Sacrifice of Praise

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Praising God when times of difficulty are upon me is challenging. My emotions and thoughts are sometimes speaking louder than God’s voice. When circumstance and doubt shine brighter than the reality I know to be true I am disconcerted, terrified and confused. I know God loves me. He takes care of the birds. God provides all my needs according to his riches. How is it then that what I see and feel doesn’t match what I believe?

The Psalmist writes: “I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened.He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud.He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this:they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God.”
Psalm 40:1-3 (MSG)

Over the past year I have had moments where I thought my life had little purpose or I had lost faith in thinking that God had a plan or even cared. These thoughts really got me down. I wasn’t especially depressed or anything like that. I was being human. It sounds somewhat melodramatic now, but it felt real at the time. I certainly had a sense of guilt and confusion as if the Lord was disappointed in me. But that guilt is not from God. Confusion is not from God. In His presence is the fullness of joy! There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.

Why was I feeling this way? Paul answers the question for me. He writes in Romans 7:19, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice”. This was bang on. I think this refers to a conflict endemic to mankind – the conflict that I could feel within myself! How do I bridge the gap between the spiritual and the carnal. Between the heart of Jesus, and the mind of man? Paul helped me see that the disconnect between what was happening in my mind and seeing what the heart of the Lord was. They were out of sync.

Ever heard that phrase ‘sacrifice of praise’? It comes from Hebrews 13:15 “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name”. Through these experiences I learnt that praising God is the best way to get out of a bad mindset. I was always taught by my mother that to give a ‘sacrifice of praise’ to the Lord in the moments when you really don’t feel like giving thanks. This has stuck with me and I’ve found it to be of great help.

A sacrifice of praise helps me out in two ways. Firstly, I remind myself of my identity – which is crucial. It helps me remember where I stand before God: Who am I?  – ‘I am a child of God’ (Galatians 3:26); What’s defines me? ‘I am the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Secondly, it reminds me of who God is – which is massively important! Knowing that it’s not all about me is really liberating! I listen to worship songs and remind myself of the times God has come through for me in the past. Sometimes just like the Israelites in the desert I suffer from short-term memory loss, and the stupidity of self-centredness. But God is faithful! He never leaves me nor forsakes me! His “never leaving nor forsaking me” is a product of God just being who he is. It’s me who has to change! Truly knowing this comes only when I re-orientate myself through praise, and recognise that he is at the centre.

Reminding myself of who God really is and giving thanks for that has often, in moments of despair, seemed counter-intuitive or even pointless. But it’s at these moments that I grow and learn to depend on God’s faithfulness and love more than ever. As a result, I find my mindset often changed. By offering my sacrifice of praise I start seeing, with faith, God’s spiritual reality replacing my earthly mentality.

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