- For the times that we are doing well and we have reason to praise God, is it really a sacrifice?
Praise is always a sacrifice, because it is an offering, not just of words but a declaration of faith in the very person of God.
- Remember we are not praising so that God feels good or we feel good. We are praising because it is His due.
- We often believe that praise comes as a result of all being “well” with us – an almost automatic response. But our understanding, if so, is like putting the cart in front of the donkey. Rather, because we praise God in all things, we will begin to experience peace even in the midst of trial.
Praise is often our response to some action that directly benefits us, and we feel generous because we extend it. We praise our dogs for fetching the ball and people for a job well done. We often find it easy to praise God from the same motivation. When He has blessed us, helped us, and protected us, we feel generous toward Him. We can praise Him and talk about how good He is because we can see it.
Then there are those times when God did not come through the way we thought He would; The medical test comes back positive, the girl/guy we like rejects us, we are not able to get a job, we are in financial debt, etc. God seems very far away and praise is the last thing to bubble up from our hearts. We can’t see His goodness, and circumstances scream that He has forgotten us. In such situations praise is far from our lips.
The command in Hebrews 13:15 says that this sacrifice is to be offered “continually.” Our praise of God is not to be based on His job performance. Praise cannot be treated as a “reward” we give God for His obvious blessings. Isaiah 29:13 says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Real praise continues regardless of circumstances. It flows continually from a worshiping heart in good times and bad Acts 16:23-25.
It takes an act of the will to lay our all on the altar before a God we don’t understand. When we bring a “sacrifice of praise,” we choose to believe that, even though life is not going as we think it should, God is still good and can be trusted (Psalm 135:2;Nahum 1:7). When we choose to praise God in spite of the storms, He is honored, and our faith grows deeper (Malachi 3:13-17;Job 13:15).
Jesus and the rest of Scripture invite us to praise continually:
1 Thessalonians 5:16:
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you.
Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice.
These words often seem like the most difficult thing to do because with all the challenges we face and things we feel we have to put up with, we fail to offer it back to God. But He has asked us to rejoice in Him always. This release of praise begins with a genuine hunger and thirst for God Himself. It stems from our relationship with Him. Our pursuit of Him delivers to us a vision of the power of God we have in our quite moments with Him as we meditate on His word. This is just another dimension of His power in times of storms in our life. When we seek Him, we find and experience more than just power. We receive His love. It is His love which makes our life worth living. So, we need to praise Him joyfully.
In fact, in the verse above to reiterate its importance, Paul in his letter to the Philippians says it twice. God does not offer it as a suggestion for a “happier life” but really as the only way of life for a Christian.
The book of Deuteronomy narrates the curses that befall a people who fail to praise and give thanks to God;
Because you did not serve the Lord with joyfulness and gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and in want of all things; and he will put a yoke of iron around your neck, until he has destroyed you.
We see this so true in our lives that are lacking praise. We are held captive by sin, cares of the world, a constant longing for more and we feel bound to our hopelessness. It is not that God wants to make us miserable because we don’t say nice things about Him, but if we don’t acknowledge what He has done, and who He is we are missing the point of our very existence. We were made for His good pleasure (Rev 4:11, Col 1:16) and our lack of keeping our eyes fixed on Him defeats this.
However as we have seen earlier, our ability to praise, serve, or enjoy God’s presence flows out of our understanding of who God is and who we are in relation to Him. Everything I am is due to Him. How can I praise when I am still the center of my own world? How can I praise whom I fear? Or bless the One whom I think is evil? Or thank the One whom I think is unreliable? And so not knowing the Lord hinders my praise. To bless the Lord, I must know Him!
In contrast to this is a verse from Isaiah 26:3.
You keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on you,
Rather than having our mind mull over what seems to be wrong or lacking, we are called to stay focused on God so that the longings of our hearts are directed towards Him and we will have peace, joy and like we mentioned before even deepening faith.
Praise is the thermometer of our Faith
While we may have great faith and work great miracles, our faith remains imperfect until it is crowned by praise.
Jesus asks His apostles to be of good cheer, not to be troubled and to
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice.” Philippians 4:4
“He asks us to do this because He has overcome the world.” John 16:33
Faith remains imperfect until it is crowned by Praise
The Revelation of “what must soon take place,” the Apocalypse, is borne along by the songs of the heavenly liturgy but also by the intercession of the “witnesses” (martyrs). The prophets and the saints, all those who were slain on earth for their witness to Jesus, the vast throng of those who, having come through the great tribulation, have gone before us into the Kingdom, all sing the praise and glory of him who sits on the throne, and of the Lamb. In communion with them, the Church on earth also sings these songs with faith in the midst of trial. By means of petition and intercession, faith hopes against all hope and gives thanks to the “Father of lights,” from whom “every perfect gift” comes down. Thus faith is pure praise.
Hebrews 13:14-15 speaks to us of going,
“Outside the camp, bearing abuse for him. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.”
For us, praising the Lord in and through all things is an act of faith:
- Knowing the Lord is not limited or helpless in the face of our circumstance but can and will save us.
- Most times we praise in retrospect, but God is calling us to praise Him in anticipation of a greater hope.
The hope is not that the immediate situation that we desire to be delivered from will vanish but that even through this (whatever the situation may be) God is working out something for our good – for our salvation.
This being our hope, we have every reason to praise Him.
Our lives must be a sacrifice of praise to him who has bought us with a price.
Trial, persecution, and pain are all very concrete situations to unite ourselves with Jesus on the cross and to praise God, that as we offer up a sacrifice of ourselves we offer up a sacrifice of praise.
- We aren’t just highly evolved animals who are still subject to our circumstances and react to stimuli. We are created in the image and likeness of God and so can choose our response. We can choose to give thanks to God or we can take on the role of victims until we “see” something good come our way and then react with praise. We will not be walking by faith but by sight, and that merits us nothing!
Praise and its effects
So far it may seem like we have been asked to praise but it goes so much against our flesh that it will be a constant battle to praise God in all things. Like we have just seen, it is expected of us and is due to God.
Effects of Praise
- God makes His dwelling in the praises of His people
- He carries out His will
- Praise has the power to turn a painful situation into a blessing.
- Praise is a weapon in waging war against the kingdom of darkness.
What does praise do?
God makes His dwelling:
One of the most commonly used passages on praise and probably one of the most important ones as well is:
“God dwells in the praises of His people.”
- When we praise individually or in a group, God comes and pitches His tent in our midst. He comes and makes His dwelling right in the middle of our situation: Immanuel – God with us.
- So many times we go through things or even just spend time in prayer and wonder if God hears us, if He is anywhere around. Scripture is explicit that our praise, the praise of people who acknowledge His Name brings God into their presence. If we praise, God is present!
Where God dwells, He acts:
- Wherever God is, His nature is to love. Once we invite God through our praise, He cannot but act in a situation or in our lives.
- We often think that when we praise God we pump Him up to do something for us. Far from it! When we praise we say, “God we want you, and we want what you want for us, so have your way.” Our praise opens our heart to God, welcomes Him in, and gives ascent to His will.
- As we mentioned earlier, every act of His is love. So when God acts it may not be according to what we want to happen, but it will be good.
“And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely… he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoner were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw that that prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners has escaped. But Paul cried out in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself for we are all here.”
After being beaten, wrongly accused and imprisoned when trying to do good, Paul and Silas wounded and probably in a lot of pain, lift up hymns of praise and thanksgiving to God. Their chains were loosened but they did not flee for their lives. They were not praising to be set free, but were offering a heartfelt sacrifice of praise because they loved God and believed that He alone had the power to save them – body and soul.
Praise has the power to turn a painful event into a Blessing:
For most of us, if God worked a miracle and got us out of a mess, we would run as far away from it as we could, as quick as we could. But Paul and Silas, remain there, to reassure the jailer and as they continued to act for God, they were instruments of salvation for the jailer and His family.
Praise as a weapon:
Where God is present, the hosts of heaven are present, ready to act on His behalf to carry out His will. Praise is one of the first and most important steps to defeating the kingdom of darkness.
We often think of praise as a positive thing that can do no harm. Genuine praise poses a serious threat to the kingdom of darkness.
- When genuine praise is offered, it ushers in the Kingdom of God into that situation or particular life. A person or people bound up in sin, despair, or hopelessness can begin to be set free just by offering a sacrifice of praise or by even having someone else offer a sacrifice of praise on their behalf.
The story of Joshua and the wall of Jericho is an historical example of how praise tore down the stronghold of the enemy. :
Joshua 6:8-9, 14, 20
And Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. And the armed men went before the priests who blew, and rear guard came after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually…. And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned in the camp. So they did for six days. On the seventh day they rose early at the dawn of day and marched around the city in the same manner seven times: it was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times…So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.
The praise that was offered made the impenetrable walls self-destruct and lay defenceless before the children of God. The same is true in the life of a Christian where it seems like there is no way to breakthrough a situation to bring good out of it. Praise tears down the seeming impossibility of overcoming a problem.
The primary purpose of praise is to give God what is His due. Praising Him so that we get what we want would amount to little else than manipulation
A word of caution!
- Praise is powerful! And yet the primary purpose of praise is to give God what is His due.
- Since we know the power and effect of praise, it may be tempting to exercise it only because we want God to do something. Whereas, in other situations we will not bother to invite God in because it’s all going our way.
- Our intention to praise must always be a response to the knowledge that God is God!
- Praising God so that we get what we want would amount to little else than manipulation. And the practice of praising only when we want to, will eventually hinder us from realizing the worthiness of God in all things.
- As we make an attempt to unite ourselves to Christ, our constant praise makes evident our life hidden in Christ.
- As a Christian, we must praise – offering a sacrifice of praise in and through all situations.
- It is required because it is due and is essential for us to fulfil our purpose.
- The effects of praise help us to live a victorious Christian life.
Praise helps us measure the depth of our faith.