Earlier in the day, Paul and Silas had been stripped, severely flogged and then thrown into prison. So we now find them hours later holding their own praise and worship service to a rather captive audience of fellow prisoners and guards. They could have wallowed in their sorrow and pain, but instead chose to worship God. When we praise God in the midst of impossible situations, the atmosphere changes and with it, our attitude. Our eyes are taken off the incurable, the grief-stricken, the hopeless dilemma…and allows God to work in miraculous ways. It says here that the earthquake caused all the prison doors to open…not just the one to Paul and Silas’s cell, and that everybody’s chains came off…not just theirs. When our focus is on praise rather than on self-pity, everyone around us will be blessed.
Hallelujah…this well known Hebrew imperative calls for giving glory to God. But maybe you feel like you have nothing to thank God for today. Well to start off, if you’re reading this, you could thank Him for life…for breath, a beating heart and good vision to boot! The other day I saw a very thought-provoking sign. It said, “What if you woke up this morning with only the things you had thanked God for yesterday.” Wow!
We tend to thank God when good things happen…when prayers are answered or people are healed. But what about when things aren’t so good? Can we still find gratitude within pain and sorrow? Can we be like Job, who after losing everything near and dear to him, exclaimed,” The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, may the name of the Lord be praised.” Expressing gratitude to God within the storm moves our eyes off the chaos around us and focuses it on above.
In so many struggles we can find ourselves totally defenseless…outmanned and outmaneuvered. And as the fighting escalates, we are worn down and demoralized by the toll it takes on us…mentally, physically, and spiritually. For when you are ill-equipped for battle…you have no chance. Why then do we think we have to do all the fighting, when God tells us He’s got our back? Spiritual warfare is His specialty, not ours. All He asks of us is to stand and watch Him work. For in Psalm 91:7-8 says, “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes…”
Maybe it’s hearing someone’s answer to pray…maybe it’s a praise report…or maybe it’s hearing that someone you’ve been praying for has finally come to know the Lord. Whatever it is, joy and thanksgiving almost explodes from us as we listen to others praising and thanking our Heavenly Father. Sharing God’s miraculous works is so important to all of us. For when we share…we all become encouraged and uplifted!
The Lord loves to bless you in small gestures that only you would recognize. Little blessings are a way that God shows you just how special you are to Him, and that He too cares about ever aspect of your life. These unexpected little blessings should come as no surprise though…for God’s kindness and mercy is unending towards you…His love for you is unmeasurable…His desire to give you good gifts is part of His being.
So many times our humanness gets in the way of a right relationship with the Lord. In a twisted form of arrogance, we place our wretched past up on a pedestal and proclaim it to be “too terrible” for the Lord to forgive. Yes, your past may be riddled with bad choices…but nothing God hasn’t forgiven beforehand. Murder, adultery, rape…the list goes on in the Bible of deplorable actions done by people in difficult situations. But when they took responsibility for their sins and asked forgiveness…God forgave them. For there’s nothing so serious, so vile, that God’s redemptive power can’t forgive.