Depending on how we grew up (e.g., our family dynamics), or what denomination we might have been raised under (if we were a part of a church at that time), or our personality type, or our own bent towards legalism instead of freedom (it’s a hard one to break), dancing is something we don’t easily do when it comes as a part of praising and worshiping God. Lifting up or waving our hands in the air and/or swaying slightly from side to side is most likely the extent of what we do if we even do that much, and even that might be frowned upon, depending on the denomination, in a public worship setting (the “frozen chosen” comes to mind but it’s not limited to any particular denomination or group). And it’s a real shame.
As my friend, Steve Brown, at Key Life Network, has stated, “It’s hard to hug a stiff kid,” (see his book, published in 2008, titled, “Approaching God”). It’s also hard to make a stiff kid dance (and that includes the adult variety, too). And it’s that stiffness that keeps us so confined. Here’s a test of our own stiffness: How often do we smile throughout the day for no particular reason at all (and not just at jokes)? It’s that “stiffness” that keeps us from truly being free.
Our ability to dance when we worship God is directly related to our gratefulness in being set free (which also includes being “set free” from what others think about us while we are doing it or anything else). And Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price to give us that freedom. To be freed from the slavery of self with all of its wants, needs, and idiosyncrasies is no small thing. In fact, most of the world doesn’t even recognize their own slavery to self. Our own society here in America worships self-promotion and success defined in worldly terms including that whole “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that wears folks out and keeps them deep in debt while continuing to strive for “the good life.” And it’s usually not until something happens, often in the disguise of a crisis, that we even realize how totally enmeshed we were in that whole futile way of living.
One of the definitions of freedom is “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint; personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery” (source: Dictionary.com). While we may not recognize the quest for “the good life” as being a source of slavery, it is. What are we willing to give up and/or be enslaved to in order to achieve it? And what price do we end up paying if we are successful at it? And even if we became millionaires or billionaires, aren’t we really enslaved to all that money, power, possessions and trying to keep that status up until we die? And are the few years or decades of living in that lifestyle–if we can even attain it–worth the price we pay in the end? If the answer is yes, then we haven’t got a clue what real freedom is really all about.
With that being said, freedom isn’t about money or what it can buy. And it’s not about being a millionaire or a billionaire or being at the opposite end of that spectrum, either. In fact, real freedom doesn’t have anything to do with money, and it can’t be bought. I brought up what I wrote in the previous paragraph because as I’ve traveled through this life I’ve been amazed at the number of people, including Christians, I’ve run into who are constantly seeking after “the good life” and all it can buy them. In fact, many folks think it is a sign of God’s favor, and there are ministries that have been built on this very premise. However, a reading of the “Hall of Faith” chapter in Hebrews 11 clearly shows how contrary seeking after “the good life” really is in God’s economy.
It’s not about our assets–it’s about our availability.
The “stiffness” that my friend, Steve, mentioned, is what happens to us when we pursue life on our own terms, and then ask God to bless it. The focus is really on us, and not on God. We can’t dance because we are too busy singing our own song or our own praise, and we forget the price that was paid by Jesus Christ on the cross to set us free from ourselves, and, as Romans 12:1-2 reminds us, “the sin that so easily entangles us.” In our striving after “the good life” we have left the only life worth living in the dust, and that can make us very stiff indeed. And there are so many of us doing it in today’s world that we don’t even recognize our error until a crisis comes up in our lives that takes our focuse completely off of ourselves and puts it back where it has always belonged . . . on Jesus Christ. He didn’t die to give us “the good life;” he died to set us free from seeking after it instead of him.
Jesus asked, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36, Luke 9:25). Jesus never emphasized seeking after material possessions or worldly wealth or even worldly accolades. No, he stated, “But seek first his [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). What things? The previous verses in Matthew give us the answer (see Matthew 6:25-34):
“Do not worry about your life . . . what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” (Matt. 6:25)
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matt. 6:26-27)
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:28-30)
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matt. 6: 31-32)
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” (Matt. 6:33-34)
Jesus said that our Heavenly Father will take care of our needs on a day by day basis if we “seek first his kingdom” instead of trying to build one of our own. So much in our society pulls us in the opposite direction luring us to seek more and more of what this world has to offer in any way that we can, but the future is not ours to know until it unfolds day by day. That lesson came crashing home to me five years ago when I lost my job and my livelihood, and I had no idea how I would survive financially is if lasted more than a year. And here it is, five years later, and he has taken care of every need I’ve ever had over the course of this time, but even more important than that (and that is very important), he got my focus off of myself and back on him and what he is doing in this world of ours, and it’s a whole lot bigger than what we can even imagine.
And, I’m finally learning how to dance. While it’s taken some time, I’ve left the stiffness behind. And the dance is the dance of freedom that King David (and others) danced (see source here) and for the reasons he danced (see source here). Once we start to take the focus off of ourselves and what we want in this life and put our focus back on Jesus, the stiffness begins to melts away.
In John 8:31-32, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And then he stated in verse 36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus is the key to the only real freedom there is in this world.
I’ll end this post with the opening lines to the song, “Get Up and Dance,” (2013) by Salvador (see YouTube Video below). And as they sing in the chorus, “You’re gonna want to get up and dance,” and here’s why:
One dose is all it’s gonna take
You’ll find yourself moving in a brand new way
One little bit, that’s all you’ll need
And then before you know it you’ll be feeling so free
~Lyrics source here~
So let go of the stiffness . . .
And the sin that snares . . .
And get up and dance . . . .
YouTube Video: “Get Up and Dance” (2013) by Salvador: