On Various Subjects
By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
Focus verses: Psalm 34:1. "I will bless the LORD at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth." I Thessalonians 5:16-18. "Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
Introduction: What a challenge it is to live our lives in the Praise Zone. Our text verses are easy to read, but hard to live! Why? Life is a struggle. Every day as believers in Jesus Christ, we contend with our fleshly selves, a godless culture, and Satan's attacks. If we are going to live in the Praise Zone, then we had better be ready to praise God in the tough times. We must learn about Tough Praise.
There's a Christian song that was written years ago and performed by Russ Taff, that describes the struggle that is often involved when praising God is not easy. Someone said that growing old is not for sissies. Living in the Praise Zone is not for sissies, it is not easy. Russ Taff's song Praise The Lord, is about Tough Praise. Notice the lyrics of this great song:
When you're up against a struggle, that shatters all your dreams. And your hope's been cruelly crushed, by Satan's manifested scheme. And you feel the urge within you, to submit to earthly fears. Don't let the faith your standing in, seem to disappear.
Praise the Lord! He can work through those who praise Him. Praise the Lord! For our God inhabits praise. Praise the Lord! For the chains that seem to bind you, serve only to remind you. That they drop powerless behind you, when you praise Him.
Now Satan is a liar, and he wants to make us think, that we are paupers, when he knows himself, we're children of the King. So lift up the mighty shield of faith, for the battle must be won. We know that Jesus Christ is risen, so the works already done.
Praise the Lord! He can work through those who praise Him. Praise the Lord! For our God inhabits praise. Praise the Lord! For the chains that seem to bind you, serve only to remind you, that they drop powerless behind you, when you praise Him.
This message is about Tough Praise. Anyone can praise the Lord when things are good, but what about the times when things are not so good? Can you praise the Lord in the tough times? Our focus passages speak of continual, uninterrupted praise to God. "I will bless the LORD at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth." "Rejoice evermore. In every thing give thanks."
Can we praise God when the going gets tough? It might encourage you to learn that others have! As I let my mind wander over the pages of God's Word, I retrieved several examples of Tough Praise to consider.
Tough Praise Testimonies
Tough praise testimony one: Job experiences life at it's worst. Have you ever said, "Things can't get any worse," and they do?" The story of Job is the ultimate "it can get worse" story! In a short period of time, Job lost everything that he treasured. He was a wealthy man. In those days, wealth was measured by servants, cattle and livestock. Job lost it all to thieves and fires! More important to Job, who was a godly man, was his relationships. He loved his children and family. Job's precious family was taken by a series of tragic events. We often hear it said that as long as we have our health, we have everything. Guess what? Job lost his health. Most important of all, Job lost his reputation, his standing in the community. Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, showed up to cross examine him, to discover what warranted such calamity! To his three amigos, the equation was simple enough. God blesses those who do good, and curses those who do bad! Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Obviously their friend Job, has hiding something from them! Job clung to his innocence and righteousness, but the suspicion of wrong doing among his friends and in his community was obvious.
Job hit bottom, cursing the day he was born! We see Job's humanity and weakness throughout the book. If this was a test from God (and it was), then Job did not get everything right, but there was one thing he did manage to do. Job kept his relationship with the Lord unspoiled. When experiencing life at it's worst, Job praised the Lord. Job I:20-22 says, "Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." Job asked the question, "Who am I to take the good from God's hand, and not receive the bad?" Instead of asking, "Why me?" Job asked, "Why not me?" Job ended up praying for his friends who had hurt him, and never stopped praising the Lord.
Tough praise testimony two: Eli suffers the consequences of his failure as a parent, as well as the moral failures of his children. Parenting is a humbling experience. As parents, we love our children, but when we love, we open ourselves to pain and deep hurts. Jesus was the perfect Son, yet Mary was told that her relationship to Him would bring a sword that would pierce her heart.
This passage is one of those painful moments in the life of a parent. Eli was a faithful priest, but a failure as a parent in that he was too lenient. His two sons, Hophni and Phinehas were a disgrace, bringing shame to their father, and damaging the credibility of the priesthood.
God brought judgment upon Eli and his family. Oddly enough, the message of God's judgment was delivered by a little boy named Samuel. In the midst of the night, God spoke not to Eli, but to the child Samuel. Eli helped Samuel recognize God's voice and respond to His message. The message however turned out to be more of a burden than a blessing to young Samuel. God informed Samuel that his guardian, mentor, and father in the Lord, was soon to reap a bitter harvest. The last thing Samuel wanted to do was share this message with Eli! Eli left him no choice! I Samuel 3:15-18 reads, "And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the LORD. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision. 16 Then Eli called Samuel, and said, Samuel, my son. And he answered, Here am I. 17 And he said, What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me: God do so to thee, and more also, if thou hide any thing from me of all the things that he said unto thee. 18 And Samuel told him every whit, and hid nothing from him. And he said, It is the LORD: let Him do what seemeth Him good." We gain respect and learn from Eli as he responds to God's bad news. This good man did not get angry or bitter at God, but instead he accepted His judgment as just and right. It was in Eli's quiet spirit of acceptance of God's judgment, that he offered his praise to God.
Tough praise testimony three: David faces the terror of a king made crazy by jealousy and hatred. David spent years as a young man running from a mad man. David had the promise of greatness on his life, and it was because of that promise that Saul was jealous of him and hated him. Not everyone was influenced by King Saul however. There were plenty who believed in David's future and were willing to follow him to the ends of the earth.
In I Samuel 30, David takes refuge in a place called Ziklag. One day while he and his warriors were away, the Amalekites took advantage of his absence, and raided Ziklag, taking spoil, including family members. Upon returning, David and company were overcome by the loss. But then a strange thing happened. Even though David suffered the loss of family in the raid (including his two wives), his fellow comrades turned on him in vengeance, blaming him for their troubles. It is one thing to take the unjust anger of a mad king, but another thing to suffer at the hands of your friends, especially when you are grieving over your own loss! Those closest to you, can say some very hurtful things, when they are hurting! Be careful what you say when you are in the midst of pain and suffering. Words hurt and are remembered!
What a difficult situation! Where do you turn? David turned to the Lord. I Samuel 30:6 says, "And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God." David could have acted in kind toward the Lord. After all, it was the Lord through the prophet Samuel who visited his father's home that day and anointed him as the next king of Israel. He had been content to shepherd his father's sheep! It was God who had transformed his pastoral life, into a war zone! Instead, David took refuge in God. Just what David said to God is hidden from us. All we know is that David was encouraged in his conversation with the Lord. David chose to live in the Praise Zone!
Tough praise testimony four: Paul and Silas are imprisoned and beaten for fulfilling God's commandment and call upon their lives. We have all heard the story of the jailhouse rock. As Paul and Silas were in Philippi, they encountered a possessed slave girl, who was being used by her owners for profit. When Paul grew irritated by her incessant cries, he cast the demonic spirit out of her in the name of Jesus. This was good news for the girl, as well as for our evangelistic team, but it was bad news for her owners. They lost their "cash cow," so to speak.
This good deed brought severe persecution upon Paul and Silas, who were soon beaten, cast into prison, and placed in stocks. Now what do you do? Paul and Silas had every right to throw a pity party, but instead, they threw a praise party! Acts 16:23-25 reads, "And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. 25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them." Here we learn that praise is warfare! Don't you love that phrase in verse 25a. "And at midnight," or "But at midnight?" Satan was having his way, having his day, with these faithful servants of the Lord, but at midnight, the tide began to turn! When did it turn? It turned when Paul and Silas entered the Praise Zone!
When things looked the darkest, in a spirit of victory, as God's overcomers, Paul and Silas chose to reflect on who they were "in Christ." They began to sing praises to God, right there in prison. Praise is a powerful force against the enemy, because God inhabits the praises of His people. God showed up and that jailhouse began to rock!
Something happens when we praise God, especially when we are going through a really tough time. When we choose to enter the Praise Zone, no matter what the circumstance, God tears down the walls of the prison built up around us, and loosens the shackles of doubt and fear. Praise God at the midnight hour! No matter how you feel, no matter what is coming down, God is worthy of our praise. God always responds to the praises of His people.
When tough times come, and they always do, we have a choice. We can choose to dwell in the darkness and despair, becoming angry or bitter, or we can choose to live in the Praise Zone. Are we going to listen to the voice of our flesh, or the voice of God's Holy Word and Spirit? Will we use our minds to review the injustice, the pain and suffering in our lives, our will we use our minds to recall God's promises and our changeless position "in Christ?" Will we open our mouths in complaint, or in praise?
Choosing praise, we turn our thoughts away from the pain and problems at hand, to consider all God has promised to us. II Corinthians 4, Paul verbalizes this choice to turn our hearts and minds toward praise. Listen to him in II Corinthians 4:8-9. He says, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." Do you see the conscious choice Paul makes in these verses? It is not that he ignores his present situation, he simply chooses not to live at that address!
Paul goes on to identify his suffering as an opportunity to participate or share in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Verse 10 says, "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." Jesus Himself said that the servant is not above his master. Paul had inflected his share of pain and suffering on the followers of Jesus Christ as a lost man. It was no doubt redeeming for Paul to take some of the same medicine he had dished out!
Jesus Himself said that when we give to the least of His children, we are giving to Him. The apostle Paul in the same sense is sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Christ. In Colossians 1:24 speaks of the sufferings or afflictions that are left behind by Jesus Christ. As believers, we ought to consider it a privilege to suffer hardship and pain for the sake of the gospel!
Then in verses 17-18, Paul reveals the address of his choice! He compares his present temporary situation, to the eternal reward what awaits every child of God! He says, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."
What are the tough times and situations facing you today? Perhaps the answer to that question is another question. Which tough praise testimony speaks to your heart and life? Is it Job? Has injustice, financial problems, or health problems silenced your praise? Is it is Eli? Has the pain of rejection from a child or parent silenced your praise? It could be David? Has man's judgment on your life silenced your praise? What about Paul and Silas? Have trials and problems associated with living your life for Jesus Christ silenced your praise? Perhaps it is all of the above! Right now make your choice to turn your pain, failure, disappointment, loss into praise. Remember, God inhabits our praise!