I Will Extol the Lord
Our anthem begins, “I will extol the Lord at all times.” Immediately I thought of some recent footage of Ukrainian Christians singing hymns of faith in the face of the terror of being invaded by a tyrannical enemy. Although the threat is all around them, they extol the Lord by singing in faith, “He will hold me fast.” It gives me a lump in the throat just to see the testimony of their trust as they extol our Lord.
I have a friend who is valiantly fighting end stage cancer. Although her pain is constant, she presses in to extol the Lord. When I text her to encourage her, what I hear back is so God-focused, so full of His praise, that I find I am the one who is encouraged. After telling me the realities of side effects of the latest radiation treatment she was given to mitigate against the pain for the cancer in her bones she shared: “Taking refuge under His wings is such a comforting and peaceful thought. Calling to Him as my heart grows faint is something I want to do until my last breath. He will remain faithful and be our strength when we have no strength left. His mercy and love endure forever. He will never leave us. Praise His holy name.” What an example of extoling the Lord at all times.
Have we seen opportunities arise to extol Him to others, as they take note that we approach our challenges with a different attitude and peace than they do? I have another friend whose family is going through a very difficult season, but whose coworkers are noticing that she deals with the trials with faith in the Lord as her sustainer. Her ability to extol the Lord while under pressure is a praise that not only He receives, but those around her and her family take note of, and it makes them wonder at this great God she serves.
But it is not just at these times of extreme duress that we find it challenging to extol the Lord. Too often we forget to do so when things are running along with no bumps. We are often in the mode of just taking life as it comes, and there aren’t any major struggles or extreme joys. When life is mundane like that, what is the level of our praise for the Lord? Do we even give Him much thought? Are we looking for reasons to extol Him?
It’s not as if we have to “search” for reasons so much as we need to open our eyes and become more aware of what is going on around us each and every day which call forth those songs of praise for His excellence and worth. Our mundane days, with their absence of extremes IS a matter of praise, especially when we think of how quickly that can change. We can refer back to how peaceful things were in Ukraine only a few weeks ago. Life was going on as usual, past the excitement of the holidays, the waning days of winter just drone on, the majority of people just living an average life, when BOOM! Suddenly all thoughts of that sense of average and of peace are GONE! How quickly we could wish for those good old days of the mundane, and only then do we see how much we could have had for which to praise the Lord.
And for us, as we emerge from the extreme stressors of two years of pandemic, and just start to feel like things are getting back to “normal,” are our thoughts turning more or less to extoling God? Are we praising Him for His watch-care over us during the pandemic? For His provision? For His sustaining grace to get us through? Even for His comfort and hope in the midst of our losses? Are we extoling Him for His sovereignty, for the peace He gives us that passes understanding, for the hope we have in heaven that enables us to look past any crosses we face as we journey in this world? The fact we make it from place to place countless times without accident or incident is a reason to extol the Lord. The fact that He gives us His grace and mercy every day is ample reason to extol the Lord. The fact that He hears our prayers and is pleased to answer us above and beyond all we can ask or imagine is a reason to extol the Lord. From the simplest fact that we can turn on a faucet, have heat and light and internet, can go to a store and not have to stand in a bread line (yet)—these common graces are among the thousands of reasons we can find to extol the Lord. They are all around us if we will only look with grateful eyes and earnest hearts.
The truth is we often even forget to extol the Lord when good or great things happen in our lives. We are so busy enjoying the “blessings” that we forget the Blesser! Remember the ten lepers who were healed, but only one came back to say thank you to Jesus? They were all thrilled, but only one paused to recognize the One through whom the blessing was possible. So, we need to ask ourselves if we even extol the Lord at the most natural of times to do so—when He has given us special gifts.
Let’s make a special effort this week (maybe even this month in order to develop it into a habit) to keep our eyes and hearts open to ways to extol the Lord, both in our daily worship and in our witness. If we ask the Lord to enable us to better see His glories that we might praise Him better, it is a prayer He would be glad to answer. It isn’t that He’s a glory hound, but because when we are praising Him most, we are enjoying Him best. And when we give voice to our praises His glories are extoled to our own ears, to those around us, and to the heavenly witnesses, as well. Let us extol the Lord at all times! May His praises be continually on our lips!