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A Life of Praise. How does one praise God when life is in shambles?

The focus of this week’s lesson is simply on the act of praising God in several “crucible” circumstances. Don’t worry about the tough stuff. It’s time to sing.

For Discussion:

  1. Philippians 4:4-7: Rejoice always – even when in jail. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” writes Paul. “Again I say rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything. But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” All of that Paul wrote while sitting in jail. The question is a simple one: How does one rejoice when one’s circumstances are grim?
  2. Psalm 145: Praise! In a quarter dealing with the refiner’s fire and fiery crucibles, shouldn’t one look at a lament? Instead, our lesson guide takes us to a psalm of virtually pure praise. In Psalm 145 there is scarcely a shadow anywhere on the horizon. Does a pain-free psalm mean that the psalmist was free from pain when he composed this psalm? Do some people find it more encouraging to read laments when in difficulty while others find it more helpful to dwell on joyful thoughts?
  3. Joshua 5:13-6:20: The Fall of Jericho: Rejoicing at the demise of one’s enemies. The official study guide notes that the final shout that marked the fall of Jericho’s walls was not a war cry but a shout of praise and rejoicing. In several situations, God’s people in the Old Testament marked the fall of enemies with songs of praise. Is that still an option for those of us who know the story of Jesus? (Cf. Song of Moses [Exod 15]; Song of Hannah [1 Sam 2]).
  4. Acts 16:16-24: Singing in jail: Paul and Silas. In Acts 12, Peter was miraculously delivered from prison, an event which led to the execution of his jailers. Ironically, that same chapter opens with the report of the death of James at the hand of Herod (Acts 12:2). John the Baptist also suffered a violent death while in jail (Matt 14). Given the varied circumstances and results that came from being in jail, is the reaction of Paul and Silas the “right” one? Or could one also make room for a “lament” in the event of incarceration?
  5. 2 Chronicles 20:1-30: Singing your enemies to death: Jehoshaphat. Sometimes God did all the fighting for his people; sometimes their enemies fell to fighting among themselves. In this one instance, at least, the choir led the way to victory. What parallel experiences might be appropriate for Christians who typically would not be going out to war against their enemies?

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