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Rejoice in the Lord Always

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Is your praise dependent on your circumstances, or is it dependent on God?

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  (Philippians 4:4)

It was one of the first occasions when Mike, as a young pastor, had witnessed anyone die. The lady in question had struggled with cancer for some time and, as her death drew closer, her husband phoned to ask Mike to come to their home. It was not long before the end came. As she breathed her last breath, her husband softly said, ‘She’s gone!’ and dropped quietly to his knees by the bedside. He began to praise God, even through his tears, for the assurance that his wife was now with Him, free from pain, and that one day they would be together again. His praise was not dependent on his circumstances; his praise was dependent on his God.

The apostle Paul certainly knew how to set his heart on praising God in difficult times. Yet one of his most famous passages (Philippians 4:4-7) encouraging people to do the same has sometimes been misunderstood. Some people have interpreted Paul as saying, ‘Praise God for the bad things that happen in life!’ But that is not what he says – indeed, to insist that’s what he’s saying is to turn God into some sort of monster, sending bad things our way and then expecting us to praise him for them. Paul’s exhortation here is not to praise God ‘for’ everything, but ‘in’ everything (v. 6) – a small, but very significant, difference. God does not expect us to praise him for everything; but he does want us to praise him in everything. For when our focus is on him, and not on our problems, things begin to happen.

Let’s face it: praising God in hard times isn’t easy. In the hard times our praise may not, of course, be as exuberant as it is in the good times. The truth is, it involves a sacrifice; a sacrifice of our own feelings and emotions, of our own questions and answers. Today launch out into praising God, even if you are facing difficult times, and see how things – and you! – begin to change.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
(Hebrews 13:15)

Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont

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