"Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name." ~ Hebrews 13:15 (NLT)
Have you ever made a sacrifice of praise? I thought I had, until the time came that I really knew I had. It seems like such a simple act, to praise God, and really it is. But this particular Scripture makes reference to a sacrifice of praise. A sacrifice.
The thing about a sacrifice is that there is cost involved. Think about it. If we can easily, even glibly, do something without giving it much thought or consideration, it is not a sacrifice. If we throw $20 into the offering plate and we still have plenty left over to pay the bills, go to lunch, buy a new purse or pair of shoes, and hit Starbucks a few times, then we’ve given an offering, but not a sacrifice. On the other hand, if we use the money we’ve been saving for our annual vacation (or whatever), to help a family who has lost everything in a fire (or something else), that is a sacrifice.
A sacrifice is not always the easy or pleasant thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. A good parent will sacrifice their own wants and desires to provide for and take care of their family. Most of us would even go so far as to sacrifice our own life, if it were to protect or save the life of a loved one. And of course we have the amazing example of Jesus, who came as the Lamb of God, to be sacrificed, in order to reconcile us to God.
A sacrifice of praise comes from a broken heart or a shattered spirit. It is not given without pain, because to praise in the midst of sorrow is a sacrifice. To choose, or will yourself, to rise up above the circumstances that are pulling you down, and praise the Living God, no matter what, is a sacrifice. When you are feeling crushed by the heaviness of grief, or are being mercilessly battered by the storms of life, and you choose to believe, to say, “Nevertheless, God is good,” you are offering a sacrifice of praise.
The first time I offered to God a sacrifice of praise was after my first miscarriage. I was hurting and I was angry. And I didn’t understand why I lost the baby it took me so long to conceive in the first place. For a while I went through the motions, but that’s all they were. I’d go to church, and was present in body for worship, but not in spirit.
Then one day during worship, I stood, and I bowed my head, and I began to cry. In that moment, I spoke to God, telling Him, “All I have to offer is my pain and anger, but if you want it, I give it to you.” And then I began praising Him for who He is. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t full of energy and life, but I did it. I remembered that God is good, even in my grief. I gave him a sacrifice of praise.
When worship was over, I was changed. No, the pain wasn’t magically all gone, but I felt the peace and love of God. I found that when I praised God in spite of my hurt, it strengthened me. I was able to experience the loving comfort of my Abba Father. Since that time, I’ve had other occasions to offer up a sacrifice of praise, and every single time, God has met me there, and comforted me.
Giving a sacrifice of praise during a time of sorrow isn’t easy, but it is important. Not for God, not to stroke His ego, but for us. It is through our sacrifice that we are able to let go of the pain and begin to truly heal. God longs to comfort us when we are hurting, but He is a Gentleman, and will not force Himself on us. He is there though, waiting for us to allow Him to. And it is only then, when we are willing, that He can give us beauty for ashes.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” ~ Matt. 5:4
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