“And the crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them, and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he … threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:22-25 NASB
Ok, let’s just stop her a moment. Paul and Silas were stripped in public and pummeled until they bled. Then the jailer threw them into the middle of the filthy prison and clamped a bar down on their feet.
Paul and Silas chose that moment to sing praise songs.
These were men who most definitely were not their own.
If I put myself into that scene, I can see lots of tears and self-pity and prayers to get me the heck out of there. If I put some godly men that I know in that scene, I can see some pretty serious anger going on. But praise songs? Wow.
Paul and Silas were so completely Christ’s that any moment was a moment to praise Him, and horrific moments so much more so. I think this must be what Hebrews 13:15 calls “a sacrifice of praise.”
Praise comes in so many forms. Singing a pretty chorus in a pretty church on Sunday morning after doughnuts in Sunday School – that’s praise. But is it a “sacrifice of praise?” I think not. I think that only comes out of our lips on prison floors after beatings.
A Christian wife whose husband scorns her, cheats on her, throws her out like so much trash – when she praises God, that’s a sacrifice. A family man, a deacon, an upstanding guy who loses his job and then his house – when he praises God, that’s a sacrifice. A West African believer who lays awake at night listening to his children cry because they are starving and he has no rice to give them – when he praises God, that’s a sacrifice.
And I don’t think we can give those sacrifices until we understand whose we are. If we are living for ourselves, we will praise God only when he does good things for us. But if we are His, completely His, we will praise him no matter the circumstances in our life. Because He deserves it – no matter what.