"Through him, then, let's offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually"
Praise is to be a continual part of our lives, in times of prosperity and also in times of suffering. Actually, praise is one of the provisions that God has made to enable us to prosper in suffering.
If you have tried to spend time reading the Bible but find it slow, dry and hard to understand, try this: Instead of trying to understand a passage, use the passage for praise. As you read, ask God to open your heart to topics of praise. Praise Him as you read. If you don't know where to start, start in the first verse of the book of Ephesians.
Below are two prayers of praise, one from Daniel and one from Habakkuk. Then a number of Psalms are listed for you to PRAY and praise as you read them.
Endorsed Prayer: You are sovereign! 4.5a
- "Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered, 'Blessed be the name of God forever and ever; for wisdom and might are his. 21 He changes the times and the seasons. He removes kings and sets up kings. He gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to those who have understanding. 22 He reveals the deep and secret things. He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 3 I thank you and praise you, O God of my fathers, who have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we desired of you; for you have made known to us the king's matter'" (Daniel 2:19-23).
In Daniel 2:1-49, King Nebuchadnezzar had a very troubling dream. He required his wise men to not only interpret the dream, but to tell him the contents of his dream. Nebuchadnezzar would not tell the wise men what he had dreamed. Since they could not do as he demanded, the King ordered that all the wise men of Babylon be killed.
Daniel had not been initially questioned by the king regarding this dream and was in danger of being killed along with the other wise men. So Daniel asked God to reveal the dream and its meaning (v16-18). God granted Daniel's request. As a result, Daniel offered the praise in the verse I have quoted above.
God determines who will rule. Verse 21 states "He changes the times and the seasons. He removes kings and sets up kings." So God determines who will be president, dictator, king, and congressman. Political parties believe that they decide who will rule. Voters think that they decide. Scripture says that God decides.
Why does God appoint rulers who cause suffering? The assumption is that suffering is bad. So, if God is good, He wouldn't appoint a leader who would cause suffering. The assumption is false.
Suffering is used by God for judgement, discipline and spiritual growth. This is presented in subchapters 5.1 and 5.2 in the chapter titled "Fellowship with God in Pain". God can protect any nation or individual from suffering if He chooses. Scripture tells us that Satan is Prince of this World. This is thoroughly examined in micro-subchapters 3.1g, i, j, k and L.
There are many other questions that may arise from the fact that God appoints rulers. You may find answers to some questions from those subchapters. To other questions, we may never know the answer... not in this life. God does not owe us an explanation. Job lost his business, all his possessions, his children and health. God spoke to him but did not tell Job why he suffered. Instead, God rebuked Job for speculating about God.
In Job 42:1-6 it is written, "1 Then Job answered Yahweh, 2 "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be restrained. 3 You asked, 'Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?' therefore I have uttered that which I didn't understand, things too wonderful for me, which I didn't know. 4 You said, 'Listen, now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.' 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. 6 Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
Notice in verse three that he said "I have uttered that which I didn't understand" (Job was speculating about why God let him suffer. In verse six, Job said "I abhor myself, and repent." To which God said in verse 42:7 that Job had "spoken of me what is right".
The correct answer is often, "I don't know". But one thing I do know is... God is sovereign!
Please ask the Lord if now is a good time for you to PRAY through the prayer of Daniel shown above.
Endorsed Prayer: I praise you my Lord continually, even in suffering! 4.5b
- "Through him, then, let's offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which proclaim allegiance to his name" (Hebrews 13:15).
We should praise God continually. This is a hallmark of the Sixth Path. We can't obey this admonition on our own. Notice that the scripture begins with the words "through him". God gives us the power to praise through the Holy Spirit. If we try really hard to praise God more and more, we will fail. Praise becomes a larger part of our lives as we pray the Endorsed Prayers, especially the prayers asking for greater revelation, faith and love. As God grants our requests it becomes natural to praise him. Often He opens our eyes through suffering.
That leads us to the next passage. In these words, God provides an example of praise in the face of disaster.
17 "For though the fig tree doesn't flourish,nor fruit be in the vines;the labor of the olive fails,the fields yield no food;the flocks are cut off from the fold,and there is no herd in the stalls:18 yet I will rejoice in Yahweh.I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!19 Yahweh, the Lord, is my strength.He makes my feet like deer's feet,and enables me to go in high places" (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
Instead of offering a prayerful observation regarding this passage, I suggest that you take a moment and PRAY this praise to God. PRAY the passage in the way of the Fifth Path as described in subchapters 1.1 and 1.2.
Endorsed Prayer: Thank you! 4.5c
- "17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you" (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).
In all our circumstances we are to give thanks. The source of depression is often a mind that dwells on the negatives of life and people. Scripture tells us...
- "Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report: if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8)
Thankfulness to God is the proper response to blessings and suffering. Subchapters 5.1 and 5.2 reveal scriptural truths regarding suffering. Many of these scriptures will make it easier to be thankful in suffering.
Relationships tend to focus on either complaining or thankfulness. Relationships disconnect through complaining but are strong through thankfulness. Our personal relationship with God is no different. Israel's many complaints against God in the Old Testament are evidence of that.
It is easy to take basic bodily functions for granted. For example: the ability to eat, sleep, walk and talk.
When I was nine years old, my middle brother had an accident on his motor cycle. He hit a telephone pole at a speed of eighty miles per hour. Paul was sixteen. He lost his right arm and experienced phantom pain for the remainder of his life, until he died of the flue at the age of sixty-six.
Living life with one arm presented challenges. For example: Paul loved to work on his car. Now that is difficult with one arm. But he would find a way to do a wide variety of things to his car. When he finished, he would sometimes come to me and say "will you lend me a hand?"
When he said this, I would follow him into the bathroom. Then I would stand to his right and hold my right hand over the sink. He would turn on the water, wet his left hand and rub his palm on the bar of soap. When his left palm was covered with soap, he would rub the palm of his left hand against the palm of my right hand as I held it over the sink. Then he would turn his hand and rub the back of his left hand against my right palm. In other words, he would wash his left hand against my right hand because he didn't have a right hand. I literally let him borrow my hand.
It's really hard to wash your hand when you only have one hand. So, those of us with two hands can be thankful that we have two hands.
Paul had an IQ of 160 which is generally considered to indicate that he was a genius. I remember watching him win arguments with my dad even when he was wrong. He could multiply three double digit numbers in his head in a few seconds. So he could multiply 48 x 64 x 37 in his head while you blinked.
One day I asked my mother if I was the dumbest of the four kids in our family. She was a kind person. She said, "well, you are the only one who had to study."
I could wish that I was a genius like my middle brother or I could be thankful for the intelligence that God granted me and use it for His glory. My wife purposefully spends time every day thinking of things to thank God for. She has found that practice to be very rewarding. It honors God and brightens her life.
Endorsed Prayer: Pray the Psalms! 4.5d
The Psalms are prayers and praises. For Psalms of praise, you could start with these: Psalm 3, 19, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 46, 56, 57, 59, 63, 66, 91, 95, 96, 98, 100, 103, 106, 111, 116, 124, 136, 138, 146 and 147. Many other Psalms are full of praise.
As you PRAY these praises, be aware that sovereigns may be addressed directly in the third person (Esther 5:3-4). God is the ultimate sovereign. Praying directly to God, we may say "The creator has all power." That is speaking directly to God in the third person. Such language in the Psalms doesn't necessarily mean that the Psalmist is singing to men about God. The Psalmist may be speaking directly to God.
Please refer to the acrostic KINGS, for a broad spectrum of praises. If you will PRAY through that acrostic, you will probably see prayers over topics of sovereignty that are new to you even if you are a seasoned student of the scriptures.