Have you ever had the urge to just break out in song? It may have been inspired by a beautiful morning, or the check that arrived in the mail, or the phone call from a best friend. You felt like shouting something that Handel would have written, something that would praise God from the depths of your being.
You didn’t, of course, because you didn’t want people to think that you were a fanatic, or crazy or on drugs, and besides, it isn’t natural to sing like that, right? Right! It isn’t natural; it is supernatural.
When Paul and Silas sat in a Roman prison at Philippi, their feet in stocks, their back stinging from the cut of lashes, they began to sing with joy. Let’s face it to sing in the face of tough circumstances just isn’t the natural thing to do; it’s supernatural, or above the natural trend of circumstances. When you are trouble like Paul was in, you want to cry, not sing; yet in this incident which took place long ago in a Roman prison, there is a great lesson, a guideline for living for us today.
You can read about Paul’s situation in Acts 16. Whether lifting his voice in song was a spontaneous outburst or a reasoned commitment, an act of worship, I leave to your discretion. I, for one, believe that Paul didn’t much feel like singing, yet as a conscious act of the will, he made a decision to lift his voice in a sacrifice of praise; and when anyone makes that sacrifice, his spirits are lifted and the joy of the Lord floods his heart.
The writer of Hebrews focused on this very act of thanksgiving and praise when he said, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
When you face difficult circumstances, you come to a fork in the road. One option is the natural one complain, grumble, and let everyone know that you are displeased with the way you have been treated. The second option is to realize that no matter how difficult the situation, God can bring joy and gladness out of it.
One of our listeners learned this lesson through bitter trials. She told how her husband walked out on her, leaving behind five children. Within a year her oldest son, then 17, had become an alcoholic. A second turned to drugs, and she turned to the Lord. She writes, “As I had no one to lean on then, I fell back on God, praying, hoping. I kept reminding myself this is just a night, stormy though it seems. This too shall pass and the day will dawn eventually. Now five years after, the dawn has gloriously arrived! My son is healed, and the other never became dependent, and the other children are now happy and well adjusted. With the help of God, all of us as a family have triumphed, and in the process God has met our needs, materially, financially, emotionally.”
Did the husband come back? No. Did God answer her prayers? Yes, but in a different way from what she expected. He didn’t deliver her from all of her problems, but He met her in them; and that, friend, is what produces joy.
Why is it that the writer of Hebrews referred to praise as a sacrifice? Because, at times, it is just that. Take time to make a study of the life of David, and you will quickly identify with the difficulties which he faced; yet he learned that through praise and worship, we rise above those difficulties. Make a note of Psalm 71 where David talks about his afflictions and yet says, “But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” The sacrifice of praise is amply rewarded.
Resource Reading: Acts 16:22-40
Text: Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise the fruit of lips that confess his name. Hebrews 13:15
GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – June 16, 2017