GROWING STRONGER, DEEPER AND HIGHER IN PRAISING GOD
“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their Strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint”.
The theme before us this day is a theme that always interest God and this is further accentuated by the fact that even when other things will be suspended in heaven, it is only praise that continues to be relevant before Him. The Angels praise Him daily, the twenty-four elders cast down their crowns every now and then to adore Him; who sits on the throne (Revelations 4: 4-11; 5:8-10). So we see that Praise is a theme that is relevant beyond all ages.
However, before delving into the subject matter at hand, it is imperative for us to understand the text to which we have been given, as it will be a compass for us in understanding what it means to grow stronger, deeper and higher in praising God. Isaiah chapter 40 generally is an important passage in the book of Prophet Isaiah, as this chapter reveals the plights of the Israelites. They have been taken captive to Babylon, they were refugees there, whose lands and holy city had been destroyed. They were a people without a leader (King) or an army, thus, they were weak and helpless before the nations around them.
The question that should pervade our heart is how does a nation well beloved of God get to this state?
Isaiah made us see that their predicaments were as a result of their rebellious acts against God, who left them to be taken captive, humiliated and chastened by the Babylonians. It was during this state of hopelessness, when the future seems bleak, when it is difficult to even remember to praise God that Isaiah brought a message of hope to the Israelites, telling them to get their eyes off themselves and look by faith to the Great God who loved them and promised to do great things for them.
Isaiah reiterated that they must shift their focus on the LORD, for it is those who wait upon Him that gets their strength renewed, they are those who mounts up with wings like eagles, who runs and do not get weary nor walk and will never faint. – Isaiah 40:31
It is from this background that we saw how Isaiah shifted the focus of the depressed and hopeless Israelites in Babylonian captivity unto God, and hence, giving us a cue of how important it is to also do likewise when faced with our own predicaments.
It is pertinent to note that one of the vital ways of shifting one’s attention to God is through “Praising Him”, for praise is an expression of faith in God; you are thanking Him because you are sure He can do all things and that He is worthy to receive the praise.
We will understand what Praise denotes when we delve into the root of what the term mean itself. The study of Scripture and the Hebrew language reveals that praise is so critical in the worship life of a believer. The Hebrew transliterated word “netzach” is always used in tandem with praise or worship and it denotes “forever or eternity”. This word helps us to see into the eternal significance of praise in the life of the believer. Also, another Hebrew related word derived from the same root is “nitzachon”, which means “victory”, evince that praise is not simply an enjoyable time of music, but in actuality, it is a means of connecting with the eternal realm in a way that brings victory.
Praise is simply expressing esteem for a person, it is the state of appraising a person for his or her virtues or achievements. The English word “Praise” has a French and Latin origin; “Preisier”and “Pretium”respectively, “Preisier” means “to prize” and “Pretium” denotes “the ascription of worth and value”. These words give us a little bit of a glimpse of what the word “praise” denotes. From the foregoing, we can say “to praise God” means to “prize God” and prize here means to ascribe value, to esteem or to cherish God. This then portends that;
When we praise God, what we are doing is that, we are subconsciously gathering together all the facts that we know about God and we are putting these into words of praise and thanksgiving. At this stage our spirit is brought into a pinnacle of fellowship and intimacy between ourselves and God.
If we carefully look into what has been said, we would see that the little a person knew about God, the little he or she will be able to praise Him. In other words, our knowledge of Him determines our depth of praising Him. Therefore, if we will grow stronger, deeper and higher in praising God, we need to have a deeper revelation of God through His Word, we must sit to read, study and meditate on His Word such that when we come before the Lord to praise Him, we will begin to praise Him out of the abundance of what we have in us through His Word.
The Bible is replete with amazing stories of those who praised God and provoked His hands to work in their favor, they experienced life-changing miracles, dramatic stories of the enemies being halted or defeated and lost hearts being drawn closer to the Lord. However, despite all these, one passage of the Bible that speaks meticulously about Praise is Psalm 150.
Psalm 150 is the last Psalm in the entire Song of Psalms and it ends with Praise. The word “praise” is repeated thirteen times, in six verses and this Psalm gives an introduction to and the summary of what real praise or worship entails; that is, the expression of a joyful delight in the presence of God. It is no wonder that some have termed this Psalm as a “guide for praising God”.
The Psalm (Psalm 150) begins with the words “Praise Ye the Lord”, the Hebrew transliterated words, “Praise Ye the Lord” is a compound word consisting of two Hebrew words, “Halal” and “Yah”; “Halal” means praise, while “Yah” is an abbreviated form of YHWH (the personal name God chose for Himself). It is from the combination of these two Hebrew transliterated words that we have “Halalyah”, from which we get our English word “Hallelujah”.Interestingly, the Hebrew transliterated word “Halal” is used more than 150 times in the Old Testament and much of the time, it is combined with “Yah” just as it is rendered in Psalm 150.
From the expression of the Psalmist in Psalm 150, we saw that in order for us to grow stronger, deeper and higher in praising God, we need to answer the following question;
- Where do we praise God?
- Why do we praise God?
- How do we praise God?
- When do we praise God?
In answering this question, the Psalmist in Psalm 150 has given us a cue. He affirms that Praising God is done in His sanctuary. However, this does not mean that our praise should only be given to God when we are in the church alone, for the original meaning of the word “sanctuary” literally means, “a place set apart” for the Lord and it could be a place of corporate gathering, our room, work place, our hearts or anywhere that is set apart for the Lord. This denotes that Praise can be done even while walking, driving, cooking, travelling and sitting to mention but a few. It is in the same vein that Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman in John 4:21-24, that Praise can be rendered to God anywhere. We also saw in the scripture that Moses praised the Lord beyond the river (Exodus 15:1-19), Paul and Silas sang His praise in the prison (Acts 16:25-26) and Simeon and Anna gave their praises to God in the Temple (Luke 2:25-38).If we desire to grow stronger, deeper and higher in praising God, we must set apart our lives to be a praise to God and cultivate the habit of praising God everywhere we are, there should be no boundary for our praise. Our lifestyle should be a lifestyle of “no boundary for God’s praise”. Is your life set apart?
- Why then do we praise God?
There are multitudes of reasons for praising God, the Psalmist showed us in Psalm 150 verse 2 that;
- we are to praise God because of “What He does”. God does and He is still doing mighty acts both in heaven and on earth, His powerful works cannot be denied in history, He delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 14), He displayed His sovereignty over Baal and Ashtoreth in 1 kings 18:19-40, He fed the multitude, healed those incapacitated by sicknesses, raised the dead and restored hope to those who have no hope. Many times we seem to forget the goodness of the Lord in our lives, we began to complain and murmur. If I may ask;
- Have you ever sat down and just shut out all distractions to think on the things that God has done for you, for your family, for your ministry and for your children?
- Are you aware that what you regard as nothing in your life today or you are taking for granted in life are those things some people are begging God daily for?
- Do you remember the days you were shielded and God delivered you from that accident or when He saved you from the grip of death?
- Have you forgotten the provision He made available for you when all the people you trusted failed to show up?
- What about the times when God helped you and showed you mercy even when everyone has written you off in life and ministry?
Brethren, don’t you think it is indeed appropriate for you and I and our families to give God thanks daily for all He has done? Let us ruminate over these.
- We are to praise God because of “who He is”. God is the Supreme Being who is in a class all by Himself, none can be compared to Him and none can compete with Him. If anyone deserves to be praised, it is God. He is the unchangeable, immovable and ever-reliable One, His kindness and compassion is second to none. He can be trusted with confidential matters and you will be certain that He would not disclose them in public, He is the one who fights for the defenseless, speaks for the voiceless and does what pleases Him in the heavens (Psalms 68:5, Psalms 146:9).
- We praise God because the Bible commands it (Psalms 150:6, Hebrews 13:15).
- We praise God because praise facilitates access to God (Psalms 100:4) and also to pave way for the display of His power. You can never enter into His presence unless you praise Him. This behooves that we must cultivate the habit of praises to stay in His presence.
- We praise Him because it is in praise that God dwells (Psalms 22:3, Psalms 16:11, Psalms 63:3-4), His presence is essentially intense in an atmosphere of praise.
- We praise Him because praise promotes productivity (Psalms 17:5-7). This Psalm notes that the earth yields its produce in the presence of praise. It is in the same vein that Jack Taylor said in His book, “The Hallelujah Factor”; “when we praise, productivity is maximized, fulfilment is realized and frustration is neutralized”.
- We praise God because praise chases away despair and is an effective weapon against the devil (2 Chronicles 20:22, Isaiah 61:3).
As a believer, we not only have something to sing about, rather we have someone to praise. Therefore, whether it is privately or corporately, musically, verbally or otherwise, our praises should be directed to the Lord who is worthy of it.
When do we Praise Him?
We are to praise Him at all times, regardless of location, age, race, background, economic status, health condition or anything else. Whether in the good times or the bad times, we must take cue from the Psalmist in Psalms 77, who having stated all his ordeals in verses 1-9, declared in verse 10 that He would remember the days of the years of the right hand of the most High. Sir and Ma, are we also remembering the days of the good hands of the Lord in our lives and families?
I am aware that there are times when praising God looks difficult, when life is hard and it is not easy to find words of praise and thanksgiving, a time when one’s heart is full of sorrow and struggle and fountain of problems seem broken loose over one’s life and family, yet it is in this moment of hard times that His praise should be raised above board.
DO you consider yourself forgotten by God, stagnated at the same level and you are wondering if indeed it is worth it banking on God?
I present to you the life of Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1:6-17, who although were regarded as righteous, became barren for no fault of their own. This couple became more committed and it was while serving God that they were remembered. What about Hannah, another faithful attendant in Shiloh, who despite her commitment also found herself childless? This woman also did not give up but continued to praise God as she come yearly before God in Shiloh.
Romans 4:20 tells us how Abraham staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory (praise) to God. My Fathers and my mothers in God, if we desire to grow stronger, deeper and higher in praising God, the best time to do that is during trying times.
Are you passing through a tough time and looks like giving up? why not use this opportunity to set out days just to praise God and see how God turns things around for you like He did for King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20?
- How do we Praise Him?
- There are different styles or gestures that can be employed in praising God, we can praise Him with Musical instruments, we can praise Him with our singing, our dancing and our clapping (Ecclesiastes 3:4), done through joyful spontaneous movements, which expresses joy and gratitude.
Unfortunately, many times we get carried away in the presence of God that we begin to copy the styles of someone else in praising Him, when we should just be open to the Lord and worship Him wholeheartedly. The channels of our spirits should be opened up, as we allow our spirit, soul and body to give God adoration and thanks for the things He has done for us.
Hear the words of a hymn writer by the name Horatius Bonar, in praising God He said;
“Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God,
In every part with Praise,
That my whole being may proclaim
Thy being and Thy ways,
Not for the lip of praise alone,
Nor e’en the praising heart,
I ask, but for a life made up
Of praise in every part”.
We should be free to express our gratitude to Him just as the woman, who came out of the borders of Tyre and Sidon did in Mark 7:25-30 and Matthew 15:25, not minding who was looking at her, or like David who danced as if He was not the king of Israel in 1 Samuel 6:14-15, to honor the name of the Lord.
- We praise God with our life/body- our body is the sanctuary/temple of the living God, therefore it is important to live a righteous life. As ministers we must try to be disciplined. We need to be touched by the water of the Word of God; it is expedient for us to give due and consistent attention to God’s word, If we lack the Word of God in us, we remain rigid; it will be difficult for God to work upon and through us. It is from this perspective that Paul was speaking in Romans 12:1-3, that we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice, refuse to be conformed to the world but to be TRANSFORMED by the RENEWING of our mind. Just as the water transforms the hard clay and makes it pliable, so also the Word of God “transforms us” and make us ready for God to work upon.
Your act of indiscipline will make nonsense of your spirituality
and your praise hindered or unacceptable.
- We Praise God with our faith- Hebrew 11:16
We must note that if we are not ashamed of praising Him whether publicly or privately, He in turn will not be ashamed of turning things around in our favor.
For you to grow stronger, deeper and higher in praising you should answer the following question sincerely:
- Have you really surrendered your totality to God yet?
- Are you sure you are cooperating with His teachings and shaping processes in your life?
Remember the whole essence of man’s creation is to praise God: and as a minister your life must be a praise to God.
THANKS FOR READING
REV. OLUWASEGUN ODULE