How Worship and Praise Can Change Your Life

I love, love, love music.


  I love many kinds of music.  Music is powerful in many different ways.  It makes us feel things.  Some songs make us weep.  They can make us feel powerful.  They can make us need to dance, or groan with embarrassment.  They help us remember things-be real, how many of us have to sing the Alphabet Song to remember where a letter is?  Songs can remind us of a moment in time and bring it back like we are right there. 

            My Dad had mostly good taste in music (he was cool enough to be at Woodstock) but every once in a while he loved something and I was like, really?  I mean, I'm the last one to pass music judgment, let's be clear.  After Dad passed away Jon and I started driving his truck and we found the complete box set of Cher under the seats.  It takes a certain level of commitment to buy a box set of someone and he committed to Cher.  And it's not the cool 70's Cher that I'm talking about.  It's the feathers and rhinestones, Vegas Cher. Do You Believe in Life After Love was belting out all its *fabulousness* in the CD player when we turned it on.  Aaaaaand now that's the song that makes me think of my Dad.  It couldn't be anything else.  It apparently will be Do You Believe in Life After Love.  That's a hard song to have big feelings attached to.  It's a awkward moment to be standing at the Belagio Fountain in Vegas, loosing your business while everyone else is groovin because party Cher is blasting over the speakers and I'm thinking about my Dad.  Cher is the gift that keeps on giving for me. 

            Do you know that the Bible says that God sings over us? Zephaniah 3:17 says, "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."  Isn't that a gorgeous verse?  Can you imagine God singing over you?  

            I'm on the worship team at my church and God has been using some things in my life to teach me how to worship differently and how deeply important worship and praise are.  For the record here, praise, worship and singing are all different things.  Worship is our reverent love and devotion to God.  Praise is our outspoken boasting about the Lord.  Singing can contain both or neither.  There are many facets to worship and praise, but I am going to specifically talk about worship and praise in the singing praise to God sort of way and the power it can have in your life.  A lot of these concepts can absolutely apply to other forms of worship and praise.  Can we live a life where we make praise and worship one of the first reactions to the circumstances of our lives?  What might happen if we did?   

            I don't know if anyone else has ever had a hard time singing in church.  I have at points...And let's be real, singing in a big old crowd can be kinda weird.  Like, what if the person in front of me hears me?  What do I do with my hands?  What do I do about the person in the row next to me that keeps accidentally bumping me while they sing?  Hello, you're in my church bubble.  I'm totally a chair creeper.  I close my eyes and get into the moment and pretty soon I'm like all up in someone's business, and it's like a surprise to both of us.  Or what if I'm not feeling it?  What if I'm tired, the coffee hasn't kicked in yet and I don't like this song.  Or even more than that, what if I'm weary in my soul, I'm hurting or struggling.  What if I feel like God doesn't hear me or he's far away?  Makes it hard to sing to him, doesn't it?  What if my current circumstances are heartbreaking and make God feel unapproachable.  What if my heart is in a hard spot and these words are too close to home?  What if I don't want to have a breakdown in church?  Can we relate to any of that? 

            There are three Bible stories I want to share that relate closely to  some things that I personally have walked through.  Each of these stories has something to teach us about praise and worship and it's power in our lives in conditions where praise is probably not our default. 

  •             In 2 Chronicles we learn of King Jehoshaphat.  It says that the Lord was with him because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David followed.  Jehoshaphat was not the literal son of david, but a few generations down the family line.  What this is saying is that he walked in the family lineage of obedient faith that David had.     Jehoshaphat was called out into a great battle in 2 Chronicles chapter 20.  This battle was huge.  It was against a vast army and it was a battle J did not ask for or seek out.  Vs 3-4 says, "Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.  The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed they came from every town in Judah to seek him." 

            There are a few things that happen here.  Notice the first thing J does is he inquires of the Lord.  He leads his people to do the same.  Because he inquired of the Lord, God gave them specific instruction on how to stand in victory.  God told them not to be afraid or discouraged because of the vast army because the battle was not theirs but God's.  So instead of any normal response to a call to battle, J instead told his men to have faith in the Lord and they would be upheld.  The army sang to the Lord and praised him saying, "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever." and while they sang, these opposing armies began to defeat each other.  The story ends with J at peace for "his God had given him rest on every side."

            Do you feel like you are in the battle of your life right now?  Like you are in a battle that is bigger than you?  There have been times even recently where I feel like I am in the battle of my life.  What did J do when he was faced with the battle of his life?  These verses include powerful strategy for how to handle the battle.  

 

            1.  He inquired of the Lord.  He turned his eyes to God, not the battle.  By doing that he gave the power over his life back to God and away from himself and the forces against him.

            When the battle is big and it's coming for us, it's so easy to be all like, ah the battle, the battle, what am I going to do?  How will I ever get through this?  Look at it!  It's so big!  It's going to take me down!  How can I fight it?  I'll never make it!  We keep our eyes, our focus on the battle.  We knee jerk react to it.  We panic.  Then we immediately start to strategize.  We think of how we can work this thing out.  When we do that, we give the battle power over our lives.   

            2.  He listened to God and obeyed.  He asked God a question and he waited for an answer and when he got the answer, he obeyed it.  How often do we just shout up, fix it!  God fix this!  God take it away!  But J took a holy pause.  Sometimes the wisest thing we can do is take a holy pause.  He took a breath and took his eyes off the battle and put them on the Lord and inquired of him. When we take a pause, we get a chance to hear God's strategic plan of victory for us.    We can only do that when we surrender the battle to God.  How many battles have we lost because we never asked God if the battle was ours to fight?  We just assumed that we owned it.  How many battles do we fight and loose that we do not own?     

            3.  God told him not to be afraid or discouraged.  God said the battle was his and they would not have to fight it.  So J responded with praise before the battle was won, from a place of faith.  How often do we respond with praise in faith before our battle is won?  Praise replaces fear with faith. 
 

            We cannot be a victor and a victim at the same time.  When we choose to praise we loose the victim mentality. 
 

            Will we stand in faith with our eyes on God and praise the victory we cannot see or will we look at the battle and decide that it is hopeless and become a victim before we ever even seek God in it?  Praise chases fear and discouragement away.  When we praise we remember God's promises, we remember his goodness and how he has come through for us in the past.  When we don't come to God in praise and thankfulness for what he is doing because we don't feel like it, or because we are discouraged from the battle in front of us, we are cutting ourselves off at the knees.   Then we throw up a little prayer to God to fix it, or take it away that has no power behind it of seeking God's will.  Praise causes evil/ the enemy to flee.  Worship and praise invite God's presence in our midst, our life, our current struggle, into our battle.  No battle is hopeless or pointless when God is invited into it.    

            When the battle comes our way, can we take a holy pause, seek God , listen and obey what he tells us, discern when the battle is actually ours to fight, and  praise from a place of victory no matter where we are in the battle? 

            Praise from faith. God is faithful.  He keeps his promises.  Both the battle and the victory belong to God.     

           

  •             Now let's look at a second story of the power of worship in Scripture.  In 2 Samuel  we have the story of David and in chapter 12 vs 20 we see a powerful moment in David's life when he prayed for God to do something and it did not happen.  David begged God to spare his child's life.  He fasted and pleaded with God and lay on the ground for days, but his child died. 

            There are a lot of ins and outs to this story about why the child died but I want to focus on the very end at the choice that David made.  After he learns of his son's death, the Bible says, "Then David got up from the ground.  After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshipped."    

            Would your first response to a huge loss in your life be worship?  That hasn't been the case for me, but this moment spoke to my heart.  There will be moments in our lives that don't turn out the way we want them to or think they should.  There will be plot twists that will wreck us.  There will be times when our expectations of life will not meet our reality and will result in great, devastating disappointment.  Have you ever heard the saying that being an adult is like looking both ways before you cross the street and then getting hit by a plane?  Accurate?  What do we do when our plans for our life are drastically changed by things out of our control?  David got up off the ground, washed up, turned around and praised. Here is what I see in that moment:

            1.  At some point in our life we will have to surrender our plans to God
 

Worship and praise come from different places of obedience at different times in our lives. 
 

This is a worship of surrender to God's sovereignty.  This is literally a sacrifice of praise.  Worship from a surrendered heart is worship of humility, of thankfulness, of submission to God's authority. 

            This is a hard moment to sing out to God, because we want to "feel it", right?  We don't want to be "fake" and if you are anything like me, you may even be a little mad at God, the circumstances, yourself, you name it.  Doesn't worship sound great in that moment?  I have gotten the privilege of getting on stage and singing Good Good Father after my dad died.  Did that sound like a party to me?  No.  Did God show up in my heart for me because of it?  Yes.  Am I able to surrender more to God's plans because of my surrendered worship?  Yes.  It has changed the posture of my heart.  

            2.  This tender hard moment is exactly the moment praise belongs because worship and praise bring our hearts in line with God's.  David could have spiraled from his sin but he jumped out of the nosedive by worship.  A life that doesn't surrender to the plans of God will live in defeat.  Praise releases the grip of the struggles over us. 

            3.  Praise releases God's word in our lives.  When you are in pain you are more susceptible to lies.  It's just easier for your heart to believe them.  "God doesn't care about me".  "God doesn't hear me".  "I can't get past this loss".  Praise creates a dwelling place inside of us where God's word lives.  This creates an indwelling of truth, of God's love for us, of God's goodness, of gratitude and of the things that are on God's heart.  Think about how songs get stuck in your head.  When we sing Biblical praise and worship we are filling our brains and hearts with truth.  We are sticking it in our heads.  Singing worship literally rewires our brains.

            So in David I see a surrendered life.  I see a life built on truth by praising instead of spiraling.  I see a heart that uses worship to stay in line with God.  God did call David a man after his own heart.

                       

  •              The third example of the power of praise is in Acts 16 with Paul and Silas.  They were stripped and beaten  and thrown into prison and already that's a big day, right?  Like at that point, I would take a nap, throw in the towel, lay my head on a rock and cry.  But around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the Bible says the other prisoners were listening to them. 

            In vs 26-36 there is a violent earthquake that comes along and it released all the chains and opened all the doors.  The jailer freaked out because he thought everyone had cut and run, but here's Paul and Silas still hanging out.  The jailer wants to know Jesus right then and there.  Not just him but his entire family, gets saved.  Paul and Silas are properly released from their charges against them and are able to be the seed for lives being saved.  Here's what I see in these verses: 

            1.  Sometimes our pain elevates us to a place where other people in prison are listening to us that would not have otherwise.  We can choose to live in our circumstances, no matter what they are, in a way that sets people free.  When we praise intentionally in all things, we make gratitude a default in our lives.  When gratitude is a default, even circumstances that seem terrible, our lives become a megaphone of the goodness of God.  People are listening.  What am I saying with my life?     

            2.  Praise is a conduit of God's power and miracles.  Praise precedes the miracle, the salvation of others, the breaking of chains, the opening of doors, the release of captives.  What is waiting for you on the other side of a life surrendered to praise?  The other side of public thankfulness?   What miracle is God just waiting to unleash on your life when you choose to praise him in all things.  What captivity could you be released from?  What captivity could the people around you be released from?  Phil 4:4 says, "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!"  This is not just being kinda ok with God and sometimes saying thanks for some good stuff and singing the songs you like on Sunday.  The definition of rejoice is to feel or show great joy or delight.  When was the last time you expressed that to God?     

            3.  We have control over our feelings and our response to them.  We have the ability to praise-even when we don't feel like it-and it may be praise that changes our circumstances or it may be praise that changes our heart towards our circumstances.

            Paul also wrote Phillipians 4:12-13, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength."  We get to see Paul live out those words, singing and praising in prison.  That is not my heart response to every situation. 
 

            Praise is not a response to goodness.  It is a choice to see it, to have it ever before us. 
 

 

Because our God is good all the time and he is always love towards us.  Even if our circumstances change, God does not.  His goodness is eternal.

            So praise focuses our hearts off of ourselves, our circumstances and onto God and his goodness and truth. 

            When Paul and Silas chose to sing from prison, they praised despite their circumstances and their praise unleashed miraculous salvation and circumstantial change. 

 

            So here are 3 big ways that God has been speaking to me about praise and worship and how I just need so much more depth of that in my life.  What would happen if we sang of God's goodness from a place of victory even as we stare down our battles?  What would happen if we took a holy pause when things got tough to redirect our eyes?  If we got up off the floor in our darkest hour and praised from a heart of trust and surrender?  If we filled our minds up with truth and praise when we are hurting?  What would happen if we prayed and sang hymns no matter what our circumstances, even from things that feel like prisons?  If we chose to see the goodness ever before us?  What would happen if we intentionally worshiped and praised more, no matter what?  What might that unleash in our lives?  How would we be changed if we lived this way?   

Psalm 100

"Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

    Worship the Lord with gladness;

    come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

    and his courts with praise;

    give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

    his faithfulness continues through all generations."

 

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