March 25, 2018

Can we Praise in the Darkness?



“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,” Ephesians 3:20 (KJV)

“I’ll be happy when______ (Fill in the blank.)”
“Really? How am I supposed to find joy when chaos is all around me?”
“Life has never been fair to me.”
“I’ve always struggled. This must be as good as it gets. How can I realistically expect anything more?”

These are fatalistic, but common, thoughts. For people who are used to daily battles of some kind, they’re as familiar as an old pair of shoes. Such pessimism also makes sense, in a way. A realistic person in a tough situation must work hard to keep hope and faith alive.  In fact, it can seem almost impossible.

So what can we do? We can call on a power greater than ourselves.

The Apostle Paul

Acts Chapter 16 is an amazing passage about praise. Paul and Silas are in prison in Macedonia. They are in an inner cell, and their feet are in the stocks (a wooden device that locks around the legs and keeps them still.)

Imprisonment didn’t stop the men from singing hymns and praising God. At midnight, a random earthquake shakes the foundation of the prison. The prison doors are all opened, and all the prisoners’ shackles come off. Please refer to the chapter to refresh your memory of what happens next.

 “A Problem Called Praise”

(These are ideas from a sermon preached by Carl Lentz, Pastor of Hillsong, New York, at Life Church.)

Praise is not about what is, or isn’t, happening in our lives. Feelings are unreliable. We can worship our way through trials.

Praise is about God. He’s all-powerful (omnipotent). He’s already done more than we think. He’s fighting battles we can’t fight—making a way we can’t make. He’s going to keep doing more with our story than we can envision.

Why should we praise God when life makes absolutely no sense? Praise breaks chains and brings change. (That’s why it’s a problem to the enemy who wants to keep us bound.)

We can worship God for what He is doing, even if He’s not granting our wishes in every area. We can also praise Him for what He’s done in the past:
  • Protected us from serious accidents
  • Moved particular people into, and out of, our lives
  • Led us to jobs
  • Healed, minimized, or prevented emotional or physical trauma

Jewish Holidays

There are over 70 minor and major Jewish celebrations, according to online calendars. These are all a form of praise, of course. In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to celebrate given victories at certain times. It didn’t matter if the people were enslaved or free, prosperous or in poverty.  This was a way of reminding them that God has worked wonders in the past--and He will continue to do so.

Some of these holidays are so important that the people fast and refrain from work. Here’s a partial list of the reasons behind the various observances of Judaism:
  • Destroying angel passing over the Israelites during the plagues of Moses’ time
  • Esther saving the Jews in Persia from genocide at the risk of her own life (Please see my last article here.)
  • Independence of the state of Israel
  • End of the Holocaust
  • Jewish New Year
  • Moses coming down Mt. Sinai
  • God’s Bounty

My Conclusion

I don’t know about you, but I’m in big trouble if I have only my own strength to rely on. I’m broken and exhausted by constant battles of many kinds. My body doesn’t do what I want; it never has. My loved ones don’t always make good decisions, either. Outside of my personal life, politics are in an uproar.  

It’s a good thing God’s in charge. The end is already written. For this reason, we can praise Him and tap into His power.

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Do you remember what God has done in the past?