Far too frequently people claiming to follow Jesus find themselves in a rut. And if I am honest there are times I feel dry, sometimes even bone dry. There are times when I look at circumstances or situations around me and can’t seem to trace the fingerprint of God: Hearing about another mother leaving this life and leaving behind a husband and children, another friend mourns the loss of their child, another couple battles the heartache of infertility, another person is left aching over the heartache, disappointment and loneliness of divorce, an addict gives in to the temptation of addiction after a long period of sobriety, and families scramble to keep a roof over their heads. And then there are those times when I know the aroma of His presence is overshadowed by the stench of my own flesh. If I am being honest, God has diagnosed the problem and the only prescription is praise. Praise is something we are, not merely something we do. Worship, an expression of reverence, should be a way of life not just a check mark on a busy to do list. Praise should not be circumstantial but continual.
I know I can not possibly be the only person, spouse, parent, business owner, cook, housekeeper, grocery shopper, friend, teacher, (blah blah blah) who feels this way! Surely there are others out there, hungry for an attitude check, bored with the ordinary, and craving more out of their lives. After studying scripture I am convinced it all begins with praise.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Praise is the culmination of our enjoyment of anything.”
So what is it that I want to enjoy? At the core of it all I know that what I desire most is to come to Jesus. I want to live life praising Him. Praise is an act of my resolve that is produced out of my devotion and adoration for my Creator. Choosing thankfulness takes the spotlight off of our problems and gives us a perspective of praise. Oh, how misdirected my focus can become.
As Paul and Silas were in Philippi sharing and teaching salvation through Christ Jesus, they found themselves in the middle of a mob as city officials ordered them to be stripped and beaten with wooden rods.
In Acts 16: 23-30 Luke writes, “They were severely beaten, and they they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks. Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!” The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
When Paul and Silas faced an extreme hardship they didn’t take the time to look at the hopelessness of their situation. They did not sit and have a pity party. They never groveled in the midst of their circumstances but continued to live out the praises of the truth they preached.
Praise is one of the most powerful testimonies a Christ follower can share with the lost world. Not only did Paul and Silas praise the Lord, but they praised boldly and loud enough for others to hear. They never faltered or wavered. They sang and prayed and they witnessed the fruit of their faithfulness! The chains fell off and doors swung open! What chains and barriers are we facing and what might our praise do to break the bondage? Have you ever noticed that in the midst of our mountain top struggles we often find ourselves in a spotlight for those around us? It’s crazy how when a crisis happens in a family we automatically get new friend requests or followers on social networking sites. I wonder if it is because people want to reach out and support us, to show love, offer prayer and encouragement or if it is because a doubting world wants to watch as a self proclaimed Jesus lover has their world rocked so they can have a front row seat as our faith is put to the fire. I don’t know the answer but I suspect it can be a little bit of both. Paul and Silas could have chosen silence during their struggle but their praise was a powerful testimony of their faith and resulted in the salvation of the very man who held them captive!
Scripture goes on to tell us “that they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.” Acts 16: 32-34.
How incredible is the legacy of praise?! An entire household came to know Christ because two imprisoned missionaries praised God in a storm. I can’t help but also wonder how many might come to know Christ through our own praises if we weren’t too busy focusing on our problems.
As Christ followers live our daily lives, there is an unbelieving world watching closely.
Paul encourages us to, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
An attitude of praise is established on the understanding of our absolute dependency on God as a sovereign, unwavering authority. When trouble and evil surround us we can still be thankful for God’s omnipotence and the reassurance that He will complete His will, even in the midst of our mess. I do not know about you, but I need discipline. I need to be intentional in my praise until it becomes a habitude. My joy, prayers and thankfulness should never fluctuate with my circumstances or emotions.
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” Psalm 150: 6