My readings this week took me back to one of the passages that I referred to last Sunday morning, when we reflected on the thought that God comes to us so that we can ‘put on… a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.’ (Isaiah 61:3) We found that the reaction of Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:22-38) and the wise men (Matthew 2:1-12) to encountering the new-born Christ-child teaches us that our first response to God’s love, whatever our circumstances, should be the response of praise.
Praise has the power to lift us out of the gloom that might otherwise overwhelm us. It causes what we are focussing on to get bigger, or be magnified – and by a natural consequence, it causes the negative thoughts or experiences that would otherwise distract us to get smaller and to be put into their true perspective. For example, praise is a vital tool in every parent’s armoury, to build the self-confidence of their children as they grow towards independence.
Of course, God doesn’t need our praise in that sense! Rather, he encourages us to praise him for our own good. Praise is an expression of faith, because it springs out of belief. The habit of praising God for who he is and for what he’s done is a way of saying ‘I believe in you, Lord!’ That’s why the example of Simeon, Anna and the Magi is such an important example to follow.
We may now be a week too late to make a formal New Year’s resolution for 2017. But with God, it’s never too late (or too early) to resolve to change the way we do things. So this year, why not resolve to make praise your first response to God’s love and faithfulness each day? Prioritise time to praise God for who he is – for his power, love, grace, favour, guidance, and so on; and to praise him for what he’s done. Recall his goodness to you, and let your praises energise and motivate the use of your time and gifts for God. This year; through 2017, may our first response to God’s love, whatever our circumstances, increasingly be one of praise that points us and others to our Saviour.
With my love and prayers