"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks,
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Opening prayer: Father, I don't understand how praising You can possibly help me, especially as badly as I'm feeling today. Open my heart to understand Your power and plan, I pray.
It's backwards, I tell you!
It really is. The Transformed Life really does look upside down and backwards to us sometimes. Especially when trouble hits. Ordinary Life (see our earlier lesson for details) says we should cry and moan and blame God when trouble hits. "How could a good God ALLOW this?"
Any fool can carry on like that. Most of them do. That's Ordinary Life. You can see hundreds of examples of it every day, at home, at work and on the television.
Christians living the Transformed Life do it differently, according to the Scripture above: "Rejoice always... in everything give thanks..."
Isn't that like leaning into a swinging fist?
Not at all. In fact, the crying and complaining that we do in Ordinary Life only makes it worse. It doesn't help us, and the people around us don't appreciate it either.
As we shall see, praising God during our problems has three miraculous effects:
- It brings us into God's throne room for a personal consultation;
- It helps us in surprising ways; and
- It breaks the devil's grip on the situation.
Let's start in Psalm 100, verses 1-5:Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3 Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. (Emphasis added.)
Please note that God's presence has a gate. You can enter freely with thanksgiving and you can enter His courts with praise.
Of course, you DON'T have to enter by the gate. You can stand stubbornly outside the walls, hoping to get God's attention by the volume of your complaining. That's Ordinary Life.
You don't have to settle for Ordinary Life. You can be transformed by praising God, especially in time of trouble, when you're really hurting.
But WHY does God want me to praise him in tough times?
It shows you TRUST Him. It shows that you BELIEVE His promises to carry you through.
A powerful promise is 1 Corintians chapter 10 verse 13:No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
This verse was one of the very first Scripture passages I underlined in my Bible, even before I gave my life to the Lord. My response was, "Now THAT's the God I want to believe in!" Hopefully that's the God that you believe in, too. Because He's the only God there is.
When we praise God, we focus on His proven character and His faithfulness to His promises. We demonstrate that we put more trust in God's promises than in our problems. That is faith. And our Lord responds to faith.
OK, teacher, so praising God makes HIM feel good. But how does it help me?
Simple. Your mind and heart absorb information on two levels.
On one level, your rational mind hears an unlikely compliment ("Oh, you're just the SMARTEST guy in the whole world!") or insult ("Oh, you're just the STUPIDEST guy in the whole world!") and filters it out. You consciously KNOW the statement is phony.
On the other hand, there's a child-like part of us that does NOT filter stuff like this out. When the child hears insults, it believes them.
That's why our child-like nature NEEDS to hear the truth of God's character and love for us. When we hear God's praise, we are built up inside and BELIEVE that God loves us.
Awww, isn't that just secular psychology?
It's not just psychology. There's Scripture to support this.
One of the most famous Scriptures is Philippians 4 verses 6-7:Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
The apostle Paul was a real hard-nosed guy. He had no shortage of trouble in his life and no tolerance for anxiety attacks ("Be anxious for nothing..."). Paul had been stoned, beaten, whipped, and thrown in jail. His readers in Philippi knew, first-hand, that Paul and Silas responded to being whipped and locked up in jail by singing and praising God.
Paul and Silas demonstrated big-time faith (Acts 16:16-32). And God rewarded them big-time, but not just for Paul's sake. God rewarded them for YOUR benefit, so you would know the truth of His promises.
There's another helpful passage in Philippians, chapter 2 verse 5:Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus...
This verse has nothing to do with our Lord's intellectual mind. The Greek passage says, "Therefore grab with your mind that which Christ Jesus grabbed with His mind." That means fasten your attention on what Jesus chose to fasten His attention.
What did Jesus concentrate on?
In every difficult situation, like the temptation in Matthew chapter 4, Jesus concentrated on the truth of Scripture and the character of His Father.
We must do likewise. Because we know that if we focus on the problems, we can make ourselves as miserable as we choose to be.
Hint: When the problems get REALLY bad, start praising and thanking God out loud. Let yourself hear the words. Let the child say, "This doesn't make sense!" Praise God, knowing that He won't allow you to be swept away by the problem.
Another powerful Scripture is Romans 8:28:And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
God says that "all things work together for good to those who love God..."
I've learned to believe that.
Example: During a severe crisis period of my life, the engine of my car went "Bang!" on the way to work. As the car limped to the side of the road, my mind flashed to the lesson on praising God that I'd just taught my Sunday School class. I realized that THIS was the type of crisis where I'd better get God's help FAST, because I couldn't afford to fix the engine.
So I started praising God FOR this problem. I started laughing, and praising God because there was just no way this situation could work out for good, like Romans 8:28 said. It was funny to even put the words together in a sentence, and I was laughing as I steered the damaged car off the road and onto a side street.
Still praising God, I walked to a pay phone and called a buddy at work to give me a ride into the plant. As I got to the plant, another friend came up and offered to let me borrow one of his unused vehicles for a few weeks or months. A few months later I was able to buy it for cash.
Bottom line: God gave me a better car than my original clunker and gave me the time to pay for it! God did the hard part. All I had to do was praise Him, in advance, for His gracious handling of the situation.
Didn't you say there was a third way that praising God helps us?
That's right! Because many of our difficult situations are amplified by the devil. In addition to the real problem content, he comes along and makes it worse. The usual attacks serve to make us feel guilty or unworthy or like total losers. Fear and doubt are his big weapons. Most of the time, it's so subtle that we don't realize we're under attack. But praising God shatters the devil's grip on the situation.
James 4, verses 7-8 tell of this:Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
Praise lets you draw near to God. Praising God means that you DON'T buy into the fear and doubt generated by the devil. Praising God means that you believe in God's promises and character despite the lies of the enemy.
The enemy's nastiest weapons can't touch you anymore. And the enemy can't STAND to hear you praise God out loud. It eventually drives him right out of the room, covering his ears.
The apostle Peter sums this up in his first epistle, chapter 5, verses 6-10:Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
I've had students ask, "How do I cast all my care upon Him? Is there some formula or procedure?" By now you realize that the "procedure" is praise and thanksgiving. When you praise God in the midst of fiery trials, it proves that you're relying on God's power (not your own) to get you through the trials.
Praise God and thank Him for His faithfulness and love. Thank Him in good times, but especially in bad. And you will receive the rewards expressed in verse 10 above:But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
It will transform your life.
If you would like to ask further questions or discuss this in more detail, please feel free to send me an e-mail by clicking the "mail-to" link below. Explain your concerns and we'll respond as quickly as we can (assuming the first rapture event hasn't already happened).
Closing Prayer: Lord, I praise You for Your faithfulness and love toward me. Thank You for volunteering to take charge of my problems in every difficult situation. Help me to walk in Your truth and help others to also be victorious, I pray, amen.