The Apostle Paul Sings Pub Songs

Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping (I Get Knocked Down)” came on the radio and I started thinking about the Apostle Paul. Doesn’t everyone?

And now I have a number of questions for you to consider:

  • Which of the karaoke singers most resembles me?
  • Do you know what the woman means by “pissing the night away”?*
  • Where are Paul’s writings in the song’s lyrics?

Getting Back Up

A constant refrain in the song is:

I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down

Tubthumping issues a call of defiance, an insistence to rise up rather than remain defeated. We’d all like to think we can do that no matter what, but we can’t. Any one of us can be beaten down so badly that we cannot rise again. Disease, war, poverty, even the mere passage of years – everything eventually leads to death.

Contrary to Chumbawamba’s refrain, people can be knocked down never to get up again.

Yet Paul wrote:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9.)

Paul’s encouragement is not defiance in the face of reality, nor is it a call to reject the reality of oppression and disease and death.

Rather, Paul explains that his ability to rise again does not depend on his own will, nor on his own strength.

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18.)

John, a fellow apostle, explained it this way:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4.)

We get knocked down and get back up again because we belong to God, the one who is greater than anything that happens to us in this world.

Songs that Remind Us of the Good Times

The other thing Chumbawamba reminds us to do is sing:

He sings the songs that remind him of the good times
He sings the songs that remind him of the better times

Again, Paul said something similar:

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16.)

Songs are one of the great memory triggers. That song by Chumbawamba reminds me of youth ministry, Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” takes me right back to high school, and “You Are My Sunshine” transports me all the way to my childhood when my favorite aunt would sing it to me.

If you think now of a song of faith, what do the words remind you of? Is it Christ’s victory as depicted in “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”? Is it the gospel of salvation from “Amazing Grace”? Or perhaps you thought of something more recent, such as “In Christ Alone” and it’s proclamation that Jesus truly is God.

Songs are powerful reminders, and I am thankful for the reminders of God’s truth wherever they are found, even in a pub anthem like “Tubthumping”.


Questions to ponder: What songs bring you to think of God, who he is and what he has done? How do they remind you not only of the good times and better times, as in “Tubthumping”, but the best times we find in Christ?


*In British slang “pissed”=”drunk”. Now you know.


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16 Responses to The Apostle Paul Sings Pub Songs

  1. Jeannie says:

    Tim, this song takes me right back to January 1998. There was a huge ice-storm in eastern Ontario and we were without power at our house for over a week. I was pregnant with Allison. Richard was called in to work b/c the hospital was short-staffed, and I remember the first night, lying on the living room couch by the fireplace, listening to a battery-operated radio; they kept playing “Tubthumping”!

    Thanks for sharing all these Scriptures about how God is our strength even in tough times and how He raises us up when we can’t do it ourselves. They really speak to me today.

    • Tim says:

      That sounds like quite a week you had back in 1998, Jeannie. And I too am glad that God’s word reminds us of how he constantly lifts us up.

  2. Laura Droege says:

    I’ve never heard “Tubthumping,” but the lyrics you quoted reminded me of a song by Sara Groves. She’s comparing the Christian life to a boxing match: “When you said this was a fight/you weren’t kidding…And there is nothing left/I’ve got nothing. . . Greater is He who is in me . .. Bob-and-weave.” Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world. I love that!

    I also loved the boxing imagery and incorporated it into a kickboxing scene in my first novel, where one of the characters is kickboxing at a gym with a friend, but also fighting her thoughts regarding a man who raped her and who has now reappeared in her life (and the gym).

    Another song that reminds me of God is a country love song by Lee Brice. He’s singing about a woman, but many of the lyrics are equally applicable to the God-Christian relationship. It’s called “Hard to Love.” In it, he describes how hard to love he is, how he doesn’t make it easy, and how he couldn’t do it if he was in her place. “I don’t deserve it but I love that you love me” and “You’ve given me a million second chances” stand out in particular as expressing our God of an infinite second chances, our undeserving nature, and how we ought to never take him for granted.

  3. That song reminds me of football and being a teenager. I remember singing along in a pub one New Year’s Eve (not drunk). Must have been about 19 years old. Ah, the peccadilloes of youth o_O

  4. Adriana says:

    Where to begin? I’ll share just a few starting with the first song that came to mind while I was reading your post: “Superman” by the Kinks. My husband likes it because it reminds him of his college pole-vaulting days. I like it because, although the lyrics lament weakness, the music is strong and groovy. It really portrays weakness in a positive light. The verse for that is 2 Cor. 12:10. “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” In Christ I’m a Superman (or SuperWoman!)

    • Tim says:

      Great connection, Adriana. Christ makes us more than we ever hoped to be, super people as it were!

    • Jeannie says:

      Adriana, have you ever heard “Superman’s Song” by the Crash Test Dummies? It compares Superman with Tarzan. One of the verses says: “Sometimes, when Supe was stopping crimes, I’ll bet that he was tempted to just quit and turn his back on man, join Tarzan in the forest — but he stayed in the city, kept on changing clothes in dirty old phonebooths till his work was through, and nothing to do but go on home…”

      And the chorus goes , “Superman never made any money savin’ the world from Solomon Grundy – and sometimes I despair the world will never see another man like him.”
      When I hear this song I always think of Jesus. The world has already seen a Man even greater than Superman.

      • Adriana says:

        Jeannie, I just put the kids to bed. Now I’m sitting down with a glass of wine to listen to Crash Test Dummies and that sermon you mentioned on your blog! 🙂

  5. Adriana says:

    Next is “A New Day Has Come” by Celine Dion. That song was playing on the radio while my first baby was being born via C-Section. Every time I hear it I’m flooded with gratefulness for the gift of my children.

    “Hush, now
    I see a light in your eyes
    All in the eyes of the boy
    I can’t believe
    I’ve been touched by an angel with love”

    “I asked the LORD to give me this boy, and he has granted my request.” 1 Samuel 1:27

  6. Adriana says:

    “The long and winding road that leads to your door
    Will never disappear
    I’ve seen that road before it always leads me here
    Leads me to your door”

    “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.” Proverbs 25:25

    Also, you mentioned “You are my Sunshine.” I sang that to all my babies, only I altered the lyrics a bit:

    “You are my sunshine, you are my sunshine
    You make me happy when skies are gray
    You never know, dear, how much I love you
    Till you have your own child someday”

    I’ll stop here! I’ve enjoyed thinking about songs that matter to me this morning, Tim. Thank you for the post!

  7. Hester says:

    At some point I sat back and analyzed which hymns have always been my favorites since around age 5 (because this is what church musicians think about, right? – and normal 5yos have favorite hymns?), and I discovered that most of them were about Jesus defeating Satan and death. Related to this, I once saw a window in a Greek Orthodox church that showed Jesus pulling Adam and Eve from their graves. I really like the image of Jesus as the all-powerful, and yet simultaneously underdog, Victor who crushes the serpent’s head and opens the grave. It’s a pity it seemingly can’t be emphasized today without devolving into a chest-thumping he-man version of masculinity. 😦

    I also suspect this has something to do with why I like fantasy novels like LOTR so much. I’d love to write one someday that incorporated these concepts, but in a less transparent way than the Narnia series (which, although it’s a great series, is a little unsubtle for my tastes).

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