Reuben Morgan, Hillsong worship pastor and songwriter, explores the meaning and message behind the songs on the church’s latest live album.
by Ruben Morgan
It might be short and simple, but the title of the latest Hillsong LIVE album is packed with God-inspired wisdom and Kingdom-shaped truth. In every season, in every situation, being reminded that God Is Able can help keep hearts on fire and lives on track. How do I know this? Because that precisely what I’ve experienced for myself.
But this is not going to be a testimony piece. My life has been no harder, no more dramatic than anyone else’s. Yes, there have been times of great rejoicing, times of suffering, tears of happiness and tears of sorrow, and some of you will have known greater grace, more dramatic rescues or harder journeys home to our Father.
The lessons and experiences that I want to share are the ones that are woven in and out of the songs on God Is Able. These songs are packed with meaning, each one slightly different, but together they unite to form something far louder and larger. Together they are stronger.
The title song was written last year with a specific weekend in mind. We were approaching our annual event where we gather as a church and make a deliberate choice to give money in support of a unique mission – often overseas, always doing something to overcome injustice and build the Kingdom here on earth. It’s a great time and I’m always amazed and encouraged by the passion and commitment which people put into it. Many will put aside extra money all year so that they can lend their support. So, knowing this was coming up, I wanted to write a song that reminded us of God’s amazing ability to use our generosity in powerful ways. When it comes to the matter of giving, generous hands will never be empty because – as we are reminded in Ephesians 3 – God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
So I suppose I should have seen it coming. I thought the song would inspire people a little, encourage them in their giving and maybe lead some to think about the ways in which God could transform others through their kindness. I had no idea that the three simple words – God is able – would become so important to us, but they did. As Australia was shocked by floods and cyclones, as we watched our neighbors deal with earthquakes and saw friends from further away go through the horrors of further earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear crisis, those three little words became our anchor in the storm. Troubles come, but God is Able. Sorrow rips at the soul, but God is Able. Hope appears lost, but God is still – always and forever – Able.
What started out as a song of celebration ended up sustaining us through our desperation. Isn’t that a great illustration of the power of praise? What happens when our hands are lifted high can often end up helping us when our heads hang low.
So many of the songs on the album are linked by this theme of overcoming – from “Rise” to “The Lost Are Found,” “With Us” to “You Are More” – and yet it is not an album of laments. This sort of paradox is typical of worship, and it seems to me that there is always something upside down about singing songs to God. I suppose it’s even there in the titles: we start with “Rise” and come towards the end with “The Cry of the Broken.” Normally it’s the brokenness that precedes the standing up, but in God’s order everything is different: when we rise up and sing it, there should never be too long before we’re aware of the world beyond the walls and our call to be among the people whose journey back to God is still in motion.
The other day I heard someone say that some people meet Jesus on the road to Damascus, but for others, their conversion is more like the road to Emmaus: a gradual realization that Jesus is with them, alongside them, igniting their hearts and opening their eyes. It struck me that this is another good thing to remember – not just when we are praying for our friends and family who do not yet know God for themselves, but for those of us within the church as well. Sometimes God acts with such power we are left stunned and silent, but at other times, He works quietly, almost imperceptibly, gently warming our hearts to Him. Remembering this makes me even more amazed at the power of those three little words that sit on the cover of the album: God is able to work in ways that we can never hope to predict.
One last thing. If you take a look at the album cover you will see some pretty fancy, handmade art. It took a long time and a lot of patience to create the piece, and again it’s a beautiful illustration of church. Thread is such a fragile thing, and only when it is combined with other strands can it really begin to stand out. Isn’t that just like the local church? None of us are strong enough on our own, but together we are stronger. And there’s one essential ingredient we must never forget: it is only when these threads are taken in the hands of the artist and transformed over time that they become something that is truly beautiful and beautifully true.