The Sacrifice of Praise
Download Audio (12.9MB)
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.—Hebrews 13:15
We have so much to praise God for every day, there’s great power in giving honor to Him. The Bible is filled with examples of praise and worship when we see His power released, life-changing miracles, dramatic stories of the enemy being halted or defeated, hearts being changed and drawn closer to Him.
Yet the reality is that way too often, daily struggles or constant life demands can crowd out our praise and worship to God. … Sometimes it really is a sacrifice to offer praise. We may not feel like it. We’re struggling. We’re weary.
Or maybe we feel like God has let us down. He may seem distant to us, like He doesn’t really care about what we’re struggling through or worrying about. Painful life blows and losses may have recently sent us spiraling. We’re still trying to get our feet on the ground and put broken pieces back together again.
Here’s what can make a lasting difference. When we make that decision to fix our eyes on Him, and daily give Him praise, no matter what’s staring us straight in the face, we suddenly realize that God has already begun to release the grip those struggles can have over us. …
When we feel pressed and burdened, weighed down with cares, and in despair without hope, God reminds us that He is able to provide all that we need. He promises to bring beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, and praise instead of despair.1 We can trust that He can do in us, for us, what we are never fully able to do for ourselves.
If you feel stuck in hard places today and can’t see a way out of your current situation, God wants to fully cover you in garments of praise. He gives you a new name, and will cause His Spirit to rise up within you. … God dwells close to us when we praise Him. He lives there. He looks for it. He inhabits the praises of His people.2
We have a choice every day in this life. We can choose to live absorbed in worry and stress, on the fast track of busy, focused only on what surrounds us, and tuned in to the roar of the world. Or we can ask God to help us take our eyes off all that may be swirling around, our problems and mess, and the voices of others. We can look up to Him, the one who holds it all together, and who holds us in His hands.
God desires our whole heart. He waits for us to return if we’ve drifted away. He longs for us to know the power of His presence in and through our lives. He desires to bless us more than we could ever imagine. His Spirit urges us onward, calling us closer.
May He help us to look up again today, to remember His goodness and power in our lives, and to offer Him worship and praise.—Debbie McDaniel3
A worthy sacrifice
The entire book of Hebrews is about a new way of life and a new way of worship. Previously the Jews had been burdened with fulfilling the law, but by his sacrifice and death-defeating resurrection, Christ had set them free from its impossible standards.
Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”
The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament that had once brought a pleasing fragrance to God are now replaced with the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name in spirit and in truth.4
A sacrifice is a gift to God declaring that he is worthy, and we are not. It is also, by definition, difficult. A sacrifice hurts, it’s costly, it takes effort—and the ultimate sacrifice cost the Messiah, Jesus Christ, his life. Likewise, for us, a sacrifice of praise won’t always be easy and effortless, but difficult and costly…
Because of Scripture, we know that we don’t just confess God’s name when it feels good, looks good, or benefits us in some way. We offer praise, as Hebrews 13:15 says, “continually.” This means without ceasing, in all circumstances. Like Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
It is our duty to offer “the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”5 Therefore, I am learning to commit to acting out the duty of praise as the beginning of joy rather than the result of it.
And, as this verse says, we’re able to do all this “through him.” Through Jesus, we’re able to see the great, great love of our great, great God who holds everything in the palm of his hand and bends it to his will with a word. Through Jesus, our mediator, we’re able to access the Father in order to give him due praise.6
Nehemiah says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”7 Through praise we enjoy God—imagine that! Praise focuses us on where our joy comes from and where our gaze should be, and the result is our strength! Whether through prayer, meditation on God’s Word, thanksgiving, or praise, we can lift tired hands even when it’s hard—especially when it’s hard—and say, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD!”8—Amy Dunham9
A heart of praise
When I was a kid, I recollect feeling gratitude or thankfulness for things that gave me immediate gratification. If I got something I wanted that made me happy, I was glad. If not, I wasn’t. It was pretty simple; I was grateful for good things. The scripture “Be thankful in all circumstances”10 is something I am still learning to apply in my life. Expressing gratitude when things happen that I don’t want, when I’m disappointed or down, does not come naturally at all.
However, in life we are going to experience hardships and difficulties and downright bad days, regardless of who we are or what we believe. That’s the nature of life. But the beauty of having belief and faith in God is that while God doesn’t always rescue us from the problems, He does always give us the strength to face them, tackle them, and overcome them through our faith. The apostle Paul was a terrific example of having gratitude and giving praise to God in the face of extreme hardship and adversity.
Here are some of the highlights of the difficulties Paul experienced, documented in the book of Acts:
- Paul and Barnabas were persecuted and expelled from Antioch (Acts 13:14–50)
- Paul was stoned in Lystra (Acts 14:19–20)
- Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:23–39)
- There was an insurrection against Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:12)
- Paul was attacked by a mob in the temple of Jerusalem and was taken to prison (Acts 21:26–22:23)
- There was a conspiracy against Paul’s life (Acts 23:12–13)
- Paul spent two years in prison at Caesarea (Acts 23:23; 24:26–27)
- Paul was shipwrecked and bitten by a snake on Malta (Acts 27 and 28)
- Paul spent another two years as a prisoner in Rome (Acts 28:30–31)
Yet in spite all of these challenges and suffering, Paul was still able to say: “I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am in,”11 and “Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”12
It’s relatively easy to be grateful when life is going well and smoothly, but it’s during the times when it feels like all hell is breaking loose or we’re facing problem after problem that being grateful is the last thing we want to do, and probably the hardest thing to do as well. But if we can learn to praise God even when things are difficult, we will find that He in turn gives us strength to face and even embrace those times of trouble, trusting in the ultimate good He will bring about in them.13
The verse that says God inhabits the praise of His people14 is a reminder that when I am grateful, I am recognizing that God dwells in me, and by His grace and strength, He gives the power to overcome anything and be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”15
A word for praise that’s often used in Scripture is “magnify.” Psalm 34:3, for example, says, “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” When you aim a magnifying glass at an object, it makes the object appear larger. It doesn’t actually change the size of the object itself, but it changes your perception of the object—it appears bigger and more prominent to you. That is a fitting illustration of what happens when we praise God. Our perception of Him and His presence in our lives expands. And when our vision is more focused on God and His power and love for us, it helps put all the little daily worries, concerns, and troubles in perspective.
As author Melody Beattie once wrote, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”—Daveen Donnelly
Published on Anchor May 2021. Read by Simon Peterson.
Music by Michael Dooley.
1 Isaiah 61:3.
2 Psalm 22:3.
4 Leviticus 23:18; John 4:24.
5 Hebrews 13:15.
6 1 Timothy 2:5.
7 Nehemiah 8:10.
8 Isaiah 6:3.
10 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT.
11 Philippians 4:11 ISV.
12 1 Thessalonians 5:18 BSB.
13 Romans 8:28.
14 Psalm 22:3 KJV.
15 Romans 8:37.