May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us. (Psalm 67:5-6)
I just finished a short book on Praise – “There’s Dynamite in Praise” by Don Gossett. Don’s a Word of Faith teacher. I’m not a huge fan of Word of Faith teachings, but then neither am I afraid nor ashamed to read their writings and learn something from them.
I’ve always felt that praise was closely related to faith. Praising God is an expression of faith in God when doing so in the context of difficulties one is going through. Let me explain.
1) Crying out to God is OK: It’s so easy to fall into depression and sadness when one faces obstacles in life. Certainly, we read this in the Psalms. People have emotions and we do get sad over things! So it’s OK for our soul to be downcast. There’s definitely a place to cry out to God and plead and beg Him for His mercy. There’s no need to pretend to be happy when you’re not. It’s OK to cry and be sad.
I was just reading Psalm 42 and 43. There’s talk of “tears” being the Psalmist’s food day and night (42:3). There are cries of “When can I go and meet with God?” (42:2) and “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning…” (42:9; similarly in 43:2). The Psalmist no doubt was unafraid to show his emotions and sadness. He didn’t consider it unspiritual or ungodly.
2) Yet in the midst of crying out, one should not forget to hope in God and praise Him: Despite the cries from the Psalmist, we read three times in those two chapters these exact same words:
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. (42:5, 11; 43:5)
While it’s not unspiritual to be sad and cry out to God for help, as we clearly see all this in the Psalms, we need to remember that interspersed between all these cries are praises and exaltations of God. The Psalmists never forgot this. Perhaps we could even say that they ended with praises – i.e. in the beginning may be cries of help, but in the end were praises.
In the above quotation, the Psalmist seems to be speaking to his soul and saying, “Soul, eventhough you’re downcast and sad, put your hope in God and praise Him!” Indeed, we needn’t and shouldn’t come to a stage of despair because there is always hope in God. The Psalmist knew that God would deliver him. And he praised God.
3) A form of praising God that expresses faith: Going beyond the above, I think also that as we choose to praise God in the midst of our difficult situations, that expresses our faith. I’m not talking merely about the normal praise of God we do so all the time. I’m talking about praising God because we believe He will bring us deliverance and so choose to praise Him in advance for such deliverance. I think as we praise Him for the deliverance when we don’t see it, we are expressing our faith in Him. We’re saying to God, “I know you’ll deliver me and so I choose not to dwell in self-pity but rather to express my faith that You will deliver me by praising You right now for your deliverance.” I believe God honours such faith. And He’ll respond to your faith. Praise thus obtains the answer, when praise expresses faith in God to deliver and bless. There is power in praise!
I think a balance (I hate this word because it doesn’t convey what I have in mind) is needed here. As I said before, there’s nothing wrong with crying out to God. And yet, always being sad and crying out to Him may not be what God is looking for. Sometimes, maybe it’s good to praise Him in the midst of our difficult situations for the deliverance, we believe by faith, He’ll bring. It’s not about faking it, it’s about faithing it.
Whatever the case, it’s always good to praise Him – whatever the situation, good or bad. For that’s what God wants of us. And I hope to do this more in 2008, eventhough I know it’s so difficult to do so when one faces problems. It’s so much easier to cry out to God. It takes faith to praise Him.