Saturday, July 19, 2014
July 19 – God’s invitation to enjoy Him
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100 ESV)
What comes to mind when you hear the words “praise and worship the Lord?” In churches around the country you can find a wide variety of worshippers enjoying lively performances and catchy tunes. Among them are: sincere believers who want nothing more than to praise their Lord and seek a deep relationship with Him, somewhat sincere believers who love to sing praises but aren’t interested in any correction from God, half-hearted church-goers who really like the cool band and hope to get to know the good looking date opportunities on the other side of the room, and absolute hypocrites who want to impress everyone with their superior spirituality for mere personal gain.
So in light of that, delete any preconceived ideas you may have of what praise is supposed to be. True praise can only come from a true worshipper, and only you and God can know the motives and desires of your own heart.
C.S. Lewis, who became a Christian after years of atheism, dove deeply into studying the Psalms. He wanted to know what God expected of him when he prayed. He had no problem with prayers of thanks, or of confessing sins. He regularly interceded for others and made requests of God. But the type of prayer that was the hardest for him was praise. He found that the Bible was constantly encouraging us to praise God. Many times a day, every day, and without fail. It was a command.
Does that mean God is egotistical? Not in the least. Lewis discovered that God is showing us one direct way to participate in all the beauty and wonder and amazement of His presence and His goodness. When we praise Him we learn to enjoy Him. When we focus on all He is and has done, we stop looking at the small finite things of our limited lives, and begin to expand our minds to see His infinite power and love and mercy towards us.
Praising Him can heal us of our fears and worries, because we are looking to Him and not at ourselves. Psalm 34 says, “delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Delighting, enjoying, celebrating and magnifying Him with our mouths, with shouts, with a joyful noise, is a powerful spiritual experience. Praise demands that we become humble and recognize Him as far superior to us. We are sheep in His pasture, and grateful for it! Without humility, true joy is impossible. Without praise on our lips, a bond with God is also impossible.
Praise is a natural part of our everyday lives. We enjoy spreading the news of a great movie, a great bargain, a good restaurant, a funny story. We tell whoever will listen all about the things our children have done. Facebook and Twitter sing the praises of our friendships and families with each picture and comment we post. Praising each other draws us closer to those we care about, and we don’t think twice about it.
So what does it say when we struggle to mouth a few words of praise to the God we claim to believe in? When we’re embarrassed to sing to Him or raise our voices to heaven? It shows that the most natural things that we do for the very flawed people we love, we can barely bring ourselves to do for the One who loved us so dearly that He gave His life for us. If we really knew and loved Him, praise would naturally flow. If we want to learn to love Him, we need to begin to praise, even when we don’t yet feel we can do it well.
“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . . The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” (C.S. Lewis Reflections on the Psalms)