• Andrew Owens

Emotional Reaction vs. Spiritual Encounter

“Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear. Some of Saul’s servants said to him, “A tormenting spirit from God is troubling you. Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again.” “All right,” Saul said. “Find me someone who plays well, and bring him here.” One of the servants said to Saul, “One of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem is a talented harp player. Not only that—he is a brave warrior, a man of war, and has good judgment. He is also a fine-looking young man, and the Lord is with him.” So Saul sent messengers to Jesse to say, “Send me your son David, the shepherd.” Jesse responded by sending David to Saul, along with a young goat, a donkey loaded with bread, and a wineskin full of wine. So David went to Saul and began serving him. Saul loved David very much, and David became his armor bearer. Then Saul sent word to Jesse asking, “Please let David remain in my service, for I am very pleased with him.” And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.” (1 Samuel 16:14-23) [1]


The first point in a video presentation called “Honest Worship” by Vernon M. Whaley states, “Honest worship involves a sincere, personal evaluation of my own love for God.”[2] As worshipers, we must always be on alert for things that try to steal the honesty and purity of our worship. This can include attitude, selfish intentions, fakeness, and a large number of other things. I grew up the son of a Worship Pastor. I have always had a love for music, but around the age of fifteen, I started playing guitar for my youth group. With the year then being 2007, I felt I had a lot to bring to the table musically being the pop-punk/emo teenager I was. I thought I could really bring a “new energy” to worship and get the kids excited. Looking back, knowing how uninformed I was to the ideology of worship, it’s not very surprising that this way of thinking led to some complications later down the road.

Over the next few years, I did begin to grow in my relationship and understanding of God, but my mind was still very clouded in many areas. I was focused on the reactions I could get out of others during worship but had fully convinced myself that I was really trying to help them into the presence of God. I can recall moments that I actually changed a song before service because it wouldn’t spark the emotions I was looking for. As I type this, I am almost in tears remembering attending a church service and thinking “man this place is dead, if they let me up there, I’d take care of that. I could get this place jumping”. My friends, if you take nothing else with you, take this. No persons encounter with God is caused by anything that we do. God alone chooses those who He reveals himself too. No emotional reaction we can achieve by words or music can ever replace a true encounter with God.


About the time I turned twenty-five, ten years after I started leading worship, the time came when I finally had to be honest with myself. I didn’t love worship because of who I was worshiping. I loved worship for nothing more than the fact that it soothed my demons. I was trying to rely on my emotional reactions to lead me into a spiritual encounter. However, when I finally experienced the true presence of God, it was not my reaction that led to the encounter, rather my encounter led to the reaction. Now instead of using my worship to gain the attention of others, I began using it for the only reason it should ever be used; to praise, honor, glorify, and worship a holy, righteous and just God.


Vernon M. Whaley states, “how can we hope to worship God in spirit and truth as a congregation when the sanctuary of our heart is crowded by busyness, pride, and selfish thoughts?”.[3] He goes on to say, “at the heart of successful and dynamic worship, private of public, if the issue of being honest with God and ourselves”.[4] I encourage you friend, before you again pick up your instrument or step foot on a stage, to sit down and honestly evaluate your heart and relationship with God. We, as worshipers, must become more willing to admit our faults and confess our ill intentions. I would like to leave you with a few questions to review as your go through out your week.


1. After honestly evaluating my heart, what do I wish to accomplish as worship leader?

2. Why is furthering our education on the ideologies of worship the being of God so important for our task as worship leaders?

3. If, after evaluating my heart and intentions, I do find error, what will my next steps be?

[1] (NLT, Holy Bible NLT 2015) [2] (Whaley, Honest Worship Video Presentation n.d.) [3] (Whaley, Exalt His Name: Understanding Music and Worship 2018, 55) [4] (Whaley, Exalt His Name: Understading Music and Worship 2018, 55)

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