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MAGNIFY GOD, NOT THE PROBLEM
A. Introduction: We’re working on a series about the importance of learning to praise and thank Almighty God
continually, and to answer life’s many challenges and hardships with praise to Him. Ps 34:1
1. When I say praise the Lord, I’m not talking about a musical or emotional response to God. I’m talking
about making a choice to acknowledge God by proclaiming who He is and what He does.
a. Praise, in its most basic form, is not connected to music, feelings, or circumstances. Praise is a
verbal acknowledgement of the virtues and works (or character and actions) of God.
b. Continual praise and thanksgiving to God is not optional for believers. Nor is it something we do
only when we feel like praising and thanking Him, and all is well in our lives.
1. Praising and thanking God continually is part of our created purpose: But you are…[God’s]
own purchased people, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display
the virtues and perfections of Him Who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light
(I Pet 2:9, Amp).
2. It is the will of God that we praise and thank Him continually: Rejoice always, pray without
ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you
(I Thess 5:16-18, ESV).
2. In previous lessons, we looked at a passage in James 1:2-3 where we’re told to count it all joy when we
encounter trouble (or consider the trial an occasion to respond with praise).
a. Our response is based on what we know about God and how He works in the midst of life’s
hardships. We know from God’s Word (the Bible) that:
1. God is able to use the circumstances of life in fallen, sin cursed earth and cause them to serve
His ultimate purpose, which is to have a family of holy, righteous sons and daughters with
whom He can live forever. Eph 1:9-10; Rom 8:28-29
2. God is able to bring genuine good out of truly bad circumstances—some of the good in this life,
and some in the life to come—and He will get us through whatever we face until He gets us out.
b. Last week we looked at Joseph’s story (Gen 37-50). It is the record of a real person facing real
trouble. It is also a tremendous example of how God works in the midst of life’s hardships to
accomplish His ultimate purpose for a family—while He also helps people right now.
1. Joseph’s story encourages us because it shows us the end result (how things turned out, Gen
50:20). His story assures us that, no matter how bad our circumstances are, they aren’t bigger
than God and haven’t taken Him by surprise. He has a plan in mind to use them for good.
2. Joseph’s story assures us that God sees a way to use hardship and cause it to serve His purposes
as He brings good out of bad, and maximum glory to Himself and maximum good to as many
people as possible. Therefore, we can praise God now for both what He has done and will do.
3. Joseph’s story helps us see the importance of understanding that there is more to life than just
this life. His story shows us the importance of living with the awareness that every loss and
injustice will ultimately be made right—some in this life, and the rest of it in the life to come.
A. This eternal perspective helps lighten the load of life. Paul the apostle, a man who
endured many hardships in his life, wrote about the value of an eternal perspective.
B. II Cor 4:17-18—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 (NLT).
3. The Old Testament records other examples of real people who got real help from God. These accounts
give us hope (Rom 15:4), and they help us see the importance of acknowledging God by praising and
thanking Him before we see or feel His help. We have more to say about this in tonight’s lesson.
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B. Praise and thanksgiving helps us magnify God. When you magnify something, the object you magnify
doesn’t get bigger. It gets bigger in your eyes because of some type of magnification device. When you
praise God, He gets bigger in your eyes, which builds your trust and confidence in Him.
1. Around 1018 BC, King David of Israel wrote: I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall
continually be in my mouth…Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together
(Ps 34:1-4, ESV). The Hebrew word that is translated magnify means to make larger.
a. David wrote these words after he escaped King Abimelech (or Achish), the Philistine king of Gath,
by pretending to be insane (I Sam 21:10-15). At that time David was at a low point—alone, cut off
from friends and family, hiding in a cave, with King Saul relentlessly pursuing him.
b. David wrote a number of psalms during this period that give us insight into how he magnified God
in his circumstances. Psalm 56 was written at the time the Philistines took him to the city of Gath.
1. Ps 56:1-2—David was surrounded by men intent on doing him harm and was afraid. He didn’t
deny the seriousness of his situation or how it made him feel. He cried out to God for help.
2. Ps 56:3-4—But when I am afraid, I put my trust in you. O God, I praise your word. I trust in
God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me (NLT)?
c. David acknowledged God through praise. The Hebrew word translated praise means to boast. He
boasted in God’s Word, God’s faithful promise to David that he would make it through this trial.
2. Several weeks ago we looked at an incident recorded in II Chron 20. It occurred over 150 years after
David, when a descendant of his, Jehoshaphat, was king in Israel. Three enemy armies joined together
to attack Judah, the southern portion of Israel. Judah was greatly outnumbered and very afraid.
a. Under the leadership of King Jehoshaphat, the people sought God in prayer. Like his ancestor
David, Jehoshaphat magnified God. We noted that the king didn’t start out with the problem that
was coming against them. Jehoshaphat began with the bigness of God, and then recalled God’s
past help and promise of present help. II Chron 20:5-12
b. Like his ancestor David, the king magnified God by talking about who He is and what He does.
Even though they were facing an overwhelming challenge and were very afraid, he praised God.
1. When the armies of Judah actually went into battle, the king sent praisers out to walk in front of
the army proclaiming praise to God: Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy and loving-
kindness endure forever (v21, Amp).
2. Judah won a decisive victory: The Lord made them to rejoice over their enemies (v27, Amp).
3. Over two hundred years after Jehoshaphat’s day, Israel was on the verge of national destruction. The
nation as a whole had abandoned the Lord to worship the false gods of the people living around them.
a. When Almighty God brought His people into the land of Canaan (modern day Israel) after
delivering them from slavery in Egypt, He warned them that if they left Him to worship false gods,
they would be overrun by their enemies and removed from the land. Deut 4:25-28
b. The Israelites did not stay faithful to God. God raised up numerous prophets over many years and
sent them to call His people back to Him before destruction came. The people as a whole did not
listen, and in 586 BC Israel was overrun and destroyed by the Babylonian Empire.
1. A man named Habakkuk was one of God’s prophets. He prophesied during the final days of
Judah as a nation. Although he himself was a righteous man who remained faithful to
Almighty God, Habakkuk was facing the destruction of life as he knew it.
2. Yet he chose to acknowledge God in the midst of his circumstances, despite the fact that his life
was about to be altered because of the actions of irreverent and wicked men.
c. Note what the prophet wrote: Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes
on the vine, even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the
flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful
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in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as
a deer and bring me safely over the mountains (Hab 3:17-19, NLT).
1. Habakkuk wasn’t being poetic when he talked about empty fields and failing crops. He lived
in an agrarian society and was describing the coming destruction of his nation’s economy and
Mittel des Lebensunterhalts.
A. Notice that he made a choice to rejoice: I will rejoice in God my Savior. I will respond to
Him with praise, despite what I see and feel.
B. Note that Habakkuk called God the Sovereign Lord who would bring him to safety.
Sovereign means all powerful, all mighty. Habakkuk was acknowledging the fact that this
dire circumstance was not bigger than God and God would get him through it.
2. The historical record doesn’t tell us what happened to Habakkuk—whether he survived the
destruction of Israel or not. Even if he survived, his life was permanently altered because his
nation was destroyed. And none of that was fixed during his lifetime.
A. This is where having an eternal perspective helps us praise God. Habakkuk is now in
Heaven waiting to return to this earth, once it is renewed and restored when Jesus returns.
B. Habakkuk and the other prophets were given revelation about the recompense and
restoration in the life to come which gave them hope. Isa 12:19; Isa 65:17; Jer 29:11; etc.
d. When you learn to live with this perspective, it lightens the load of life. Acknowledging God
through praise helps you keep your focus on eternal realities—God with you and for you, God who
will get you through until He gets you out. II Cor 4:17-18
C. Possibly you are thinking: I see the value of praising God when something big hits my life. Praise clearly
helped David, Jehoshaphat, and Habakkuk. So, I’m going to praise God the next time trouble comes my
way. However, you must understand—it’s not that simple.
1. First, praising God is not a technique you can use as a quick fix for your problems. Praise is an act of
obedience and submission to God. You realize and acknowledge that He is worthy of praise and
thanksgiving no matter what is happening in your life. And, therefore, you praise Him.
2. Second, we all have a natural tendency to magnify our troubles and the problems they bring to us.
When we encounter a trial that is bigger than us (bigger than the resources available to us), it stimulates
emotions (fear, worry, etc.) and thoughts begin to fly—what will I do, how will I get through this?
a. Then we start to talk to ourselves about what we see, and how we feel, and speculate about all the
negative possibilities in our situation—which further stirs up our emotions and thoughts. The
problem gets bigger in our eyes and God gets smaller.
b. Most of us don’t even realize that we react to trouble and frustration like this because it’s such a part
of who we are. It’s our natural, automatic response, and it seems completely appropriate because
it’s what we see and feel in the moment.
1. Developing a habit of continual praise and thanksgiving helps counteract this natural tendency
by helping us get control of our mouth. Getting your mouth under control helps you get
control of your thoughts. You can’t think and say two different things at the same time.
2. James 3:2—We all make mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control
themselves in every other way (NLT).
3. Third, praise to God isn’t something you can turn on when you need it. We are instructed to praise God
continually. If you don’t do it in the little things, you won’t do it in the big things. If you don’t praise
God in the little frustrations of life, you won’t be able to do it in the big challenges of life.
a. Think about it. A driver doesn’t immediately move forward when the traffic light turns green.
We’re in a hurry, so we lay on the horn and start shouting: Come on!! What an idiot!! Move!!
1. We magnify a little thing (a several second delay at a traffic light) and it becomes a big thing.
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We replay the incident in our head and keep talking about it long after we’re past the
intersection. I think you’d agree that we’re all well developed in reacting to life in this manner.
2. If you can’t get control of your reaction in the small things (emotions and thoughts generated by
life’s pressures) you won’t be able to do it when terrifying or devastating things come your way.
b. Consider something else that James wrote about controlling our tongue: The tongue…is an
uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and
sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. And so
blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is
not right (James 3:8-10, NLT).
1. What if, instead of cursing that idiot drive who cost you a few seconds of your day, you took
control of your tongue with praise to God: Praise you Lord. Thank you for that man. Thank
you for this opportunity to exercise patience and respond to this frustration in a Christ-like way.
2. What if, as an act of submission and obedience to Almighty God, you exercise your will and
choose to praise God despite how you feel? What if you begin to actively pursue developing
a habit of praising and thanking God continually?
4. Consider something that Paul wrote to a group of Jewish Christians who were experiencing great
pressure from their unbelieving fellow countrymen to abandon Jesus. They had already experienced
public ridicule, beatings, and property loss (Heb 10:32-34). The whole purpose of Paul’s letter was to
exhort them to stay faithful to Jesus no matter what.
a. At the end of his letter Paul wrote: Through Him (with Jesus’ help), therefore let us constantly and
at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully
acknowledge and confess and glorify His name (Heb 13:15, Amp).
b. A sacrifice of praise was familiar to the people who received this letter from Paul. They grew up
under the Law of Moses and its system of sacrifices, including a thank offering. Lev 7:12-14
1. The Hebrew word that is translated thanksgiving means the act of acknowledging what is right
about God in praise and thanksgiving. This offering or sacrifice was made to God with a
public profession of His power, goodness, and mercy.
2. In the good times, this sacrifice helped them remember God’s goodness and mercy. In times
of danger, it helped them be conscious of God’s nearness and mercy.
c. In his letter Paul defined a sacrifice of praise as lips that thankfully acknowledge God’s Name. His
names are expressions of who He is and what He does.
1. In other words, when you praise God you are verbally expressing who He is and what He does
—not based on how you feel or what you see in the moment—but based on who He truly is and
what He has done, is doing, and will do.
2. Sacrifice has the idea of something that costs you. It takes effort to praise and thank God when
you don’t feel like it and when you can’t find any reason in your circumstances to do so. But
it’s part of our responsibility as sons and daughters of God.
D. Conclusion: We have more to say about praise to God next week, but consider these points as we close.
1. Continual praise has a God-ward side and a man-ward side. Praise glorifies God, but also helps you get
control of the unChrist-like parts of you makeup, as it lightens the load of the hardships of life.
a. I’ve quoted Ps 50:23 a number of times in recent weeks: Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me
(KJV). The same Hebrew word that is translated praise is used for thank offerings in Lev 7:12-14.
b. Ps 50:23—He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show
ihm das Heil Gottes (NIV).
2. Make the sacrifice. Begin to put forth the effort to thank and praise God in life’s little frustrations and
develop the habit of acknowledging God (magnifying Him)—not your problems, and frustrations.