Praising the Lord, acknowledging all that He is and does, is the best way to experience joy. How can we do it?
By Mark D, Harris
How many people that you know lack joy a lot of the time? What do they do about it? Some people eat. Others sleep. Many binge watch movies. Some drink or use drugs. What do you do when you lack joy? How does a lack of joy impact your confidence, your clarity of mind, your strength? Though it can be hard, the best thing that any of us can do when we lack joy is to praise the Lord.
The Joy of the Lord is my Strength is an old song derived from Nehemiah 8:10
The joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord is my strength
G D G
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
Psalm 100, and many other passages in Scripture, tell us that the key to joy is praise. Of course, believers don’t praise the Lord so that we can have joy. Instead, we praise God for who He is. We thank Him for what He has done for us. In acknowledging the magnificence of our Creator and Sustainer, in focusing on His truth, beauty, and righteousness, and in marinating our souls in His awesome love, we receive joy. As surely as the sun rises in the morning, honest praise with a clean heart will bring joy to all those involved. Over and over again, the Bible records God’s people praising Him. Psalm 100 provides a fine example.
How to Praise the Lord
In verses one and two, the Psalmist tells the singers, and the singers tell themselves and those around them, to praise the Lord. This is a command, not a suggestion, as in our natural sinfulness we want all praise for ourselves. Everyone, and everything, on earth must praise the Lord, from the greatest man to the lowest one-celled animal. We enter His presence, and we do so with joyful songs of praise.
Doxology – a liturgical formula of praise to God. (a cappella)
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
G C D
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Em D C D Em
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host:
G D C D G C G
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Anglican Bishop Thomas Ken – Traditional Protestant 1674
In ancient Persia, much like in many other royal courts in antiquity, no one could approach the king without being summoned (Esther 4:11). But the God of the Universe invites us, indeed He commands us, to come into His presence whenever we wish. He wants us, however, to do so with joyful praise. Being in His presence is a cause for joy.
- What words do we use to praise God?
- Are we bold about it, shouting so all the world can hear? Or do we whisper?
- Do we use prose, songs, poetry, fiction, non-fiction?
- What do we praise Him for?
- Where do we praise Him?
The word “serve (עָבַד ʿāḇaḏ)” in verse two includes the whole body. We are to praise Him with everything we do (1 Corinthians 10:31). We must praise God in every moment with every fiber of our being:
- Voluntarily praise – through our righteousness, our good words and works
- Involuntarily praise – He created and sustains us, and continues to sustain us even through our sin. God’s patience and grace to the sinful testifies most powerfully to His amazing goodness.
However, we can also try to voluntarily dishonor Him. There is never a time when we are not honoring or dishonoring God. Ultimately, though, even our best efforts to shame God will fail. Ultimately, He will be praised.
Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire – “I believe that God made me for a purpose, for China. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure. To give it up would be to hold Him in contempt. You were right…it is not just fun. To win is to honor Him.”
- What did God make you for? Are you at peace with that?
- What do you do that makes you feel His pleasure?
- What do you do to specifically honor Him?
- How do you serve God with gladness? Sour-faced duty is not enough.
Know God. Know Him personally. Know Him intimately (יָדַע yāḏaʿ). Share everything with Him, even things that you would not tell your best friend or your spouse.
Einstein “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know God’s thoughts. The rest are details.”
- Why do we read the Bible? Why do we go to church? Why do we do any spiritual thing that we do? It is not to know how to live better. It is to know God.
- What do you hide from God?
- What keeps you from knowing God?
Why Praise the Lord?
He made us
Verse three is clear. God made us (עָשָׂה ʿāśâ), and therefore has a unique purpose for each of us. We do not own ourselves. We do not serve ourselves. We do not own or serve others. We are like sheep (Psalm 23) – not very useful, not very clever, not very strong, but very selfish and very willing to fight.
We stand or fall before God alone.
In 2013, my wife Nancy was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her first appointment, she told me that every staff member told her, “Now is time for yourself. You can take “me time.” Nancy replied, “That is ridiculous. We do not own ourselves or our time. All time is God’s time.”
In the book You are Special by Max Lucado, a little wooden creature, a wimmick, named Punchinello lived in a town populated only by other wimmicks. They all passed their time putting black dots or gold stars on each other – black dots if others found them bad, or gold stars if they found them good. Punchinello was miserable because he was covered in black dots. He met a girl wimmick who had neither dots nor stars. She found acceptance and peace from Eli, the one who made all of the wimmicks, and didn’t care what anyone though about her. Punchinello did the same.
He protects us
Again, the Psalmist commands us to come into the presence of God. There we will find protection for our body (food, shelter, clothing) and soul (love, acceptance, community). Our Father protects us from the judgments of others, in part because others have no idea how to judge, and in part because they have no business passing ultimate judgment on anyone. Final judgment is reserved for God alone.
Walking into Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate (western side of the walled city)
Have you ever been to an ancient city, perhaps Rome or even Jerusalem? In Old Jerusalem, if you walk through the Jaffa gate into the city, you see the Christian Quarter to your left and the Armenian Quarter, with the Tower of David, to your right. You immediately note the guards, the police, the citizens, the merchants, and other tourists. You may feel protected from whatever is happening outside the walls. You can go where you wish, within the confines of the law. Shops, restaurants, historical sites, and resources of all kinds await you; as you would not have had you stayed outside. Despite the wonderfulness, danger still lurks.
As you walk towards the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter, despite having hundreds of other people around, you feel the presence of God. You feel your heart growing more calmer, your step slower, and your voice more hushed. Walking into the church you are surrounded by priceless artifacts, ancient stones, and the whispered prayers of awed, and sometimes distraught, people. Occasionally, you will find the arrogant, the rude, and even the dangerous.
Walking into God’s city, to enter His gates is a mighty blessing:
- Perfect protection from hazards outside the walls.
- Untrammeled movement.
- Unbounded resources.
- The freedom and security to live under His perfect law.
- There is no fear, no arrogance, no rudeness, and no danger.
In God’s courts, man receives his greatest blessings:
- Abide in the presence of the Almighty. In His presence is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
- Falling under His judgment alone, not the judgment of anyone else.
- Everything beautiful, true, good, powerful, and ultimately real is found in God.
- How have people judged you in the past? Now?
- How do you fear people will judge you in the future? Einstein said “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
- Share a time in which you truly felt yourself in the presence of God?
- How do you enter the presence of God?
- Where do you best feel the presence of God? In nature? In your home? In the church? In a certain place, like Jerusalem?
- How can help each other feel the presence of God better in this church?
He loves us
God is good, truly good, absolutely good, eternally good, faithfully good. And being all wise, He knows better than you or I what is good in our lives.
God loves us. He will do whatever is necessary to transform us into His image, so we ourselves will be morally everything that He is. God will not let us remain in our sin, confusion, and weakness. He will not allow us to be less than He made us to be. The Lord knows our best interest better than we do. He loves us.
- Do you believe that God is great? That God is good? That God loves us?
- Each person name 3 things that He has given you. No duplicates.