This week was my birthday! Though I am probably much too old for this, I really love birthdays - my own, and everyone else’s, too. It is a particularly easy day to feel so grateful for life, for family, for the beautiful spring trees and flowers blooming everywhere along the roadsides, and just for the goodness of God. I pray that as you read this, you are experiencing such a day of peace and gratitude.
But I know that some of you are having a very different kind of day altogether. Sometimes our circumstances and the situations in which we find ourselves make it excruciatingly difficult to feel very grateful for anything at all.
I am particularly mindful today of our friends, Collin and Kim, who have been given some very difficult news about their soon-to-be-born son. I would love to invite all of you reading this to join so many of us who are praying for this little boy. Jesus said to ask, seek, and knock, and He encouraged those of us who follow Him to pray and ask for God‘s hand to move. So we do just that, and ask for God to strengthen this baby’s heart, and for doctors and nurses alike to be so surprised at the health and vigor of this precious young man on his birthday.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.
The Bible says that we are to bring a sacrifice of praise to God. There is an old chorus inspired by this verse that we used to sing in our church, and I have a vague memory of wondering exactly what it meant to bring a sacrifice of praise. To my young and untested self, who had at that point lived such a sheltered and easy life, the best I could imagine was just a sleepy round of praise, because we had stayed up so late the night before as college ministers.
Of course, now I have lived much more life, and I think I better understand what it means to give praise to God that is also a sacrifice. A sacrifice is defined as an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. To give God praise that is a sacrifice means to glorify God with our hearts and lips even in times of great trial and trouble and uncertainty. It is to trust and thank God, even when we feel so afraid and even angry, and would like to hold on to those emotions. We can praise and express our gratitude to Him, no matter what our feelings or the circumstances of our lives are at any given moment.
-It means that even in times of terrible and confusing sickness we can praise the Lord because He is good regardless what is happening in my body.
-It means that when relationships are complicated, even unimaginable, we can praise the Lord because He is kind and faithful even when none of the rest of us are.
-It means that when infertility or failed pregnancies occur, or when our children are suffering, we can praise the Lord, because He is unfailingly compassionate and comforting.
-It means that when people we love become sick, or even die, we can praise the Lord because His love endures forever.
-It means that when people we thought were friends betray us or slander us, we can praise the Lord, because He is just and true.
-It means that when all of the comforts and sureties of life fail, or are taken away, we can praise the Lord because He alone is our firm foundation.
No matter what, we can bring our praise to the Lord, even - and especially - when it is a sacrifice.
J. Oswald Sanders in his book Spiritual Maturity says that we moderns too often equate blessing with comfort. When we have everything we want and things are going our way, it is easy to remember that God is good and cares for us. But we have made the grave error of equating physical or material comfort with the love of God. If things are uncomfortable or not going our way, we sometimes feel that He must be angry at us or giving us the cold shoulder. But God is not like that. God does not love us when…, or as long as…, or if…; God loves us, period. And He is worthy of praise in good times and bad.
As followers of Jesus, we must remember that there is a much bigger picture to keep in mind - an eternal picture. Romans 8:28 reminds us that "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
This is a powerful truth that we must remember. When we love God and trust Him and give our lives towards His purposes, we can rest assured that no matter what happens, God will use it for His glory and for our good. Suffering is not for nothing. Discomfort is not for nothing. We can trust that God will use all of the things that we go through to help us become more like Jesus and to help others know Him. We may not understand everything that happens at the time, but we can still bring a sacrifice of praise, because we know that God is good. And we know that eternity with Him will make all of these momentary difficulties make sense.
I pray that this week, whether you are rejoicing or in sorrow, you will find sweet rest and comfort in the presence of our wonderful God. May your joy spread like wildfire to those around you, and may your sorrows draw you closer and closer to our loving Savior.
PS - during spring cleaning this year, clear out a little space in your bookshelf for something new coming very soon!
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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