Christians are people of praise. We always have been—although we don’t have a monopoly on praise. C.S. Lewis, the Christian writer, said,
The world rings with praise—readers praising their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game.
But Christians are always a people of praise because—through Christ—we know the one who is ‘most worthy of praise’: the mighty and sovereign God of all the world, whom we personally know and celebrate! Psalm 96 puts this well:
For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.
The reason why God is ‘most worthy of praise’ is also given:
For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
It is a wonderful thing to be able to know the God who really is God and LORD over all the earth, the creator of all that there is. What a privilege!
What is praise? It’s talking about how great God is. It’s not talking up God (inflating his qualities), even though it might sound like this sometimes. God doesn’t need talking up—his character and deeds speak for themselves, and are both worth talking about. Let’s take each of those in turn.
A football fan might praise their favourite player by talking generally about how great they are. Christians praise God for who he is:
Splendour and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
You can also praise someone for what they’ve done. A football fan might praise their favourite player for a brilliant play on the field. Christians can do this for God:
Declare … his marvellous deeds among all peoples.
What is the direction of praise? Praise may be expressed to God, but then again, it may not. We can praise God equally well by talking to each other about how great he is. A football fan can praise their favourite player by recounting to someone else an amazing move by that player in a particular game. That’s praise! Psalm 96 calls on us to do this:
Declare his glory among the nations …
But praise can also be expressed directly to God. That’s one of the wonderful things we enjoy in coming together in our church gatherings—we have the great opportunity of lifting our voices (in song, in speaking) and praising God together:
Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise his name …
When our hearts are engaged, this is often the most enjoyable aspect of worship in church. Why? Because praise completes our enjoyment of God. Again, C.S. Lewis explained this well:
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 honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise … I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.
Often ‘evangelism’ is a scary word to Christians, and perhaps laden with associations of guilt and fear. But it is nothing more than expressing our enjoyment of God—of talking about how great God is to other people. Christ’s coming gives us so much more to praise God for than the Psalmists had.
We are a people of praise!