Empty Praise


Sounds pretty desolate, doesn’t it? When everything has completely failed, the crops, the livestock, the job, the family, everything, is there still breath to praise the Lord? A hopeless outcome doesn’t have to be. In fact, hopeless isn’t without all hope. For even though everything fails, and your life falls apart, we still know that there is a God in Heaven who is looking out for us.

So at this point you may be asking, “Really? The God of the universe will still let me fail? The God who promises to love me?” Well, yes. Though your position may not be as desperate as Job, you might be able to see it from where you’re at. Job lost his children. Job lost his livestock and crops, all his material wealth. He even lost the comfort of his home and went out to sit in the city dump. Then he lost his health, and was miserable and in pain constantly. Does that sound like anyone you know? (Incidentally, I think this is why Job is in the Bible, even though we know very little about its author or where it came from. Job’s story needs to be told because we all need to hear it.)

Habbakuk doesn’t directly point to this, but you can hear a little bit of Job behind him. In all of his loss, and it was extreme, Job never lost his faith. Habakkuk advocates for the same. The question you need to be able to answer is this: Will you only trust the Lord as long as He gives you stuff? Will you only trust the Lord as long as things are going well? I believe this is indeed the final test all of us face to an extent. Why does God allow people to suffer in extended illness? Why does He allow folks to waste away in nursing homes? Some of the nursing homes I’ve seen aren’t too far from Job’s situation. For if you only trust the Lord when He is good, how strong is your faith? Sometimes there needs to be times of testing, times where our only hope is God, because everything else fails. Are you prepared for something like that? Does death frighten you? Does incapacity scare you? Does being a burden on others cause your blood pressure to go up?

I remember a story in Daniel 4 where Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind. Why? Because he looked upon his kingdom and said to himself, “I did that!” He refused to acknowledge God’s role in his rise to power. God punished him. Nebuchadnezzar was insane for seven years. SEVEN. History tells us that he roamed around the palace gardens like an animal. His people thought he was “touched by the gods” and he was in a way. But God took everything he had from him, because of his pride, until Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the Lord’s power and place as the true King. Now he still possessed all his goods, but he didn’t have his mind. If you don’t have that, what do you have? All the gold in the world doesn’t replace your ability to appreciate it.

Nebuchadnezzar and Job both point to God’s ability to take or allow to be taken everything we hold dear to prove a point. Our stuff, even our mind can be taken at will. We can’t keep anything in this world, not even our health, even if we had all the money and the doctors it could buy. The only thing we have for sure is our choice to serve and worship the God of Heaven. Don’t make God take everything else you value before your only choice is to bow your knee to Him. Serve Him gladly, every day, and through wealth or poverty, health or illness, offer Him your praise. Nothing we earn or possess can save us. Only by faith will we see heaven. May you learn this lesson early and often.

Lord God, May you know today that I value You more than anything else in this world. Though everything be taken from me, even my freedom to live, may my heart be found devoted to You, worthy not because of what I have done, but through what Christ has done in me. This is hard prayer to make, because I value many things in this world. And were I to be truly tested in this, I fear I would fail. Forgive my unbelief. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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