I am preparing to teach a study entitled Igniting a Passion to Pray by Fern Nichols, of Moms in Touch International. The focus will be on learning to pray according to God's Word using praise, confession, thanksgiving, and intercession. In the praising God department Fern talks about a sacrifice of praise--praising God even when our situation is dire and we do not feel like praising Him. Jeremiah 14:8 says "O Hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress." This is repeated at the end of the chapter where Jeremiah proclaims that our hope is in the Lord our God--the only One who is able to deliver.
I began to think about the idea of a sacrifice of praise--the sacrifice of praising when praise is the opposite of what we want to do; when praising seems a sacrifice of ourselves--when we've been wronged, when our child faces serious health problems or even death, when we are faced with a situation that just won't seem to change and go our way. The pastor recently preached on having peace. He talked about being a prayer warrior when we are in dire straits. A part of this is that we praise God in the middle of our circumstances--we focus on who He is. As Charles Stanley writes in his book, How to Handle Adversity; we must focus not on the problem, but instead on the Problem Solver.
Charles Stanley explains in his book that although it is not natural for us to praise in the midst of adversity, we praise because the adversity is what draws us deeper into the Lord. It enables us to be more like Him. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4.) Not that we find joy in the trial itself, but we have joy knowing that the testing of our faith develops perseverance--leading to spiritual maturity. We will not experience spiritual maturity without adversity. It is what we do with adversity that matters. Do we respond as the world does, with anger and to avenge ourselves? (That's certainly what I tend to do in my flesh.) Or do we respond as Christ did when he faced adversity? Do we offer up a sacrifice of praise in faith believing that God is Sovreign and Omniscient--He is in control and He is all knowing?
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28.) As Charles Stanley explains, the good we will experience may not be the good we have in mind. God's good for us will be, at times, for us to experience adversity. Because His ways are higher than our ways, we may not understand why or how, especially in the middle of the crisis; but our circumstances are to make us more like Christ. The scripture in Romans goes on to say "for those God foreknew he also predestined TO BE CONFORMED TO THE LIKENESS OF HIS SON,..." We have been called according to His purpose...to be conformed to Christ, our ultimate sacrifice of praise in adversity. This is our high-calling.