Sunday was one of those days when I felt bad that God really had to carry the ball in worship. I wanted things to be better, to run more smoothly. I wanted the sermon to communicate more effectively. I wanted more impact from that day. But there’s a simple fact of life that happens in worship, and that is this: You can’t manufacture the presence of the Holy Spirit, no matter how sincerely you try.
So it happened that I received a compliment after church that has haunted me for a few days now. One gentleman—a visitor—thanked me, said he appreciated the worship service, and said, “You’re very sincere.”
“Sincere.” That’s the word that stuck itself inside my mind. It’s an attitude that I’ve chosen to deliberately convey every week: “I really believe this Jesus stuff and want you to believe it, too.” It’s an attitude that reveals itself in the honest unveiling of my own weaknesses and struggles as I walk with Christ and my utter dependence upon Him and His cross. It’s shown in a choice to worship with the congregation, not to just lead them through it. The open acknowledgment that the words God speaks are intended not only for them, but for me too. So yes, I was quite pleased to hear from a visitor that he sensed my sincerity because, after all, the only reason I do the work of a messenger is because I sincerely believe in the message.
But here’s the thing. You can’t manufacture the presence of the Holy Spirit in worship, and you can’t manufacture genuine sincerity. Genuine sincerity is born from deeply held convictions—what we Christians call “faith”—that are in turn born from the testing of fire. Hardship nurtures sincerity when it is honestly endured. Sincerity is nurtured through the periods of doubt and questioning that dig deep and find bedrock. The courage of conviction cannot be held by a man who has never had his world turned upside-down, who has never had to sustain faith in the absence of evidence, who has never endured the long, dark night of the soul.
I have endured the torturous nights of my own soul and found time and time again that God’s promises are trustworthy. That His presence is continual. That His strength is incredible. And that though His ways are inscrutable, His wisdom is unimpeachable.
God has taught me that though the night seems dark, His ways always lead to light.
And so I trust, and trust sincerely. Because God is trustworthy.