The Power of Praise

This morning, we’re going to learn a bit about the power of praise.

We were designed by God both with the ability to give praise, but also with the innate need to receive praise.  Whether at school, you workplace, your marriage, volunteering, your family, your team, wherever you may find look, people will work harder, achieve more, and be more content if they often receive some form of praise.  People who know that they are appreciated and that their efforts are noticed will always go above and beyond what is expected of them.

With that in mind, often marriages and families fall apart due to a lack of praise for one another.  Businesses lose good employees because they do not feel appreciated.  Players give up on a sport because they are criticized for their mistakes more than they are praised for their successes.  An entire nation can be destroyed when the focus and emphasis is on the problems alone and not on what is going right.

In life, we need a healthy balance.  Yes, we need to be aware of our mistakes and weaknesses so that we can work on them and improve.  However, these critiques must be balanced out with a healthy dose of praise for when we get things right.  This balance between our downfalls and our strengths keeps us moving forward and helps us to maintain a healthy attitude in life; both humble and yet confident.

I love this quote from Charles Swindoll regarding our attitude in life:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts…. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.”

Our attitude in life does not have to be controlled by our circumstances or how others treat us.  Though these things certainly can make an impact on our attitude, we as Spirit-filled believers are free to choose how we respond to them and the attitude that we maintain.

We find such a struggle here as the nation of Israel was beginning in the context of a young, far-from-pefect family.  In fact, this struggle looks more like a modern-day soap opera than it does the beginning of a nation of God’s chosen people. 

This, in and of itself, should be an encouragement to us.  God isn’t looking for perfect people, He is looking for imperfect people whose hearts are committed to Him.

Genesis 29:14-35

After Jacob had stayed with him (Laban, Jacob’s uncle) for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”

16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”

19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

This is a perfect picture of what our service to the Lord should look like.  We’re so in love with Him, so thrilled just to be in His presence and to live life together that years pass by and they only feel like days.  Although we’re working and laboring for Him, it simply doesn’t fee like work at all!

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.”

22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. 24 And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant.

25 When morning came, there was Leah!

Not going into any details here, I’ll just say that that must have been one crazy party of a feast for Jacob to be surprised with who he woke up next to!

So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”

26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”

28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. 30 Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

It’s one thing to quote that God is with us and will never forsake us, but there are times when we don’t feel that it is true. 

Can you imagine how Leah must have felt?  She disappointed Jacob when he found that she was his wife.  So much so that he was willing to work fourteen years for Laban to also marry her younger sister.  Leah just wasn’t enough for Jacob although she longed to be.  She could just never measure up to her younger sister.

Feelings of rejection, disappointment, jealousy, and depression are not easy ones to live with.  In Leah’s case, as well as our own, God is well aware of our pain and suffering.  God chose to step in and to honor Leah over Rachel.  This is perhaps the first time that this happened in their lives!

31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

Apparently, Jacob’s feelings were unchanged…

33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.

Apparently, Jacob’s feelings were unchanged…

34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.

Apparently, Jacob’s feelings were unchanged…

35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.

Something shifted in Leah’s perspective with her fourth son.  Though her circumstances did not change, though Jacob’s feelings and attitude toward her did not change, Leah’s attitude changed.  She was no longer living with the sole purpose of earning her husband’s love in competition with her sister, she was living for the Lord first and foremost.

Leah finally arrived at the conclusion that nothing that she could do would ever be enough to earn the love of Jacob.  Instead of expecting that her fourth son would somehow gain the love of Jacob, she instead chose to simply praise the Lord for him. 

His name was Judah.  It was through the tribe of Judah that Jesus was born.  It was the nation of Judah on which God’s blessings rested following the split of Israel, and it was through the nation of Juda that God’s promises were fulfilled.

When you feel depressed, unloved, rejected, discouraged, praise God!

There is tremendous power in praise!  We know how we respond when we are praised, what it does to exalt us and give us courage and confidence and invoke a desire to go above and beyond for the sake of the source of our praise.  This happens when we receive praise.

When we choose to give praise, something happens within us as well!  Praise shifts our focus and corrects our attitudes.  When we are praising God, it takes our eyes off of ourselves and back onto Jesus. 

It’s hard to be depressed or grumpy or angry when we’re genuinely praising God.  When we remember who God is, what He has done for us, and what He has yet promised to do, it is impossible not to get excited!  It’s hard not to have hope and joy when we’re praising God.  There is no way that we can be genuinely praising God and not be changed ourselves!

When we give praise to God, we grab His attention, too.  Just as we, who were created in the image of God respond to praise, so does God.  God responds to the praises of His people!

One of the most powerful examples of this is found in 2 Chronicles 20.  Jehoshaphat , king of Judah, finds himself in trouble.  The Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against him.  This vast army could easily destroy Judah.  How did this king respond?

He called a fast among the nation, then they all came together, including women and children, to seek after God.  The king lead them in prayer and then the Spirit came on a Levite named Jahaziel who gave a prophetic word that the battle was not theirs, but God’s and that He would deliver them, they would not need to fight at all.  The people responded to this prophetic word bowing down to the ground and with some loud worship and praise.

The people could have responded by being griped with fear, and it would have been understandable.  Instead, their fears were washed away as they praised God.  In fact, they decided to lead the army out into battle with praise!

2 Chronicles 20:21-25

21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,

    for his love endures forever.”

22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

24 When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. 25 So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing[b] and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it.

When you are faced with impossibilities in life and feel overwhelmed with anxiety or fear, praise God!

We find another powerful instance of praise when Nathan comes and confronts David about his affair with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah.  David’s response to this confrontation in Psalm 51.

He confesses his sin, cries out for mercy and for the Lord to cleanse Him. 

Psalm 51:12-17

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

    so that sinners will turn back to you.

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,

    you who are God my Savior,

    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 Open my lips, Lord,

    and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

    a broken and contrite heart

    you, God, will not despise.

When you have completely blown it, praise God!

Another powerful instance of praise is found in Acts 16.

Acts 16:22-26

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.

Here, the praise of Paul and Silas literally, physically, delivered them from their bondage along with all of those around them who didn’t even deserve to be set free!  That’s what praise can do!

When you are mistreated, praise God!

Here’s an easy one that we won’t even go into the word for.

When life is going well and God’s blessings are flowing, praise God!

When should we praise?  Always!  If for no other reason, we should offer up a sacrifice of praise because God is God. 

If we can’t think of anything to praise God for from our current circumstances, we can begin to offer up praise based on the attributes of who God is, what He has done in the past, and, the maybe the key to our breakthrough, praise God for His promises that apply to our current circumstances!

Beyond the promises found in God’s word, remember the prophetic words that you have received as well.  Paul challenged Timothy:

1 Timothy 1:18-19

18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.

Hold onto your faith and give God some praise!  Your breakthrough is on its way!  It’s not over yet, there is still hope!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

We’re now going to end our service in a traditional way that we do not normally do.  However, this doxology is a perfect way to respond to what God is calling us to do here this morning.  We’re going to cite the doxology together and then end with a reminder of how we are going to fight our battles – with PRAISE!

Doxology

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.