Praise from the Darkness

Posted: October 31, 2013 in Staff & Ministry Leaders

praise-in-darkness

Worship is something we’ve been talking a lot about lately at GCC, along with the various aspects of worship. As I was preparing to teach the Bible lesson for Kids’ Life Club this week, I was struck by the timing of a particular worship session found in Acts 16. Paul and Silas had been arrested and thrown into prison for teaching people about Jesus and casting a demon out of a servant girl. In the middle of the night they began praying and singing praises to the Lord. Suddenly, there was a violent earthquake; the prison doors flew open and their chains were broken! The jailer believed the prisoners had all escaped and was about to commit suicide rather than face the punishment for the escape of the prisoners. However, Paul assured him everyone was still there, and through this amazing string of events, the jailer’s whole family put their trust in the Lord. The thing I find pretty incredible is not that Paul and Silas sang worship to the Lord but, rather, when they did it. It would make sense if they broke out in worship following the earthquake when their shackles had fallen off and the prison doors were open. It would be a natural reaction for them to worship after the jailer and his whole family chose to put their trust in Jesus. But looking at the passage, neither of these logical times for praise were when Paul and Silas started singing praises to the Lord. It was, in fact, much earlier. Prior to the jailer’s and his family’s conversions, prior to their release, prior to the earthquake, Paul and Silas began to sing, and sing loudly, to the Lord in a dark, dank, miserable, dirty prison, with no knowledge of when they’d be released (or if they’d be released), with seemingly no reason to do so. From all appearances, God had abandoned them when they were in the midst of doing His work! And yet, they sang!

We see a similar story in 2 Chronicles 20.  Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, (one of the only God-loving kings of Judah) was told that a vast army was marching against him and his much smaller army. Immediately, he cried out to the Lord and sought His will. He recalled the Lord’s past faithfulness and acknowledged his own utter inability to change the horrible problem he faced.  (Oh, that we were so humble and honest instead of trying first and hardest to fix things ourselves!) The word of the Lord came to a Levite, and he told King Jehoshaphat that the Lord would fight for them and they didn’t need to fear. Instead, they should go out and face the enemy the next day, and the Lord would take care of it. Admirably, Jehoshaphat didn’t question how this would happen or prepare a backup battle plan, just in case. He didn’t send his strongest, most experienced and heavily armed men first. Instead, verse 21 tells us that he appointed the leaders of the army to, “sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness.”  Verse 22 tells us that, “as they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes,” against their enemies (emphasis mine). When the men of Judah came within sight of the opposing army, they found them already dead! Here’s another example where timing wise, singing praise to the Lord is about the last logical thing to do, and yet, not only did it boost the morale of everyone involved and within hearing distance, it seems like there is a direct connection between the worship and the ensuing miracle.

What if God chose to provide the earthquake and subsequent salvation stories in Acts and Judah’s shocking and miraculous victory in 2 Chronicles because the men who loved God chose to trust and worship Him at their lowest and most frightening moments-when they weren’t sure what God had in mind, when from all appearances, God had abandoned them? The Bible talks about bringing God a sacrifice of praise in Hebrews 13:15. Worship through suffering is just that! When I’m in the midst of a painful trial, the last thing I feel like doing is thanking God and praising him for who He is and what He’s doing in my life, but that’s exactly what we’re called to do and exactly how the Lord fills us with His strength to face the trial. In her book, Living Beyond Your Feelings, Joyce Meyer reminds us that, “It is nice if we have feelings to support us when we are taking action, but we can do what is right with or without the fuel of feelings.” Like many of you, I’m in the midst of some difficult times. Too often, I get discouraged and begin to feel hopeless. But, we are not hopeless! We serve a God who routes armies, sends earthquakes, and rescues His people! So, I’m working on my sacrifice of praise, and I’m excited to see what God has in store! Will you join me?

Written by Amy Bertolini

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Comments
  1. Tom Waugh says:

    Yesterday, as I lay inside a little tunnel on the bed of an MRI machine, having been asked to hold perfectly still (for what turned out to be about 1/2 hour at a stretch) while the machine made loud Star Wars type noises and my arm was in an awkward and painful position, I started mentally singing hymns and recalling memorized scripture. I also prayed silently. I was quickly rewarded with a deep sense of peace and well-being. God brought to my mind the suffering that Jesus bore for me on the cross (which made my little bit of pain and discomfort seem like joy). When the procedure, which took about 2 hours was complete, I felt refreshed and invigorated. Not the same as being in prison…well…have you ever had an MRI???

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