In Esther 4, Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, hears of the decree from King Ahasuerus that all the Jews will be killed on a certain day. Mourning, he covers himself in sackcloth and goes to the king’s gate, where he weeps bitterly. By law, he could not go past the gate clothed in sackcloth.
Fortunately for us, God has no such law. He welcomes us, even when we’re weeping bitterly. That being said, Psalms 98:4 tells us to make a joyful noise to the Lord. Many times in the Psalms we’re told to praise Him. David, Solomon, and other kings praised God after great victories or at dedications and feasts. The angels circle God’s throne continually singing praise to Him. And when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, some of the Pharisees tried to silence those who were praising Him. Jesus responded that if they were silent, the rocks would cry out His praise.
Praise of God is an integral part of Christianity for two very important reasons:
1. He deserves it. If you missed my post about the power of God last week, go browse it and see if those facts don’t blow your mind. He is outside of space and time, sees all, knows all, and controls everything but our free will, and that only because He chooses not to. Millions of people cheer their favorite athletes or singers, but God is so far above them that He can’t even be fully comprehended.
2. Focusing on God keeps the focus off yourself. It’s easy to admit when we’re calm and things are going ok for us that we’re not the center of the Universe. Let our world fall apart, however, and we too often see that our heart has a different idea. We run around seeking desperately for a solution to our real or imagined problem or we cry out to God to fix it for us, often crossing the line from humbly offering it to Him into demanding that He do this if He loves us. The focus is on us, not on Him.
And when it is on us, we’re missing the point of the trial, the way out of or through it, our purpose in life, and our identity.
The point of the trial is to get you closer to God. God wants you to come to Him with your problems. He wants you to depend on Him. But He doesn’t want that because He really needs to feel He’s providing value; He wants you to trust Him because He wants a relationship with you. He wants you to love Him because He already loves you. The relationship is the goal, not getting you out of all of life’s difficulties.
The way out of or through the trial is to focus on Him. God has the power to save you from any circumstance, but it often seems that the stronger your faith is, the more you go through. When the disciples’ faith was weak, Jesus saved them from the storm that was threatening to capsize their boat. A few years later, when their faith was strong, they were being beaten and thrown into prison, yet were singing and full of joy. Why? Because their focus when their faith was weak was on themselves; when their faith was strong, they were focused on God. In the end, it’s not really creature comforts or a good relationship or any physical thing that we seek, it’s a feeling of contentment, and God can give you that if you focus on Him, no matter what your circumstances.
You also miss your purpose in life when you focus on yourself. The Universe doesn’t revolve around you. He is the purpose for it. He created the Universe for Himself. Your purpose is simply to praise and glorify Him for it. When you don’t, you exalt yourself over Him, which is as ridiculous as a clay pot saying it’s better than the potter.
Lastly, you forget your identity when you focus on yourself. You can’t know you are the child of God and believe you’re more important than He is. You can either believe that you’re not really His child or that He’s not really God, but those are the only ways to believe you’re more important. With either, you lose your identity because His opinion of you would no longer matter to you. By focusing on Him, you not only keep your identity in Christ; you strengthen it.