The Power of Standing Ovations
Think of the last time you were part of a standing ovation (or at least present at one). Recently, I was at one of the first performances of the year of Moses at the Sight and Sound Theater near where I live, and it was spectacular! (I’m not paid to endorse anything, but the way), but I really loved it! Both of my kids were there, and the actors and crew had done a stellar job. After it was over, the crowd left to their feet and erupted in a standing ovation that joyously conveyed honor and respect to a job well done.
Standing ovations are a powerful way to honor greatness. They reveal what our hearts are for (or by omission, what they are against). I will never forget another standing ovation I was part of during recent travels. I was sitting in the back of a church I love and respect that is going through a difficult time. When a man I deeply respect rose to the stage, people around the room began standing and clapping, some exuberantly, some somberly. From my view in the back, I could see a church divided. The ovation made clear where each person stood (or in this case, didn’t stand).
The Longest Standing Ovation
While there have been many standing ovations throughout history, the one on record for being the longest happened after the last performance of the last season of the Vienna State Opera‘s performance of Othello, mostly likely in 1991. This standing ovation lasted about an hour and a half and had 101 curtain calls. Tenor Placido Domingo had the title role, and Michael Schoenwandt was the conductor. The Die Press article put out July 2, 1991 noted that it was the end of an era, as the director was departing. Many of his friends had come to thank him one more time. In Mervin Block’s book Weighing Anchors: When Network Newscasters Don’t Know Write from Wrong, it is clear that some details of this ovation are controversial. For example, the often quoted Guinness Book of World Records, listed this event in a previous edition as 80 minutes on an incorrect date being directed only to Placido Domingo. Whether the standing ovation was 80 or 90 minutes, it doesn’t really matter- it was long! And whether it honored the exemplary work of the tenor or the director or more than that or even a combination- it shows tremendous honor to a job well done.
A Living Ovation
Pastor Adam McClendon of my home church here in Springfield, MO preached a Sermon on 1 Timothy 1:17 in which he awakened my mind to the idea of our lives being a living ovation to God. Why should your lives be devoted to worshiping and honoring God? Find out more in What is the Meaning of Life? Not just a 2 minute ovation- not an 80 or 90 minute ovation, but a living ovation that grows in intensity for the rest of our lives.
Does Your Heart Resonate with Paul?
Could you fill in the below phrases and say them sincerely from your heart?
“Though formerly, I was a ___________(fill in the blank), I received mercy from Jesus Christ.”
Many of us can fill in the blank and rejoice in the reality that whatever we were, whatever we did before, Christ has had mercy on us. We are redeemed.
I deserved nothing but wrath! My life was wasting away, but the majestic God gave me life! He gives us belonging. He is patient with us in our weakness, but isn’t content to leave us there. He is God worthy of our living ovation.
Paul was a zealous man. He was a respected man among the religious leaders of the day. He was a feared man by the early church. You see, he was so zealous in following the law to the letter and he had such a great pedigree among the Jewish religious leaders of his day, that any Jewish person of his day could say- Yeah, he’s all that. He was so zealous in standing for the law. You can see in Philippians 4:3-6 that he had every reason to live a living ovation to himself. But he says in verse 7 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
1 Timothy 1:12-17
12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.[a] Amen.
God Goes Beyond
In the Springhill Baptist Church sermon on 1 Timothy 1:17- Listen Here-, Pastor McClendon offers wisdom and questions to live by. I’m going to touch on them here.
Ovations are ways we acknowledge greatness. We honor someone who has done something the world recognizes as great. “God is not only is worthy of honor and glory because of what He has done, because He has done something great. He goes beyond. He is worthy of honor and glory because of the very virtue and nature and essence of who He is.”
Questions to Live By
In case you don’t have the time right now to listen to the sermon, here are six extremely helpful questions we can ask ourselves as we seek to be a living ovation to God.
1. Do I live like God exists to honor me, or like I’m here to honor Him?
2. Am I spending time with Jesus in His word and in meditation so that I might know what He wants from me? (Spending time in reflecting upon the truths of God so that I might even know how to live a life of praise to God)?
Pressed for time? Here is a 7-minute plan for daily time with God:
- Take 30 seconds to pray. “God, would you help me understand this book. Would you help me live in accordance with it.
- Take 5 minutes to read. Have a Bible reading plan.
- Take 1 minute to reflect. What principles, concepts, maybe a verse or word that stood out to you. Think about it well.
- Take 30 minutes to pray. “God, thanks for your Word. Help me live differently in light of what You said.”
3. Am I more focused on getting blessings from God or on giving devotion to God?
4. Is there anything that I am honoring or glorifying more than God?
5. What would honor and glorify Jesus in this situation?
6. How will I honor others who are made in the image of God?
Serving others God has made gets our eyes off ourselves. It pulls us out of depression and self pity.
Every Reason to Delight
You are a child of the King! You have a family! You an inheritance! You have an identity that far outlasts and surpasses the things of this world! You have every reason to be a living ovation to the God who created you, made a way for you to be forgiven of sin, and longs for you to know Him and find your highest joy in Him.
What or whom does your life applaud?
I’m a pretty expressive person. You can usually read on my face something about what is going on in my mind. That isn’t always helpful in knowing what I’m thinking about specifically (like when I’m looking concerned because I think I left the oven on, but the Sunday School teacher thinks I disagree with his theological stance.) So for good or for bad, I’m usually fairly expressive. That means when I’m excited about something you can see it in my face and feel it in my tone and exuberance.
What is it, though, that I am expressing excitement so strongly about? I think about my last few weeks and things I got excited about:
- The delicious artisan Einkorn bread that turned out super yummy
- The fact that my son can finally read that book he so struggled with a week ago
- The tiny new speaker I can use to play library books aloud for my kids to both listen to (so I don’t have to constantly be re-positioning headphones)
- The outreach event our church had planned
- My new phone battery so my phone can stop crashing (hopefully)
- The fact that my husband is coming home tonight from a conference
I know I’m especially prone to applauding the things that I’m excited about. My life applauds them with my entire demeanor. Not everyone is as easy to read as me, but:
We all applaud what matters to us with:
- Our words
- Our thoughts
- Our attitudes
- Our demeanor
- Our use of time
- Our use of money
What we prioritize, what we find ourselves going back to in our thoughts and conversations- these things show us what matters most to us. They show us what kind of things we are a living ovation for.
It’s not wrong to delight in the things I listed above. It is only wrong when other things become idols to us- things we delight in more than God or give priority to over God. How often are we a living ovation to some new product or theory more than we are to the eternal, living God who just had to speak and the entire universe came into being?
Don’t sit this one out
My experience standing at the back of a church I deeply love and seeing half the congregation seated makes me realize- when our lives are not a living ovation to God, when we remain seated and somber, we communicate something clearly. We communicate the opposite of honor, delight, awe, and respect. By sitting this moment out, this day out, this week out, this season out, these years out… a watching world sees nothing in us to draw them into a real, living relationship with the Lover of their souls.
Pray for me and for all that love the Lord that our lives would be a living ovation to God that grows in intensity until the day that we see Him face to face.