“The reason God seeks praise is not that he won’t be God if he doesn’t get it, but that we won’t be happy if we don’t give it.” John Piper said that and it makes a lot of sense to me. We were made in such a way that the greatest satisfaction and fulfillment in life is found in a worshipping relationship with the God who made us.
“What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” That is the first item in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We were created for the purpose of bringing glory to God – and in the process we are happy people, we enjoy him forever.
I have certainly discovered the truth of that in my own life. When I am zeroed in on God, desiring to represent him accurately in my world, I experience the greatest joy imaginable. When I accomplish something noteworthy and receive praise for it that I harbor as rightfully deserved rather than thanking God for the ability, I am not a happy person within.
The first time I ever sang a solo was at the age of 7. I was in a minstrel show at my school. Those are completely politically incorrect now, eh? After the show someone praised my performance and I responded with, “Oh, it was nothing!” My mother sank into her shoes and reprimanded me severely.
If, when praised, we go too far as in “Oh, thanks, but all the glory goes to God, you know!” That just causes embarrassment to the one who offered a compliment. The appropriate praise to God occurs within the heart where I choose a response of “I really was good, wasn’t I? No one else could have done it as well as I did.” Or, “Lord, I have no ability but what you give me and I am grateful. Thank you for the fact that this event went well. I want you to be glorified in my own heart and in the eyes of others as I live my life, even as I do these things.” I am happy when I roll the praise over to God.
Another way we can enjoy this happiness is in the acknowledgement of God’s hand in all the daily blessings we experience. My world was rocked when I encountered Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. She offers a challenge to pause, remember and acknowledge God as the gift-giver of our everyday blessings. It requires discipline to pause to notice the beauty of the liquidambar trees in autumn, the intricacy of rose petals and their fragrance in summer, the smoothness of a baby’s skin, the sunshine in the kitchen, the taste of a good cup of coffee… and then to remember those are gifts from a loving God – and praise him for his lovingkindness.
The greatest gift of God’s love, for which he deserves our highest praise, is the gift of his death to provide salvation from sin. Every moment he deserves our enthusiastic praise for that gift!
The more we grow in our understanding of who God is, the more there is for which to praise him. Right now I am studying John Piper’s book The Pleasures of God. My soul is expanding as I consider what things bring pleasure to the heart of God – and praise rises out of me.
Praise for God requires the relinquishing of false gods – those people and things that capture our attention and loyalty to any degree that diminishes our confidence in God and our primary loyalty to him. We are diverse creatures and can idolize any number of things.
Habits can become so dear to us that we refuse to consider giving them up. A particular philosophy can so capture our minds that we begin to prefer it over pure Christianity and loyalty to the God of the Scriptures. Primary people in our lives can become idols, our lover, our children, best friends. Certainly wealth is something that can occupy such a place in our attention as to draw our loyalty away from our God. These things hinder praise which eventually results in our being less satisfied and fulfilled because we are happiest when we give God praise, the attention and acknowledgement he rightfully deserves.