it is one of the healing tools given to us by God. There is no reason to be threatened by this gift.
King David, who was known as “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (II Samuel 23:1), appointed musicians from each of the three Levitical clans, and they “ministered with song before the tabernacle.”
“And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the Loan in Jerusalem: and then they waited on their office according to their order” (I Chronicles 6:32).
Music is a ministry—a powerful, communicative, effective ministry.
Its ability to communicate is so powerful that even the military recognizes its importance. At the “Pentagon’s School of Music” it takes fifteen months of instruction to produce one bandleader. By contrast, the Air Force takes thirteen months to train a jet pilot.
We also know that it was customary for the Corinthians to sing hymns when they met together for worship (I Corinthians 14:26). Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).
Even Christ sang in the upper room with His disciples. (See Matthew 26:30.) This was just prior to the Garden incident where He would be arrested. He knew what was coming and consequently, wanted to sing.
I do not know why music is so effective in moving me. I do not fully understand why a sinner is moved to respond to God by a melody. I cannot grasp why hearing a simple song can awaken a memory from my past and bring a smile or a tear. I may never completely get it, but whatever it is, I know it works.
This gift was given to us by our Creator because it works. He does not offer things to His people that do not work. Music works. We should use it for our advantage. We should use it in our personal lives and in our church communities.
If this gift was not for anyone else, it was for me. Hooray for the gift of music.
Jonathan Moore lives in Austin, Texas, serving as family pastor of Christian Life Church with Pastor Rex Johnson.