Power in Praise
The theme of my sermon today is “Power in Praise” and in the moments left to me I want to show you how God expects his Children to react to the circumstances of life.
The Christian witness or walk is often more visible by reaction rather than action. How we respond to the circumstances and crisis of life usually speak much louder than words ever can! The world is not so much looking at your actions as they are at your reactions. So today I want to look at the Power of Praise from three different perspectives.
Firstly, the Source of Praise
Then the Secret of Praise
And finally, the Strength of Praise.
The apostle Paul in many of his letters to the infant Churches writes on this theme of giving thanks and praise, yet Paul himself experienced many difficulties and pressures in his own life and ministry, and thus he often wrote from personal experience. There is no point in me talking to you about Praising God in difficulties, unless I myself have learned to do the same through my own personal tragedies, tests and trials.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says “give thanks in all circumstances” – notice that he doesn’t say “give thanks for all circumstances” as there is much in life that we could not or should not be thankful for. For instance, when I was 16, I was involved in a road accident where I suffered a broken leg! The break was painful, and I was about eight weeks in a plaster cast, and to add insult to injury, all of this was during the school holidays. There was nothing about that for which I was thankful, …the pain, the plaster nor the price of confinement were not reasons to give God thanks, and while I was not thanking him for these problems, I discovered that I could thank him in them. For me it was a learning process, enabling me to understand that there are many times in life when we pass “through” difficulties, and it is God who sees us through them. In Isaiah, 43, v2 we read “when you pass through the waters I will be with you” NOT “when you get bogged down in waters” or “when you are stuck in waters” so we can thank him, that we are going through our present difficulties, and more significantly, that he is with us! (and as the Bible so frequently reminds us, – things come, to pass!)
In the earlier part of this threefold exhortation, Paul says “rejoice always”v16, and he says the exact same things to the Philippian Church in Phil 4.4. Only this time he says “Rejoice in the Lord always” … and here we have revealed to us, the
SOURCE of praise… The Lord Jesus.
If you look for the dictionary definition of the word REJOICE, you will discover that it means to “find joy in” which is exactly what Paul means. We are asked to find joy in all things, and of course Paul implies that this is made all the more possible when we find joy in the Lord. To find things, we have to look! Jesus said “seek and you will find”. Our problem is that we rarely look for the best or the better things in our circumstances of life. Someone has said, when you can’t see the bright side, you should polish the dull side!
The story is told of a young Ministry Student at Seminary who was always walking around saying “Praise the Lord” Praise the Lord, to the point where it was beginning to annoy the other students, all of whom were struggling with assignments and duties, and often found it hard to praise. One morning just before breakfast, this praising guy arrived in the dining room, looking rather down-cast and sad, not his usual cheerie, bubbly self! He stood quietly by the window, looking out at the wind and rain beating against the glass, and as yet he hadn’t said “Praise the Lord” once! Then he seemed to see what he was looking for, and spun around saying “Praise the Lord it’s not always like this!”
Do you see it, do you see what he was doing, he was looking for something in that dreary day that he could praise God for. He was “giving thanks in all circumstances” not thanking God FOR the storm, but thanking God IN the storm! You and I must learn to do the same thing. If we can see Gods Hand in our circumstances, we best leave our circumstances in Gods Hand! Understand that God is your hope and help and in Psalm 46, the Psalmist said, “a very present help. in times of trouble”. We could never fully enjoy our warm sunny days,
if we had not known cold frosty ones?
The hymn writer puts it this way, “God has not promised skies always blue, flower strewn pathways all our lives through, God has not promised sun without rain, joy without sorrow, peace without pain!
But God has promised strength for the day, rest for the labour, light for the way, grace for the trials, help from above, unfailing kindness, undying Love”
And Jesus said, Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28.20) He alone can be the source
of our praise, for he has given us His Holy Spirit to be with us and to live in us. He says: “Enter into the Joy of the Lord” Matthew 25.21.…. Which means that as believers we may enter, come into that joy. When we have truly repented of our sins, and trusted in Jesus as our Sin bearer and Saviour – the consequence is joy unspeakable and full of glory and the Hymn writer adds, “The half has never yet been told“! . There can be no joy, no peace no praise without the source, Jesus Himself. To know you have been pardoned, forgiven, and for ever called “not guilty” in the eyes of a Holy God, is truly a joyous thought to contemplate. Even when the world misunderstand you, criticize you or find fault in you, Jesus tells us to Praise Him through it all. Luke 6:23. Do you have this joy, do you have this song of praise in your heart and on your lips?
The apostle Paul in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, in Chapter 12, v9-10 says “most gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me, therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake for when I am weak then I am strong”. No-one enjoys infirmities, but Paul could see that there was a positive to be found among the negative. The Psalmist also continually speaks of joy in the midst of trouble. “Thou hast turned my mourning into dancing” says David as he dedicated his house in Psalm 30. Over and over in the Bible we find the words, “Rejoice, Thank God in everything” … but how can we do this, … what is the Secret?
While the SOURCE of our Praise is Jesus,
The Secret of Praise must surely be Relationship.
I firmly believe that understanding the relationship that is ours with God our Father in heaven, because of Jesus, will result in a Praise filled, an overflowing, and abundant life. May I say that 99.9% of your problems and mine, (including any health problems) stem from our misunderstanding of who we are in Christ, misunderstanding our identification as Sons and Daughters and not as Servants. For Servant-hood is not Son-ship, and the relationship is entirely different – and on this matter there is silence from many pulpits? Let us consider then what it really means to be a Son or Daughter of the King. I say King intentionally, because he is the King of Heaven, the King of Kings, the King of Glory and the King of Love, …. all titles ascribed to him in the Scriptures,… and the Bible says that we already posses a heavenly Royalty. In Christ we have become members of heavens Royal Family – Praise God for evermore!
So then our adoption as heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, Eph 3.6, Heb 1.2, and Jas 2.5 reminds us of 4 things – the special position, the special privileges, the special possessions and the special power God has granted to us as his Children and heirs. Being a Joint-Heir with Christ does not mean that we get half and he gets half of what Heaven offers, – NO! It means that whatever belongs to Jesus, belongs also
to us. AND “as HE is so are we in this world” (I John 4:17)
What a revelation this is – and how full our hearts would be
with Praise if we could but grasp its significance. We are not sons and daughters of the world, but sons and daughters of Heaven. There is a “king” in all of us, all we need is someone to help pull that “kingly” ability out of us, and encourage us to live like kings and not like beggars! And old Preacher used to tell me that if people knew who we were, they would lift their hats off to us? The Devil knows who we are, but as long as we don’t know who we are, he will take advantage of us every single day.
We have for too long had a blinkered vision of who God is, and what he can do in us, with us, through us and for us. We have put Him in a box or a category of our own making and manufacture. He is no greater than our expectations of him, he is limited to our understanding, and our spiritual perception. He is crippled by our lack of faith, and his hands often tied by our lack of prayer, and he can do no mighty work amongst us because of our lack of simple childlike trust! He says himself “my people are destroyed for lack of understanding.” (Hosea 4.6) Such a half-hearted relationship means that the Devil can hood-wink us into thinking that many and most of our problems are beyond Gods ability to solve! We meditate and reflect on the enormity of the problem, rather than on the omnipotence of our God. Instead we ought to be repeating and singing the little chorus … “God can do anything, – anything but fail”.
I remember some years ago, (before I came into this revelation about faith) I had made a 2 hour journey to pray with a sick woman who had been bed-ridden for more than 10 years. During the journey my heart was praising God both in prayer and in Song, and faith was welling up in my Spirit to believe God for a miracle of healing for this dear woman. But as soon as I entered the house and saw her, I looked at the impossibility of her condition, instead of looking to the God of every impossibility. (God forgive me) Immediately, the Devil planted a negative thought – “God cannot help her, she is beyond healing”- and in an instant all my expectations were gone, all hope evaporated, and all true faith flew out of the window. I did that woman a great disservice that day.
To my present shame (and my later sorrow) I had allowed myself to look at the Sickness instead of the Saviour. At that time my relationship with God was not what I hope it is today, and God has had to bring me through a difficult learning curve to get me to the place of unreserved surrender to His power and purpose. God has had to bring me out of Servant-hood, into Son-ship! Jesus says of Gods sons and daughters, that “if his word abides in them, (that is walking the word and working the word) – then they shall ask what they will, and it will be done for them, of their Father in Heaven” John 15.7. That is why the apostle Paul could write “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” Col 3.16. There it is, the Secret, the indwelling word, enriching, enabling and empowering us to live the life of Praise, a life of thanksgiving. This is not only the privilege of Son-ship, but of Kingship. Don’t allow the Devil to Lord it over you, take the authority that is yours in the WORD, and live successfully and victoriously in this world, remember you are not a citizen of the world, but a citizen of heaven!
Those who have discovered both the SOURCE and the SECRET of praise, will become strong in faith, and a STRENGTH to other believers.
So then let us consider in this last section, what I am calling
The Strength of Praise
The strength of praise is not visible in the praise itself, but in the consequences or results of the Praising Heart! The praising soul is an infectious soul. Enthusiasm and exuberance for God and the things of God and the word of God, rubs off on others. Their positive praising life-style is a shining example for others, and a bold witness to the unbeliever! This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said “you shall be my witnesses” as Luke records in Acts 1.8. Jesus was not commissioning the Church, the early Church to go and do witnessing, and many Churches now are running courses on the subject. Jesus wants us to be witnesses, not to do witnessing! He is more concerned with what we are than what we do, – but the doing often comes from the being! A Praising Heart makes an impact wherever you find it, and the world, especially today’s world, will certainly sit up and take notice of one who is continually and conspicuously praising God. Do you have an infectious impact around you
for Good and for God – Is this your testimony, is this mine?
Today’s Sermon is entitled “Power in Praise” and of course the Strength of Praise is Power, and the Power of Praise is strength. This is illustrated beautifully in the story we read earlier of Paul and Silas imprisonment in the book of Acts 16, v16-36. Paul and Silas had been flogged and put in prison for preaching the Gospel, and for casting out evil spirits, and they were in stocks in the inner, or most secure part of the prison. Luke tells us in Acts 16 that at Midnight, they were praying and began singing praises or hymns to God. This was not pretentious religion, this was a genuine expression of gratitude to God in the midst of trying and troubling circumstances, and it so moved the heart of God that I reckon HE decided to come down and inhabit their praises himself? God wanted in on this Party! Do you realize that while our Praises may move earth,
they can powerfully move heaven! Suddenly the ground shook, there was a great earth-quake under the prison, the doors flew open, and the chains of the incarcerated, fell off. The Jailer fearing for his life in the sudden realization that the prisoners may be escaping, drew his sword to commit suicide. Only the swift intervention of Paul stopped this, and when he realized that all were safe and well, he himself was baptised and his whole household, and Paul and Silas were released, to walk free.
This is the Power of Praise. Praise can open prison doors, it can set people free. There are many today in prison, in the prison of fear and anxiety, the prison of addiction and habits, the prison of loneliness and isolation, the prison of sickness and suffering and all of this can be broken off by the power of Praise. Praise can turn around the most difficult situation, and change the outlook and the future. Praise can heal your body and fix your broken home. God lives for and lives in the worship and praise of his children. Have you learned the power of praise in your life, can you testify to its great calming and sustaining effects? Praise is that vocal expression of faith that tells God “even though the provision is not yet visible, I praise you for it, and I receive it as mine.”
Let me tell you my story. Years ago when I was setting up “Foundation Ministries” and the Counselling centre in Armagh City, the Lord had provided us with accommodation for the centre and office, but as yet we had no furniture, only an empty tea chest which the decorators had used as a lunch table for their tea and sandwiches. I remember sitting on that empty box and thanking God that he was going to fill this room, these rooms, with the things we needed to carry on our ministry, even though I had no money and no hope of buying them! Exactly seven days later, the reception, the office, the kitchen, the dining area were all furnished, and I hadn’t spent or borrowed a penny.
Unknown to me a dear saintly Christian lady had just passed away, left to me the entire contents of her home. We used her living-room and kitchen furnishings, – swapped her beds and wardrobes for a desk, filing cabinets and bookcases for the office. Everything we needed was in place, and in response to a praying and praising heart God had moved both in heaven and on earth to supply the need. And God has been giving me miracles of provision ever since – every single day. Praise God!
Praise has the power to change your environment also. Begin today to thank God for the things you cannot see, yet you know God desires them for you. Thank him for new opportunities that will come your way, for fresh insights and wisdom into how you can help change things yourself. In spite of any aches and pains, thank him for wholeness and health already purchased
for you in Christ Jesus at Calvary. Thank him for victory and faith, and for grace to grow and mature in your Christian life. Begin today to cast your cares on Him, the things that have been worrying you, and then trust these things to his keeping and his wisdom, knowing that if you will acknowledge him
in all your ways, he will direct your paths. He’s promised!
Now this final word.
On the very first week of my full time ministry 38 years ago, on a Monday morning, my father, was admitted to hospital with a stroke. On the Tuesday night my Mother was admitted to another hospital with a Chest infection and a broken rib. The next day, Wednesday my Brother was admitted to yet a another different hospital with an adverse reaction to medication. Was there anything else that could go wrong in my life? Yes there was! On the Friday night of that same week, immediately following a Church Service where I was Preaching, we heard a crash outside in the street, and when we went out of the Church someone had driven straight into the front of MY car, causing hundreds of pounds worth of damage…. And as I went to prayer that evening I said “Lord, my Father, Mother, Brother and Car are all in hospital, how can I possibly praise you in all of this despair?” Suddenly the Holy Spirit, the spirit of son-ship within prompted me, “Praise God that YOU are not in Hospital!”
You see dear listener, there is no pit so deep but that Jesus Christ is deeper still. There is no need to look at the dirt, when you can look at the stars! And remember that when there is no earthly hope, there is always heavenly help. Praise God!
Thank you Jesus … Amen.