Something I have learned over the last few years is the importance and power of praising God amidst very difficult circumstances. It is easy to praise in spirit and song when you have no life or death matters that invade your thoughts as you try to focus on the Father. It is easy to praise when you are on stage leading worship. It is easy to praise when you consider what God has done for you and the promises that you see being fulfilled in your life.
It is much more difficult to praise when you are fighting fear. It is much more difficult to praise when your thoughts go to begging God to save you and your family. It is much more difficult to praise when you don't know why God has not yet responded to your acts of obedience, has not answered your prayers, and when others have suggested that this apparent wilderness in your life is because you haven't prayed hard enough, fasted long enough, or that there must be something spiritually that is wrong in your life for God to not respond to your dire situation.
When your spirit is crushed, when you don't know how to go on, when you are confused and angry...that is when it is difficult to praise. And that is when praise becomes your sacrifice.
Unlike many other forms of spiritual warfare and different acts of worship, praise brings us full circle to where we began and why we were created. God didn't create us so that He could save us. He didn't create us so that we could need Him. He didn't create us so that we could go forth and bring more people to Him. His purpose of creating us was so that we could commune with, honor and love Him.
For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,' declares the LORD, 'to be my people for my renown and praise and honor.' (Jeremiah 13:11)
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)When we bring a sacrifice of praise, we are praising Him for who He is. Not for anything He has done for us. Not for anything we are happy about. When brought as a sacrifice, praise moves from being an emotional response to an act of obedience. Biblically speaking, obedience is time and again upheld as our first responsibility to God, and the first thing we will do if we truly love Him. By bringing the sacrifice of praise, we are obeying Him with nothing for our own gain attached. It becomes simply about Him because of who He is.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:15)When you normally praise, it is a sacrifice in the sense of bringing a gift to God. But when you bring the sacrifice of praise, it is out of your complete brokenness and is because you are choosing to bring it, not because you have an abundance of good feelings to shave the top of. It's when you have nothing. The beautiful thing about it is that it's beautiful to God.
It seems that in the beginning of a wilderness period, we cling to the promises and look forward with vigor and hope. As time goes on, though, and weeks turn into months, months into a year, and one year into multiple years, we grow weary. We grow unsure. We grow scared.For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)
You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’ ” (Malachai 3:13-15)“Your words have been hard against me, says the . But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’
And the Lord said:“Because these people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me,and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder." (Isaiah 29:13-14)There is power in the sacrifice of praise.