The Power Of Praise
Featuring Steven Fry Posted on January 26, 2009
The great enemy of praise, and the root of complaining, is unbelief. One of the reasons God so abhorred the murmuring of Israel was that He knew it would engender a “culture of complaint.” It seems so harmless to grumble about life’s inconveniences like the neighbor’s dog, the stock market’s dip, or the boss’s surly attitude. Little comments mumbled under our breath like these almost seem therapeutic in a way. At least we have “gotten it off our chest.” At least we have externalized our emotions rather than internalizing them.
But complaining leads to frustration, rudeness, and impatience. In fact, impatience seems to feed off the tiny little complaints we spew. Complaining seems to reinforce the realities by which we are frustrated. We become rude, irritable, self-focused. And ultimately imprisoned by the feelings of confinement, powerlessness, and discouragement that grumbling tends to reinforce. But God invites us to praise Him, because it frees us. For to praise Him is to affirm His control over the world. And ,if He is in control, why worry? Praise is the recognition of His sovereignty, which infuses our lives with joy unspeakable.
Praise opens us to wisdom. When the Psalmist summons us to praise God because He is in control of all things, he is drawing a relationship between our praise and the recognition of God’s sovereignty. If we truly believe that He holds the whole world in His hands, then we’ll be more apt to praise and thank Him. The converse is true as well. If I find my praises mute or catch myself “stumbling over my grumbling”, it may signal that somewhere I have lost my confidence in God. Perhaps seduced by a cultural mindset that puts such a high premium on free choice that, over time and very subtly, I have come to believe that my freedom is greater than God’s power.
We want to believe in God’s overriding control, but often feel vulnerable to others’ bad choices. If only our employer hadn’t done that, if only our spouse hadn’t done this, and so forth. This is especially true when it comes to our bad choices. We feel disqualified because of repeated sins and bad judgments.
“Just praise me,” the Lord would say, “And see if I don’t reveal the ways of my sovereignty. Praise me and see if I don’t ‘make sense out of life’ to you.” Indeed, He does work all things together for good (Rms. 8:28). God’s invitation to us to praise Him in all things, to rejoice and again rejoice, is an open invitation to wisdom! Complaining shuts us off from this wisdom. Thus life seems to be random and we often feel victimized by others’ actions and choices, which seem to retard our game plan and jeopardize our joy.
Praise opens us to faith. To praise God is to recognize that He is in absolute control. Others’ choices cannot keep us from our destiny. Even our wrong choices cannot keep us from our destiny as long as we “come into the light”, repent of them and go on. In fact, it’s not our bad choices that keep us from our destiny, but rather blindness to God’s redeeming power! Remember, to say that God is our Redeemer is to say that what has been lost. The missed opportunity, the lost time, the broken relationship, can be recovered. Not always in the ways we expect, but always in ways that remind us that our ultimate destiny in Him cannot be jeopardized, if we stay tender to His grace.
Praise opens our eyes to where God is already working, and makes us spiritually alert. Just as caffeine seems to “waken us”, so praise stimulates our spiritual senses. Complaining is a downer. There may be a short, momentary pleasure in it. But, like an addict on drugs, the long-term affect dulls us spiritually. Praise heightens our sensitivity, opens us up to creativity, and renders us alert to the whispers of God. So, when in doubt, praise.