The Point of Praise

I believe that no question is a bad question.

Unless, of course, you ask your girlfriend if that’s really what she’s going to wear. But I digress.

Other than that though, I’d say there are no bad questions. God created us an inquisitive, contemplative people, desiring to think through everything and to always know more. I don’t think it’s bad to think things out for yourself, to ask the hard questions. Sometimes others can help us find an answer. And sometimes there just isn’t one (that we are able to comprehend yet at least). But you know what? You just have to learn to be okay with that sometimes.

But, for example, there are plenty of things that pertain to God, Jesus, and Christianity that just befuddle me. I’m sure it’s true for you too. There’s enough befuddlement to share. One of the questions I used to have about the Christian life was regarding worship.  To be frank, I didn’t get the point. Of course, I was always happy to thank God for all he had given me. I always understood that it was appropriate to be thankful, and to show him that thanks through our lives. But for God to REQUIRE it of us? Well… that just didn’t seem right. Why would God care about how much worship we gave Him? What is He, some selfish being up in Heaven who just wants us to shower him with endless compliments? He knows how awesome he is, he sure doesn’t need me to remind him. So I would sit in church, sing a few songs, tell him how thankful I was, and then just not be in the mood anymore. The music would continue, and I would just sit there, thinking to myself “what’s the point of this?”

What kind of loving God would be so self-centered as to demand our praises? This question weighed on my mind for much of my growing up in the church. It wasn’t that big of a pester on my mind, but it was something that always bugged me. I was befuddled.

2 Thessalonians 1:10 tells us that God seeks to “be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.” God commands this of us. His happiness and His delight come from the praises of His children… But we all stumble over this all the time. We don’t like to hear that God does things just so that he can be exalted. We don’t like to hear that he seeks the praises of men. Why? Well, because we don’t like people like that. We aren’t big fans of people so enamored with their own intelligence or good looks that they just have to hear it from others as well. And secondly, because God’s Word tells us not to be like that. So… what’s the deal?

God finds happiness in our praises. He is enamored with his own glory. But this begs the question, how can He be so utterly focused on himself and still be a God of love? Doesn’t Paul tell us in 1 Corinthians that “love does not seek its own?” How can God be so loving and yet so devoted to seeking His own glory? Isn’t this paradoxical? Someone who shows love, automatically is supposed to put others above themselves.

As for God, His way is perfect.
Psalms 18:30

This is for sure: God does not demand the praises of his people to make up for his own weakness or insecurities. He has no deficiencies. At first glance, it may look like he is trying to make up for some weakness or compensate for shortcomings. But he is perfect and without fault, so this cannot the reason.

If God loves us and desires to give us exceeding joy, what would he give us? The only thing that could accomplish such joy: HIMSELF. For He Himself is the only place we can find complete joy and peace and tranquility. So he has given us himself. For us to have HIM is to have true joy. It is the treasure we give up everything we have for. Every other earthly pleasure pales in comparison so much that it is a no-brainer to give it all up in exchange for Him (Matthew 13).

Think about it- for God to NOT find the greatest joy of all in Himself would be to say there is a greater joy than Him. Finding joy in himself is the perfect thing for God to do. But still… what does any of this have to do with praise? And worship?

But the most obvious fact about praise- whether of God or anything- strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise… Lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game… Praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least…

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value… I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.
C. S. Lewis

… Befuddlement De-fuddled.

Delight is incomplete unless it is expressed. God’s pursuit of praise from us and our pursuit of pleasure in Him are one in the same.

Think about what we do when we see something or get something that brings us joy or is just simply awesome… we give it compliments. We PRAISE it! We praise one we love after we haven’t seen them for a while. We praise a newborn baby. We praise the star of the basketball game. We praise the trees in the park during Fall.

Our delight in something is incomplete until it is expressed in praise.  So if God wants to give us the greatest delight, because He loves us so much, He not only will give us Himself, but will want us to express our delight in Him in praise! Seeking his own praises is an act of love. So God’s longing for our worship is sort of the greatest gift he could ever give. It has nothing to do whatsoever with him needing our compliments, but about Him wanting to see us happy.

How cool is that?

© Matt Tory, 2013. 

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