Perspective, Perseverance, and Praising the Lord

How important is it to praise the Lord?
Did you realize that praising God is a command?  In all honesty, I have to admit I have not previously thought about praising God as something that is required of me as a Christ-follower.  In my mind, I probably filed it under “optional!”  I knew that to complain is to commit sin, but is failing to praise also a sin of omission?
Consider Psalm 147:1 – Praise the LORD!  For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and praise is becoming.
Praise the Lordis an imperative – a command!  I could list multiple scriptures with the same command.
Why would God command us to praise Him?  For the same reason He has given a multitude of other commands – because they are for our good.

Deuteronomy 5:29 – Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!
God’s commands allow us to have a proper understanding of who He is – a healthy, respectful awe and fear of Him.  Obedience leads to His blessing on us and the generations who follow after us.
Praising God when things are going well is the easy part.  But what happens to our praise when life gets hard?
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas teach us a great lesson on what it means to praise God in the hard times.  They had been arrested for preaching the gospel.  Take a look:
Acts 16:22-24 – The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods.  When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet with stocks.
What a situation!  Life certainly wasn’t going their way.
Does this relate at all to us?
Consider these parallels to our own life.
·         The crowd was against them.  Sometimes we can be doing the right thing, the God-honoring thing, but the rest of the world doesn’t understand us.  They take what we say in the wrong way.  They accuse us falsely.  They misjudge our motives.  We can’t do anything to please.
·         They werestruck with many blows.  Sometimes one bad thing happens to us.  Maybe two.  But sometimes it seems to just keep coming!  Everything we touch.  We take one step forward and three steps back.  Call it Murphy’s Law.  Or maybe God is just teaching us a lot of lessons at once!
·         They were thrown into prison.  Have you ever been in a place where you felt like if you didn’t get away you’d go mad?  Maybe it’s a job you used to love, but now seems less than fulfilling.  Maybe it’s the home you bought that turned out to be a money pit.  Maybe it’s the town you live in where everyone remembers you as a child, and you can’t change your reputation. Maybe it’s a relationship that’s lost its luster.  The word “trapped” has taken on a whole new meaning for you.
·         Their feet were fastened in stocks.  Maybe it’s not the location…maybe it’s the situation you are in.  Your hands feel tied and you can’t make the changes you feel are necessary.  Your present circumstances are unbearable.  A rebellious teenager lives in your home.  A spouse who doesn’t love Jesus.  A child with challenging disabilities.  You don’t make enough to quite cover the bills.  You’d love to change things, but feel like you can’t make a move.
I believe Paul and Silas could have felt every emotion we would.  But what was their response? And what effect did it have?
Acts 16:25 – But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.
They were praying and singing hymns of praise to God!
Praise changes our perspective.  Focusing on who God is – His character and His attributes – changes our outlook.  Your mind is powerful, but no one can think of two conflicting concepts at once.  You have to choose one or the other.  If I focus on my situation, I will probably be depressed.  But when I turn my attention to the wonder and majesty of God, something supernatural happens.  My perspective moves from self-centered to God-centered.  Things look a lot different from God’s point of view!
Praise empowers us to persevere.  Paul and Silas were not focused on how they could get out of jail. Because they knew God was sovereign over their lives, they could praise God, and persevere through the hard situation.  Knowing the character of God gave them spiritual and mental strength, even when their emotional and physical strength failed.
Praise is declaring who God is.
Because God is sovereign, I can trust that He has a purpose in my pain.
Because God is powerful, I can rely on Him to see me through and provide what I need.
Because God is just, I can leave revenge to Him and forgive those who hurt me.
Because God is merciful, I can take my fears, my burdens, my hurts, to Him.
Because God is gracious, I can see through the suffering to experience His presence.
Because God is loving, I can trust that this hardship comes because He desires to reveal Himself to me.
Because God is holy, I can do what is right despite what culture or the crowd says is good.
Because God is all-knowing, I can rest in the fact that my Father knows exactly what is going to happen.
Knowing the character of God, and then praising Him according to that character in the middle of our hardships…this brings perspectiveand perseverance.
Are you suffering many blows?
Do you feel confined…trapped?
Does it seem the world is against you?
Don’t be discouraged.  Spend some time praising God, and see what a difference it makes!
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.  Psalm 42:5

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