Praise and the Defeat of Discouragement

Not that long ago I shared how I didn’t always take scriptures in their proper context and treat them properly. Lately, I was challenged about another oft repeated verse.

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. (Psalm 34:1)

It won’t take too long to be in certain church circles and hear that verse utilised as part of the ‘pump up the praise’ efforts that characterise some gatherings of the saints. What tends to happen along with that is a pep talk and a subtle or sometimes not so subtle suggestion that not making a ‘joyful noise’ is disrespecting God.

It’s a pity that there’s a kind of razzmatazz, cheerleading, football crowd approach to praise. It’s a pity because there’s so much more to praise than that. Indeed the challenge to bless God at all times with continual praise on the mouth is not something designed solely for the corporate settings.

There are people who use the church gatherings for escapism. The world outside is nasty and brutish and in the couple of hours in the building they can make an effort to get away from it all. Indeed once the singing, whooping, hollering and other noise is over they will slip back into their world of mediocrity. Sometimes the suffering is in silence, other times the release valve is in complaining. Complaining about what they see as broken promises, broken hearts and broken dreams. Complaining about why they have to watch loved one scramble and suffer, while others appear to prosper. Complaining about the life they could have had, but missed out on for so many reasons. They are complaining and even those surface complaints are covers for deeper issues of despair, disillusionment and discouragement. The two hours with pumped up praise and a pep talk ain’t working out in the face of the challenges and the discouragement.

Yet even beyond this there is a story – one marked by responses to disappointment that made room for discouragement. Just like responses to the juicy morsels of information about someone else made room for gossip. Just like responses to sexual urges and desires lead to making room for lustful wanderings in the mind and beyond. This is not to say, however, that being discouraged is a sin or something that shouldn’t be associated with being a follower of Jesus or life in any case. Being discouraged comes with the territory. It’s how we respond to the discouragement that can make the difference to how we come out of the episode.

For some they have made room for the discouragement. Such is its inevitability that they make room for it and expect it to take residence in their life as though it belongs there. Not long after accepting that they also have to allow fear, intimidation and a gnawing sense of inadequacy to take up residence. Not always making a noise, but not only do they take up residence, they don’t bother paying rent, they don’t contribute to the groceries, they make a mess of everything, they consume and give nothing and in their wake they leave perpetually perplexed people pondering possibilities but procrastinating as their life peters away in potential passed.

The source of all this is an incredibly self-absorbed and self-centred approach. That cycle of defeat set off again by never looking beyond self for a better response to discouragement.

Praise makes a difference, because it takes the focus off from self and directs it to someone who is more interested in us than we are. It’s just that His interest is one that expresses itself in creating you in a way to see there being more to life than being self-absorbed. He displays this Himself – lovingly pursuing His people, rescuing them from slavery, establishing their nationhood, distinguishing them not because they were of any worth in and of themselves above other people, but purely because He wanted to display His desire for humanity through them. Through His longsuffering engagement with them He highlights His qualities of mercy, enduring love and overcoming grace – a suitable platform for the emergence of His Son to live a life of mercy, enduring love and overcoming grace – overcoming even on the cross.

Recounting His greatness and seeing His extended invitation to partake in a life far greater than one we have ever considered before, is reason enough to fill the brief time we have on this earth with a passion for praise. Yet there is more to it than that. In praise we remind ourselves of who He is and what He has done. We remind ourselves because we need the reminder and we need Him. We not just remind ourselves but in the songs recounting His greatness over history both in our lives and the lives of others over millennia, we begin to encourage ourselves. We actively work to dispel the discouragement. We at the very least expel it and say there is no room for it. It no longer belongs in us, it can no longer take residence.

In praise we make a very bold declaration that actually the residence that is our mind and heart is under new management who takes up full occupancy. He is not just the Lord in our time of convenience. The Lord rules and has full occupancy over every aspect of our life and as we praise Him – as we tell Him who He is, how great He is and what He has done is doing and will continue to do, we practice the reality that greater is He that is in us that the discouragement from the world that threatens to take a grip by looking to take up residence again. As we praise Him, we are saying we no longer belong to ourselves, we don’t have absolute sway, but the one who does sees us in our discouragement. He not only sees but can, over time and through his mercy, enduring love and overcoming grace, lead us beyond fear, despair and intimidation to exercising love, power and a sound mind which we have been given by the great one who lives inside us.

The invitation to praise is a one that is accomplished by relying on Him. As we do so, the words that flow are not the manufactured typical cliches – they are deep, real, expressions in tough times and great of the God we grow to know, grow to love and grow in praising and adoring.

Indeed praise isn’t just about words uttered from our lips and so there’s a wide avenue of options to express praise open to us. So wide is it that we are invited to invest all our time and continual verbal expression to praise. It’s a challenge and an invitation that’s very much worth us dispelling discouragement to consider and embrace.

(Photo: Unsplash) 

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

 

Psalm 150 – Praise Him, Praise Him! 


In the relatively short period of time that I have breathed the breath of life on planet earth, I have come across a number of ways and means to highlight the worth of something. 

Without in anyway suggesting I am at the Grandmaster level of expressing myself in the English language, I do take pleasure and delight in using words to convey the benefits of my passions and interest. It will not take much for me to wax lyrical about the beauty of the game of football, TV programmes I have loved, meals I enjoyed consuming, blogs I enjoyed reading and so on. 

What I am currently developing an even greater appreciation for is the capacity to express my love for God. If there’s one thing that studying the book of Psalms has made profoundly clear is if I think I know how to praise Him, I have another think coming. Just when I think I get it, there’s more to get, just as there’s more to know about Him. For everything I know there’s a reason to praise and there are so many outlets on which that praise can be expressed. 

Praise Him on the keyboard, praise Him on the synthesiser, praise Him on the sitar, praise Him on the harmonica, praise Him in the dance, praise Him in the rap, praise Him in word, sound and deed.

Praise Him with every fibre of my being, lifelong praising said lifelong loving if an amazing God who has done great things. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Psalm 149 – Call To Praise … And … 

Here’s a good Psalm to pay attention to carefully. 

Reasons to praise God? Sure, they are there and offer strong encouragement for the readers to remember how great God is and what He does for His people. It’s all going well and then … 

“Two-edged swords … execute vengeance … punishments … bind with fetters … judgment … ” One or two folks pick up words like that and get to thinking of bloodthirsty and violent religion again. Giving permission for folks to get happy putting people forcefully in their place. 

This misses the point of the Psalm. Misses it quite significantly. Honour on God’s people is for those who are keen to see put in action godly justice. Godly justice that deals with those who oppress others and give licence to iniquity and inequity subjecting others to misery. How this is done is always lead by God Himself. Indeed how this is practiced properly is always lead and shown by God. That’s why praise is the basis for activities of justice. 

Praise reminds us that we are subject to the ultimate authority who rules wisely and with fairness, especially to the meek and humble who put their trust in Him. That’s not a bloodthirsty solution, that’s a peacemaking practice in line with the Word of God. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Psalm 148 – All Creation Praise Him

Heaven and earth encouraged to praise God. With good reason. 

Once more I like how the Psalm is set from the big picture of the universe to the smaller picture of the earth and then the more intimate picture of the relationship with a people on the earth. At every stage there’s a reason to praise God. That reason being, He is inextricably involved in each and makes them as awe inspiring and productively as they were always intended to be. 

This glorious God of the universe engages with His people just as He does with life on earth and just as He does with His magnificent heavenly array. In all of that and as part of that it makes sense for us all to give Him that of which He is worthy. 

Praise Him. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Psalm 147 – In Awe


I had the great privilege of being on a road trip with some saints. As the sun set and night settled in, rather than snoozing off after an exhausting day, those saints saw it fit to sing songs to God. There were songs of adoration, songs of praise, songs proclaiming the wonders of God. 

In His wisdom, God saw it fit to see the completion of the road trip rounded off with the reading of this Psalm. From the encouragement to praise God to the various reasons why it was incredible to hear how our time of worship in song chimed so well with the ethos of this Psalm seeing God in His splendour for all the marvellous things He has done, is doing and will do. 

Particularly fitting to be reminded that God isn’t hung up on the prowess of the warrior, but He takes delight of those who live in awe of Him. It’s the right response to such a glorious God. Nothing else is worth placing effort and trust. Nothing and no one else. When we consider His nature and His works, understandably, we worship Him. 

I love it when I get to have experiences like that and recognise how privileged I am to be around saints who effortlessly put in practice what the Word prescribes. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Psalm 145 – The Lord Is … 

One of the many reasons why I love this Psalm is how it shows very good reasons to praise the Lord. It’s a great exhibition of praise. It’s all based on both what the Lord has done and who the Lord is. 
I could run through the list and would I love to do that! Yet it’s worth for yourself just considering who He is and what He has done. Then seeing why it is so important to see the benefit of passing it from one generation to another. 

I am a recipient of elders and mothers impressing on me the goodness of God in word and deed. For it is one thing to exult over His goodness and another thing to witness it. Seeing it miraculously provide a home for a family set to be kicked out on the street. Seeing it restore a marriage heading for the rocks of divorce. Seeing it rescue young people from lives destined for misery and prison. Seeing it bring peace not in avoiding conflict but addressing the source of conflict – the insidious root of sin stubbornly refusing to be dismissed but then summarily uprooted and tossed aside forever by the goodness seen in the revelation of who God really is as expressed in His Word. 

No wonder He is the ruler of the Universe. No wonder He does great things. No wonder He is worthy of perpetual praise from those who see Him, know Him and love Him. 

It’s an outstanding Psalm worthy of your consideration as a springboard to ongoing praise to the Lord who is worthy. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Psalm 138 – Praise the God who Relates

God. 

Just think of the word and the concept. Beyond human comprehension in totality. Splendid, magnificent and awesome in all dimensions. 

When growing up and hearing about amazing people, famous for great things, I was given the impression that they were not attainable. You couldn’t touch them, talk to them, engage with them at all. Because they are great and I was not. Even today there’s a degree to which I feel as if some people cannot be reached or touched. They’re just not willing to stoop. They have their close crew, but no one else is allowed. 

Great though they are, they don’t even come to being in the same stratosphere as the Creator of the Universe. Yet look at Him, relating with the lowly and not too fussed about reaching those who call out to Him. He is ever ready and willing to help those who need Him. 

He is accessible and retains His greatness. He is magnificent and means to engage with His creation in that. There’s yet another great reason to praise Him and extend that good news to others to partake of this great reality. All because of … 

God. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden