Praise is a pretty common theme in the Bible. So common, in fact, that we see commands and declarations to praise our King around 250 times throughout the Old and New Testaments. It’s natural; as we’ve examined before, it’s an action that God literally created us for. We are beings made with the sole purpose of glorifying God and enjoying him (John Piper, Desiring God). Why, then, is it so difficult for us to consistently sing songs of adoration towards our faultless God? Why is it that at the first sight of trouble or hardship we so often turn from our anchor and throw ourselves into the raging seas?
Praise is Hard
In the most simple answer, it’s because praising an unseen God is hard. It’s difficult for us as visual and nearsighted beings to focus on the plan that God has for us down the road that we may not see at the time. We see the fire rising but fail to see the helping hand on the other side of the flames. It’s this lack of vision that not only keeps us from praising God, but causes us to follow our own sinful and selfish ways in times of even slight trouble. Praise is hard, yes. The original sin that we are born into (Ps. 51:5, Eph. 2:2) ensures that our gut reaction will never be that of praise until the Spirit works in us. But praise is also something that God commands even though he knows we will struggle with it.
Praise is Commanded
God commands our praise not only because that is what he created us for, but also because he knows that is what will facilitate growth in our lives. Take the book of James, for example:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. (James 5:13, ESV)
Not only is this an affirmation of God’s purpose for us, but a reminder that drawing near to our Savior is what will be the only true and lasting source of healing. Examine now the 8th Psalm, written by David in the face of dangerous opposition from his adversaries:
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? (Ps. 8:3-4, NLT)
David could choose to dwell on his clearly less-than-favorable circumstances. He could focus on the pain God is allowing him to experience instead of the promise God made to deliver him. But instead, David (a man repeatedly described as a “man after God’s own heart”) chooses to sing God’s praise and observe the beauty of his creation. What does this tell us, then, if a man experiencing the unfathomable suffering that David went through still chooses to worship and admire our King? Sure, David still points out the pain he is in. In fact, many of the Psalms chronicle his doubts and fears. But the difference here is that he contrasts these waves of uncertainty with the overwhelming flood of God’s grace. God doesn’t ask if we’re okay with praising him. He creates us to do it. He tells us it’s necessary. But he also tells us that our praise will bring us peace.
Praise is Rewarding
If we are to examine the example of the Psalms, then it is only necessary that we flip a few pages back to see the story of Job as well. If there is anyone in the Bible that deserves a “get out of praise free” card, it’s Job, a man who lost literally everything he had. Yet we see from the final chapter of Job that not only did he continue to worship the Lord, but the Lord rewarded him with even more in the second half of his life than he did in the first (Job 42:12, NLT). It’s not just rewards for being faithful that we have to look forward too, though; it’s the perfect peace that God offers to those who find their rest in Him. In Isaiah, we read the following:
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (Is. 26:3, NIV)
And again in Romans:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:30, NIV)
Perhaps the most important takeaway we have from these verses is that they are conditional: we are told that we will experience peace when we trust in God. We aren’t told that our troubles will go away, we aren’t told that it will be easy, but we are told that we will surely experience God’s healing and restoration as long as our hearts and minds are steadfast and we trust in the Lord God alone.
I won’t praise God all the time. I will struggle and fall short of the commandments he gives me. But what I know without a doubt is that when I do choose to participate in the act that God created me for I will experience peace that surpasses understanding, peace that brings healing to my troubled soul. Take some time today to thank God for his blessings, both those that you see now and those that he hasn’t yet revealed to you. Take some time to thank him for the parts of his plan that he has shown you already and the parts that you don’t understand yet. Remember that the same God who split the seas for our sake is the one that will reconcile all our pain in the end. And in all things, praise him for what he has done and what he will do.
You will be praised, You will be praised. With angels and saints we sing “Worthy are you, Lord.”
Bethel Music – Ever Be
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