PRAISE IN TIMES OF UNREST
This past January, shortly after we rang in the New Year and welcomed our second baby girl into our family, I was diagnosed with a uterine infection. I will never forget awaking in the night to what felt like intense labor pains all over again. Before rushing to the ER, I lay on the floor, crying for relief, and in the midst of my pain and tears, I sensed the Holy Spirit gently whisper, “Lift up your hands!” I will forever celebrate that holy encounter and His wisdom in that moment. The Lord was inviting me to come up higher, to take my eyes off of my momentary affliction, and to praise Him despite my circumstances.
I believe the Lord desires each of His children to enjoy His Presence at all times and to continually praise Him in the wonderful times and the troublesome times. This year has certainly had its fair share of troubles and darkness for all of us around the world, but in the midst of this unprecedented hour, the Lord continues to emphasize the spiritual act of giving Him praise. There is a fascinating account in the book of Acts, whereby Jesus’ servants and friends, Paul and Silas, find themselves in deep darkness, through no fault of their own. Their response becomes an incredible example and a wondrous invitation for believers of all ages to go up higher and choose to respond to harsh realities in like manner!
In Acts 16:16-24 Paul and Silas are proclaiming the gospel of Jesus in word and power until they are met with opposition from those in Philippi who despise their work. The angry mob overtakes the men of God and strips them naked, beating them severely with rods, and throwing the men into prison. While behind bars, their feet were securely fastened to stocks and a jailer guarded their cell like a hawk. It is at this point in the narrative that we might begin to put ourselves in Paul and Silas’ shoes and consider how we would respond in their crisis. I have no doubt the natural man could easily throw a pity-party right there in that jail cell and open the ‘woe-is-me’ floodgate of tears. The devil would then seize the opportunity to take full advantage of our weakness, tempting us to surrender to fear and panic and/or anger and resentment towards our captors or even God. Perhaps some would choose to sleep the pain away and hope all will be well in the morning, or maybe others would give up entirely, waiting for life to end. There are a myriad of responses to such a troubling circumstance, but let us consider how these two devoted followers of Jesus choose to spend their darkest night. Verse 25 unveils their surprising response in the midst of excruciating pain, unjust punishment, and uncertain conditions:
“Paul and Silas, undaunted, prayed in the middle of the night and sang songs of praise to God, while all the other prisoners listened to their worship” (Acts 16:25 TPT).
Wow! What a supernatural, passionate, and intentional response. These men had a choice, and they chose to pray and praise King Jesus. I highly doubt their bodies felt like praying and singing praises; however, it is my belief that these men were well-equipped with intimate revelation of the greatness of God and the power of praise. They seemed to understand there was no greater way to spend their darkest hour than to worship the King of Glory who bled and died for them. Beloved, there is no greater way to spend our darkest hour than to pray and sing praises to the One who purchased us with His very blood!
There are several words used in the Scriptures to describe ‘praise.’ In Acts 16, that word is “humneo” which means to celebrate God in song. In Hebrew, a similar word used is ‘tehillah,’ which defined reveals praise as a celebration, a lauding of someone praiseworthy; the exaltation of God; spontaneous songs of admiration. Psalm 100:4 instructs us to enter God’s presence and His very throne room with “tehillah” praise, or celebration, and Psalm 22:3 teaches that our God and King is enthroned upon the “tehillah” praise of His people. These verses reveal that when we enter into His courts with celebration, we welcome His majesty and rule to invade our hearts and situation.
The reality is, beloved saints, no matter what arises in our lives…no matter what our circumstances look like from our earthly perspective, the LORD is and always will be worthy of our praise. He is good and He always will be good. Though conditions may shift from dark to darker, the very nature of God will never change, and thus we can proclaim as the Psalmist did: “I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1 NKJV).
The passage in Acts 16 demonstrates that there is a place in sweet fellowship with Christ, where we can possess faith unshakeable, peace unexplainable, joy unspeakable. It demonstrates that there is a place in sweet friendship with Christ, where true followers of Jesus can be utterly immovable. King David, a man after God’s own heart, who had his share of troubling times declared this truth: “I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8 NKJV).
Make no mistake, Brothers and Sisters, we are in a fierce spiritual war, and the wicked one is working relentlessly to cause our faith to waiver in these times of chaos and confusion, uncertainty and deep darkness. In fact, the devil finds it pure delight to cause us disciples to doubt the Lord’s presence with us or His goodness, love, strength, grace and mercy. We must understand it is the devil’s aim to utterly destroy our trust and confidence in our God and King. Jesus addressed this very thing to one of His closest companions, Simon Peter, on the night Jesus was arrested. His words offer us insight into the devil’s age-old strategy: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32 NASB).
The Holy Spirit, who is God, has made His home in each one of us believers, and it is He who inspires praise to rise within us regardless of our circumstances. It is He who lifts up our head and helps us to raise our hands to Him! While the enemy wants to cloak us in fear and doubt, anger and confusion, etc, there is One who is faithful and true who delights to give us a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). Draw ever so close to the Lord in this hour, and know that He promises to draw near to you and meet you right where you are. Open up His Holy Word with Him each day, and read His glowing promises to us who believe. Let’s make it our ambition to praise Him despite the darkness that surrounds us. We don’t have to wait until the doors of the church open to sing to Him, and actually, He does not want us to wait. Our praises may not always change our circumstances, but they will always change our heart and perspective. As we exalt Jesus in our heart with our praises, the darkness is dethroned and the lies are dismantled. Press in, Dear One, the time has come and is now here “when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23 NKJV). Let your praises rise like incense to the One who sits upon the throne and reigns forevermore!