It can be easy sometimes to allow the circumstances of life to become what leads us, we react to life instead of live proactively, instead of living in and on purpose. This is especially true when things aren’t going to plan and there seems to be more chaos surrounding you than there were tears in the audience when Kelly Clarkson sang ‘Piece by piece’ on American Idol the other night. How do you smile when you just want to crumble? How do you sing and have joy when life is hard? How do you genuinely rejoice when your heart is heavy? Is it ever the wrong time to have joy and praise?
How long O Lord will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions! (Psalm 35:17)
When its the wrong time
Life never stops and it certainly never waits for us to have everything sorted, even when things are going well, the reality of life being uncertain and unstable looks on like an awkward bystander trying to interrupt you. King David had his fair share of trouble and trials, there was always, so it seemed, an enemy at the gate, someone pursuing his life or a battle to fight. He describes this one time as though lions were surrounding him!
Surely this would qualify as the wrong time, right?
When it’s wrong, it’s right.
One thing David knew more than most, was that carrying joy and pause and worship was imperative all of the time. There was never a time when it was not right or fitting to have praise, Paul said, rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice’. BUT HOW? How can I actually be that person, how do I actually cultivate that kind of attitude and perspective? The key is in David’s next few lines…
I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you. (Psalm 35:18)
Two keys to Unhindered Praise
If you love Jesus and follow him then I believe you desire to have praise and gratitude as your default setting despite what happens around you. You know what God has done for you, you know he loves you, you know he is deserving of all honor and glory… But too often we let life circumstances determine our level of gratitude instead of letting the Gospel determine it. Focus on the Gospel lifts your perspective above current ‘lions’ and trouble. There are two keys revealed here by David as to how he kept his perspective heavenly and his praise flowing freely:
Where David have thanks fueled his capacity to keep giving thanks. David was a man committed to being in the midst of the congregation and the mighty throng. He was a church going man! Some people quickly let go of church attendance when issues come up in life but David was committed to gathering with the people of God. But not just any gathering, it was the congregation. This word talks of the official meeting, the designated place for the people to come and worship at the temple. Worshiping God in your daily life is important, as Jesus put it, in spirit and in truth, but being in church is imperative to the health of your soul. You are part of a body, you need to stay connected. You are part of a family, you have a place. You are a branch n th vine, disconnection is spiritually life threatening. It’s in the meeting place, in the church, in the service, that our hearts are stirred by the presence of God to carry praise and gratitude in the midst of lifes challenges. The life of Christ is in the body of Christ, commit to being a church person, she may not be perfect (yet) but she is what Jesus died and is coming back for.
2. Give Thanks & praise will follow
David points out that he will give thanks to God first, I will thank you in the congregation he said. Thanking God causes you to remind yourself of what you have to be thankful for; Jesus!
Gratitude is a practice you make, not just an emotion you feel
Thanks is something you give more than something you feel. Giving thanks is the practice of reflection that is becoming a lost art. To actually take time to pause and ponder, recounting in your mind all the reasons you do have to say thank you to God.
Praise the Lord O my soul and forget not all his benefits… (Psalm 103)
In order to get your soul into praise you need to not forget all the Lord has done for you and all the incredible benefits we have In Christ. The way you do this is to actively recall what God has done and give Him thanks. In a sense, this is what it means to meditate on the Gospel, and as you begin to give thanks, genuine joyful praise will flow out of your heart as a natural repsonse to the goodness and faithfulness of God’s heart towards you. He’s the Father that loves you and will indeed never leave you or forsake you. If you struggle to give praise, if it’s hard to sing joyfully and genuinely to God in church, start with thanks and keep thanking him for all the benefits you have in Christ and praise is bound to follow – even if you are surrounded lions, thanksgiving reminds me that it’s always the right time to praise God and it’s always good to be in church, to be in the great congregation with my family and with Jesus.