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ANSWER WITH PRAISE
A. Introduction: We live in a world that has been damaged by sin, beginning with the first man Adam’s act of
rebellion. When Adam disobeyed God, a curse of corruption and death entered creation. Human nature
was corrupted, and the earth itself was infused with corruption and death. Rom 5:12; Gen 3:17-19; etc.
1. Life in a fallen, sin cursed earth is difficult and challenging. You can do everything right and things still
go wrong. Sadly, much of the popular teachings in Christian circles today leave sincere people with
false expectations about life and ill prepared for the harsh realities of life in broken world.
a. These teachings tell us that Jesus came to give us an abundant life, and that if you follow certain
“Bible” principles, you can avoid hardships and live a prosperous, blessed life. Not only is this
contrary to human experience, it is contrary to the testimony of the Bible.
b. Jesus Himself said that in this world you will have “tribulation and trials and distress and
frustration” (John 16:33, Amp), and “moths and rust and worm consume and destroy (and thieves)
break through and steal” (Matt 6:19, Amp).
2. We can’t prevent trouble from coming into our lives, but we can learn how to deal with it in a godly and
productive way. We can learn to respond to life’s challenges. To respond means to answer. We can
learn to answer our circumstances with praise and thanksgiving to God.
a. James 1:2 says: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds (ESV). The
Greek word that is translated joy or rejoice means be “cheer”ful as opposed to feel cheerful. Praise
is an action rather than a feeling. You choose to cheer (encourage) yourself through praise to God.
b. Praise, in its most basic form, is not a musical response and has nothing to do with how we feel or
our circumstances. Praise is a verbal acknowledgement of someone’s virtues and works. We
praise people because it is the appropriate response in certain situations.
1. It’s always appropriate to praise the Lord for who He is and what He does. There’s always
something to thank God for—the good He has done, is doing, and will do.
2. The Bible instructs us to praise and thank God continually, in everything for everything (I
Thess 5:18; Eph 5:20). It is God’s will for us. Praise and thanksgiving is an act of obedience.
A. It’s easier to respond to life’s hardships with praise and thanksgiving when you know that
God is able to bring genuine good out of really bad circumstances, and when you know that
He is able to use trials and cause them to serve His purposes.
B. God’s ultimate purpose is to have a family of sons and daughters who are like Jesus in His
humanity—like Jesus in holiness, character, and love. Rom 8:28-29
3. Last week we said that to respond to life’s trials with praise you must also know that, although God does
help His people in this life, the help may not look like what you want or think you need. We said:
a. The Lord often puts off temporal help (like ending your trouble now) for long term eternal results
that further His ultimate purpose for a family. God does bring good out of bad—some of it is in this
life and some of it is in the life to come.
b. To respond with praise and thanksgiving you must have an eternal perspective. An eternal
perspective sees this present life from the standpoint of eternity and lives with the awareness that we
are only passing through this world in its present form. I Pet 2:11; Heb 11:13; I Cor 7:31; etc.
a. The greater and better part of our life is ahead, after this life—first in the present Heaven and
then on this earth once it has been renewed and restored. An eternal perspective lightens the
load of life in a sin cursed earth.
b. Paul the apostle wrote: For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet
they produce for us an immeasurable great glory that will last forever. So we don’t look at the
troubles we can see right now; rather we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the
troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever (II Cor 4:17-18, NLT).
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B. The men who wrote some of the key Bible verses that we’re using in these lessons were all Jewish. Their
view of reality, or their perspective, was shaped by the Old Testament, the portion of the Bible that was
completed in their day. The Old Testament has some marvelous examples of people praising and thanking
God in the midst of life’s hardships. Consider one.
1. II Chron 20—In the time of King Jehoshaphat (870-848 BC.) the southern portion of Israel (known as
Judah) faced an impending attack from three enemy armies that had banded together against them.
Judah was hopelessly outnumbered. This is a historical account of real people, facing real danger, and
feeling real emotions.
a. v1-12—Under the king’s leadership, they sought God. In his prayer, King Jehoshaphat did not
begin with the problem. He began with praise. He acknowledged God—His bigness, His power,
His past help and promise of present and future provision.
b. v13-17—God spoke to the assembled group through a Levite, a descendant of Asaph, a man named
Jahaziel. Through this man, the Lord told Judah not to be afraid or discouraged.
1. Note, God said don’t be afraid as opposed to don’t feel afraid. You can’t help how you feel,
but you don’t have to let how you feel drive your actions. You can answer with praise.
2. God said: The battle is not yours, but mine—I will do what you can’t do. The Lord told them
to go up to the battle field on the next day “stand still and watch the Lord’s victory (v17, NLT)
c. Following this message, the people were elated and praised God (because they felt like it). But
note that there was no visible or immediate change in their situation (v18-19).
1. The enemy didn’t go away. Many hours passed before daylight. It was dark, except for their
campfires. No doubt there were noises out in the darkness of the night.
2. What kinds of thoughts and emotions would they have experienced—What if we didn’t hear
from God. What if this doesn’t work? What if there are more enemy soldiers than we think?
A. Note that the Lord said don’t be discouraged (lose confidence and hope). This was a
chance for them to exercise endurance and encourage themselves by praising God.
B. When you praise the Lord your cheer or encourage yourself and keep your mouth,
thoughts, and emotions under control. You answer your circumstance with praise.
2. The next day, as the army headed out to the battlefield, Jehoshaphat exhorted them: Believe in the Lord
your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets and you will succeed (v20, NLT).
a. A quick, but important side note. People today take this verse out of context and misuse it to say
that we must believe so called modern prophets: I’m a prophet. Believe me and you will prosper.
1. Jehoshaphat was referred to the message from God given by the man, Jahaziel, on the previous
day—not people today who declares that they are a prophet. The Hebrew word that is
translated prosper means to push forward. It has nothing to do with money.
2. In the Old Testament the identifying characteristic of a genuine prophecy from God was that it
came to pass. (If it didn’t the prophet was stoned to death.) Jahaziel’s prophecy came to pass.
b. Look what King Jehoshaphat did next: When he had consulted with the people, he appointed
singers to sing to the Lord and praise Him in their holy [priestly] garments, as they went out before
the army, saying, Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy and loving kindness endure for every (II
Chron 20:21, Amp).
1. The king sent praisers out ahead of the army to sing to the Lord and to thank Him for His
goodness—His enduring mercy and love. The Hebrew word translated saying means vocal
speech and can be translated many ways, one of which is to answer.
2. The Hebrew word that is translated praise means shine, to boast. The word translated thanks
means to acknowledge what is right about God. These people went up to the battle praising
and thanking God through song and spoken word.
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c. When they began to sing and give praise the three enemy armies began to fight among themselves.
Judah didn’t have to fire a single shot. Yet they won a decisive battle (II Chron 20:22-26).
1. They experienced Ps 50:23—Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me (KJV), and he prepares the
way so that I may show him the salvation of God (NIV).
2. Notice how the Bible describes their victory: “For the Lord had made them to rejoice over
their enemies” (II Chron 20:27, KJV).
4. Let’s consider some questions raised by the fact that God’s people experience trials. Why did the
enemy come against Judah in the first place? Because that’s life in a fallen world—fallen people
naturally try to rule over each other.
a. Why didn’t God stop them from coming in the first place? God does not interfere with peoples’
free will choices, but He does use them to further His purposes and bring good out of bad.
1. Judah came out of the battle with proven faith, faith that stood through the trial. When you
make it through one trial, it gives you the hope that you will make it through whatever life in a
fallen world brings your way. Rom 5:3-4
2. Judah’s victory impacted the nations around them: When the surrounding kingdoms heard
that the Lord Himself had fought against the enemies of Israel, the fear of God came over them
(II Chron 20:29, NLT).
b. Remember, the Lord’s ultimate purpose is not to give us a problem free life and make this life the
highlight of our existence. His purpose is to gather men and women to Himself through Jesus and
His sacrifice at the Cross, and make them part of His redeemed family when they repent and believe.
c. Keep in mind that every single person connected with this account of Judah’s victory left this world
many centuries ago. They did not cease to exist. All are somewhere right now, and all that truly
matters is how they responded to the light of Jesus that was given to them during their lifetime.
C. Paul the apostle wrote many of the key verses on praise and thanksgiving that we are using in this series.
1. As a Pharisee thoroughly schooled in the Old Testament, he was familiar with Jehoshaphat and Judah’s
victory, as well as a multitude of other passages which exhort God’s people to thank and praise Him.
a. Ps 107:8; 15; 21; 31—Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful
works to the children of men (KJV).
b. Ps 34:1—I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth (KJV); Ps
113:3—From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised
2. Consider an example of how praise and thanksgiving played out in Paul’s life. The Book of Acts
records an account of a visit that Paul and his coworker Silas made to the city of Philippi in Macedonia
(northern Greece). There, they proclaimed Jesus and His resurrection, and established a work. Acts 16
a. A slave girl who was possessed by a devil followed Paul and Silas around for days proclaiming:
These are the servants of the Most High God. Finally, Paul cast the devil out of her. Acts 16:16-18
1. Her masters were furious since this evil spirit had enabled the girl to tell fortunes, which made
them a lot of money.
2. They reported Paul and Silas to the authorities, and accused them of teaching things contrary to
Roman law. A big uproar followed. The men were taken by Roman authorities, beaten, and
thrown into prison. Acts 16:19-22
b. From the innermost part of the prison, at midnight, Paul and Silas sang praises to God. Where did
they get that idea? This response was based on their perspective (or view of reality) which was
built into them through the Old Testament accounts (as well as what Jesus did and taught them).
1. There are plenty of examples in the Old Testament of people who prayed and praised God at
their darkest hour (like Judah) as well as exhortations to praise God at midnight: At midnight I
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rise to thank you for your just laws (Ps 119:62, NLT).
2. Would Paul and Silas have felt like praising God or would they have seen anything in their
circumstances that would make them happy and grateful? It’s unlikely, since they had just
been severely beaten, put in the inner dungeon with stocks on their feet—all because they did
the work of God and set a captive girl free from demonic possession.
3. This account in the Book of Acts doesn’t give any details about Paul’s thought process or attitude while
he and Silas were in the Philippian jail. But we get some insight into how he viewed situations like
this from his Epistle to the Philippians.
a. Philippians was written a number of years later to the same people who witnessed Paul and Silas go
to jail in Philippi. When Paul wrote the epistle, he was again imprisoned, this time in Rome, not
knowing if he would be executed or released.
1. We commented on the epistle to the Philippians several weeks ago and pointed out that, even
though it is a short letter, Paul used the word joy five times and the word rejoice eleven times.
2. The two Greek words are related (one is a noun, the other a verb), and both mean to be cheerful
as opposed to feel “cheer”ful. (Review lesson #1230 if necessary.)
b. In other words, Paul made a choice to rejoice (to acknowledge God by praising and thanking Him)
based on a number of factors, which he makes clear in his epistle to the Philippians.
1. Paul made it clear to them that he could rejoice because God was already bringing good out of
his difficult circumstances. Phil 1:12-17
2. He told the Philippians that he rejoiced based on the good he could see as well as based on the
good he knew that he would one day see. Phil 1:18-19.
3. Paul assured them that either way his situation turned out (I live or die) it will end well. If I get
out, I’ll keep preaching Jesus. If I die, I go to be with Jesus. It’s a win, win. Phil 1:20-24
4. He wrote: I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me—I am ready for anything
and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me (Phil 4:13, Amp).
5. In his letter, Paul also connected rejoicing (choosing to praise and thank God) to exhibiting
Christ-like behavior in the midst of life’s hardships and challenges. Phil 2:12-15
4. How did things turn out for Paul and Silas? God delivered them. There was a great earthquake, the
prison doors opened, and all the chains were loosed. The Roman jailer cried out for salvation. Paul
preached to the man and his family, and they all believed on Jesus. Acts 16:27-34
a. Why didn’t God deliver Paul and Silas at the beginning of their ordeal before they were arrested,
beaten, and jailed? He saw a way to use the circumstances of life in a fallen world for eternal good.
b. If the two men had not gone to jail, they would not have met the jailer or his family. Tradition tells
us that this man became the pastor of the church that was established at Philippi. How many other
people besides the jailer witnessed what happened at that jail and were converted to Christ? How
many lives were later impacted by the jailer and his family? Only eternity will tell.
D. Conclusion: We have more to say next week, but consider these points as we close. When we encounter
life’s troubles, emotions and thoughts get stirred up. It’s easy to react to your circumstance based on what
you see, and what you feel and think because of what you see.
1. Although your circumstances (and the emotions and thoughts generated by them) are real, they don’t
have all the information in your situation. They can’t tell you what God is doing or is going to do.
2. At these times, rather than reacting to your circumstances and letting your emotions and thoughts
direction your actions, you can respond to or answer your situation with praise and thanks to God.
3. The time you feel least like praising God is the time you most need to do it. If you don’t learn to praise
God in the minor aggravations of life, you won’t be able to do it when the big troubles come. Begin to
develop the habit of answering your circumstances with praise and thanks to God. More next week!