15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.
How does sacrifice and praise go together?
A sacrifice hurts. It is selfless. It takes effort. Praise is joyful, weightless and full of inspiration.
And when does it require a personal sacrifice to praise God?
This blog post is my attempt to answer these questions.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is an example of one who sacrificed her fears, reputation, future, and need to be in control in order to praise God. Mary was a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph when an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to her and explained that through the Holy Spirit she would conceive and give birth to a son, whom she was to give the name, Jesus (Luke 1:32-36).
This awe inspiring news did not come without its complications. I’m sure she realized that people might think she came up with this crazy story to justify why she became pregnant before she married Joseph. Though the angel said she was favored and chosen, it did not make Mary’s life any easier.
Mary might have chosen to respond by…
Becoming angry or frustrated because her plans were disrupted, and this was not how she envisioned her engagement to Joseph to play out.
Giving into fear because she didn’t know how to live up to the role of mother to the Son of God.
Becoming concerned that her reputation would be tarnished because no one else has ever conceived through the Holy Spirit and therefore people would think she wasn’t telling the truth.
Instead, this is Mary’s response:
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38).
Then Mary praises the Lord in Luke 1:46-55
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary’s prayer demonstrates she was familiar with the character of God. This knowledge helped her to focus on God’s goodness and sovereignty over her hysterical fears and self-preservation. Knowing the character of God is essential to offering a sacrifice of praise to Him.
The more I meditate on God’s promises and how He fathers me as his daughter, the more I can trust Him and let go of control.
So now I’m ready to answer my questions.
How does sacrifice and praise go together? I believe they are one in the same. I can’t focus on myself and praise God simultaneously. I need to sacrifice my worries, fears and need for control in order to praise God like Mary did in her song.
And when does it require a personal sacrifice to praise God? When life doesn’t go according to plan. When it becomes clear we are not in control. When God disrupts our plans and directs us in a completely different direction. Didn’t that happen to Mary? I’m so inspired how she responded.
But think about this. God gave Mary a blessing in her life that brought her both joy and pain. She had to surrender her son repeatedly to the purpose for which he was born. Would Mary only praise God when being the mother of Jesus benefited her? Or, would Mary accept the pain as much as the joy of this blessing?
God gives each of us specific responsibilities in this life. We too must surrender to God the blessings we have been given by Him. You finally get pregnant, but raising the child is much harder than you think it is going to be. You get married, but this marriage requires an incredible amount of self-denial in order to understand your spouses’ needs. You finally graduate from college and get that great job, but you must continually fight for life-work balance so that you can stay close to God and your family.
Now I understand a bit more of the verse in Hebrews 13:15 that says, “Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” The word “continually” stands out to me. This verse is saying that we don’t stop praising God when plans change, or life gets hard and then start praising him again when life becomes good.
“Continually” implies that there will be times when praising God will be more of a sacrifice than an effortless prayer. Every cell in your body cries out to complain and give into fear, anger and unbelief but instead you place it all on the altar and praise God instead.
This 100-year-old picture is an optical illusion of either a duck or a rabbit. To see the rabbit, I must focus my eyes on the right side of the picture. To see the duck, I must focus my eyes on the left side of the picture. I must sacrifice one side for the other in order to make sense of the picture. I look at my relationship with God the same way. I must choose what I want to focus on: myself and how I am going to respond to my situation or on God and how He is able to carry me through by his power, goodness and love.
Like Mary I am going to choose the sacrifice of self in order to praise God.
Thank you, God, for being the best father a daughter could ever have. I will trust you even when life hurts and like Mary, I will recount all the ways you are good. Amen.