Sermons. The power of praise

Praise is a delight. The Bible tells us that worthless things delight this world so often. We can see this truth in our lives — somebody is delighted by wealthiness, somebody idolizes somebody and so on. We can’t stay without being delighted because God created us with this characteristic.

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Sergey Koudrin

All that God has created is amazed by Him.  Do we share this excitation with all creation?  What is our position in this undertaking?  The Bible tells us that praise has great power. 

The Bible verse that we are looking at today is Jonah 2:3-10.  “…But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord."

In the human world people constantly give promises.  And it is very important that everything what we had promised, we would fulfill.  What did we vow to God in the moment of our inspiration, what did we pledge to Him and how much did we carry out?  No doubt, it is important for a man to be a “man of his word”.   

There are a few aspects of praise what are very important for us:

Praise is a delight.  The Bible tells us that worthless things delight this world so often.  We can see this truth in our lives - somebody is delighted by wealthiness, somebody idolizes somebody and so on.  We can’t stay without being delighted because God created us with this characteristic.  So often small and meaningless things amaze us.  The Bible tells,  “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away”.  We spend so much time and energy for these useless things.   What will delight our hearts and what will amaze us?  We, as Christians, can lose the possibility to be delighted, we can fall under the influence of the disease “nothing amazes me” and like many others fail to see God’s mercy what come to us through other people.   We become so used to them, we feel indifference to them and we became consumers, although the Bible urges us to be thankful always and everywhere.  Jesus told: “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." (Matthew 10:42)  Even the simplest things that we do like a cup of cold water have meaning for our God and hold His attention.  Would we be able to have a similar sight on what God does in our life and in the lives of our neighbors?  Would we be able to give His help to people in very insignificant events or would our delight be kept by this world with its treasures? 

Paul told in the beginning of his letter to the Romans about how dangerous it could be for people to stay away from praising God.  He told: font-family: Arial;“because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  (Romans 1:21)  The failure in their thoughts is the direct result of lack of knowledge of the praise due Him.  In continuing this discussion, Paul was speaking: “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”  And as the result of this: “… knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:23-24; 32)  Working as a pastor, once I asked a man: Had he ever thanked God for the life that he had?  That man was very surprised by my question.  He had never even thought that his life could be a gift.  His heart was darkened.  The book of Jonah opens for us the significance of how praise could be born in our hearts.  It is not our training or spiritual decisions to act like that.

   Our praise is the result of our knowledge of the Lord.  It is not a specific or other psychological method.  This is the natural result of knowing how much God has done for me.  The better I know Him, the more and more I want to glorify Him. 

But very often, if not always, the knowledge of Him will not come to us in the simple and usual circumstances of our life.  The Bible tells us that Christ was suffering during His time on the Earth.   So this knowledge is related to a suffering too.  Jonah had a difficult situation that the Bible tells us about.  He was God’s prophet, made a vow to Him and then he received an order from the Lord.  But in some difficult moments of his life he wasn’t able to carry them out.  He fell.  Is it familiar to us?  During moments of our excitement a man could vow to God to love his wife or a wife could promise to obey her husband as master.  In such moments of inspiration we could say I will serve You…I will love…I will be strong…I will fight with sin…I won’t leave…and so on.   They are very good words, indeed, but, God sees everything.  Once, one of my daughters told her younger sister in their conversation: “God writes everything in His book.”  She told this so innocently and naturally.  Indeed, the Bible tells us that we will be asked for every word what we had spoken. 

  We promise a lot to God like Jonah.   He promised something and God started to work for the answer.  But Jonah had changed his mind already by that time.  As a result, Jonah was caught in the storm, not just him, but the people around him also.  This happens with our neighbors and loved ones also, because of us – we change our mind and don’t want to keep our promises.   Paul told – “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison”  (2 Corinthians 4: 17Even when we suffer we can give God a chance to continue His work towards our goals.  Jonah’s situation shows us some very interesting lessons – God was there in his problems - being in trouble, being thrown into the sea and eaten by a whale.  Jonah was very close to God, he prayed and God answered him.  Being in the stomach of the fish Jonah finally obeyed God’s will.  It didn’t happen when he was released from that imprisonment.  No, Jonah’s understanding of the God came to him when he was probably in the midst of the most difficult time.  It looks so much like our life.  We see how close He is to us when we have the biggest troubles, the most excruciating pain…this is the knowledge of Him too.  What Jesus told us: "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46)  If we thank God for only the good things, what is so special in that?   It would be very bad for us if we stayed ungrateful.  The Bible tells us that we should glorify Him also when we suffer and often we suffer more then we have joy.  Moses spoke of the same things in Psalms 90:10.  How do we react to the real life? 

We praise Him, but when do we do this?  What circumstances do we do this in?  What makes us so thankful?   The Bible instructs us that our glory to God should be the result of our personal knowledge of Him.  

Paul told in the letter to the Hebrews:” But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings…For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one”.  (Hebrews 10:32-34)  What is this – is it a normal state?   Again, in Psalm 63 the author had troubles when he wrote this poetry, but suffering, he didn’t argue with his Creator, he didn’t throw stones toward heaven.   He prayed and looked for Him, he asked for His grace and strength.  As he became stronger, he found His grace and his presence.  He glorified God although he still had difficulties. 

  Praise is an offering.  ” But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD."  (Jonah 2:9)  Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15)  Life is full with unpleasant events for us.  The Bible tells us that God would like that we praise Him constantly and when we do this in such conditions they become our sacrifice.

A sacrifice is a return.  During the Old Testament when a man brought his offering he gave it without receiving something back.   A sacrifice is always a loss.  Like Jesus:” as it is written, "HE SCATTERED ABROAD, HE GAVE TO THE POOR, HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURES FOREVER." (2 Corinthians 2:2)  He gave himself to people, his life to us, but he got back something.  We too, giving away, we receive heaven’s treasure that we can’t see on Earth’s life by our eyes.    Having said that our praise is an offering, we have to point out what it could be.  What is our motivation for praise?  He wants that we glorify Him unprofitably.  Not because for, … but because of …HE is worthy.  He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  If something happened as the result of our prayers, this is just a result.  It should be the reason to praise Him.  He is worthy. 

Praise is unprofitable.   We always give away and lose something.   It is written: “From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease”.(Psalm 8:2)  Is it possible that infants would have  reason to praise Him?  Of course not.  They are just infants.  They can’t think and give an assessment.  God did this to show us that we do not need a reason for praising Him.   In the end of the Book of Psalms is written:” Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 150:6)   Dear friends, if everything praises Him, where will be our voice?  Will part of that wonderful song be our praise too, together with visible and invisible worlds, with seas and sky, with angels and cherubs? 

Praise gives the power to complete our promises.  It is a very important part of our personality that we would keep our promises.  The Bible told that a man who “… keeps his oath and does not change…may dwell on Your holy hill” (Psalm 15)  When we lift up our voices and hands with praise during our difficulties, we can obtain the strength for to finish our actions.   The author of Psalm 63 said: “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips”.  (Psalm 63:5)  The marrow and fatness are the symbols of fullness.  When we praise God we become full and able to continue our acts even when we do not have enough power. 

  Quiet often, we pay too much attention to the hostile world that surrounds us.   We spend so much time worry about our flesh and think too much about our temper and other ambiguous fillings.   When we do that, we become internally blind.  The Bible offers us the strategy of praise: to take away the most important food from our enemy – our attention to them.  Flesh and lust try to catch our souls, and the sinful world tries our numbness toward sin.  We are dead to sin, the Bible told us.  But sometimes, we are like the actors of horror movies, like resurrected corpses.  This is an unpleasant picture.    The Bible tells us that we live in the presence of sin, but we are free from its power.  Lets take away from our enemy – our flesh, the devil and sin – their food, our attention to them.  The Apostle Paul told:” For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. (Romans 7:18)  A man moves forward very simply – if he falls down, repents and leaves it alone, and continues to move forward.  We fall when we feed our lusts, thinking about them.  The Bible gave us direction of where to look and what to think about  – our Heavenly Father.  We should be amazed by His person, should praise and glorify Him. 

When these things had happened to Jonah, he fulfilled his vows, and he was very successful.  Nineveh repented.  The people prayed and fasted and asked God for forgiveness and they found it.  Jonah’s praise led him to his success. 

Dear friends – our praise leads us to success.  We can see this very obviously in the Book of Acts.  Here is the situation when Paul and Silas were taken to prison.  (Acts 16:25)  What did they do there?  They praised God.  This is the most appropriate place – a very unpleasant situation when you can give praise to God.  “…and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened” (Acts16:26)  It was a very unusual earthquake – with very selective action!  Having seen that, the jailer and his family came to God.   Look what praise had created – glorifying Him set not just Paul and Silas free but everybody else in that prison.  The Holy Spirit gives this example, wanting from us that our praise would shake the foundation of the prisons where many people who do not yet know Christ are being kept.   Sometimes, we can also be prisoners of sin.  Praise can lead us to our victory and release God’s power for us to be successful.   Any church that is powerful in praise will be victorious in leading people to God’s Kingdom, for opening the door of salvation to anybody who doesn’t yet know Christ, for restoring Christians who have failed.

  Now is the time when the Church should raise it’s voice with praise and glory to her Almighty Father instead of crying and sighing.  As a Christian, start praising God and begin to show those around you, that the power of God would shake the earth around them and the fear of God would fill them, that many doors would be opened and that the shackles would fall from many, releasing them from sin.   This is God’s call to His children, and let our hearts be open to His voice, that we would draw close to Him, praising Him in all circumstances surrounding us, completing our vow to Him seeing what God promised to fulfill in us.