I started out in the ministry as a youth pastor. On a regular basis I challenged the youth group with the following idea: “There are two times to praise the Lord, when you feel like it and when you don’t!” One time, after the youth service was over, a very sharp young woman came up to me with a question concerning my assertion. She said, “Wouldn’t it be hypocritical of me to worship and praise the Lord when I don’t feel like it?” (Now that is a good question that needs to be fully explored)
I paused for a moment and answered her question with a question: “Is there ever a time when Jesus is unworthy of praise?” The 2nd chapter of Philippians tells us that on the basis of who Jesus is and what He accomplished that God the Father has given Him a name above all other names--that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So, is there ever a time or circumstance when Jesus is unworthy of your praise and adoration?” You could see the light turn on in her eyes. They shimmered with tears as she said with conviction: “There is never a time when Jesus is unworthy; and I plan to give Him the best of my praise, even when I don’t feel like it!”
I have a laundry list of things that I do when I don’t have an emotional feeling driving me to do so. As a general rule I don’t feel like exercising--I don’t feel like watching what I eat--I don’t feel like paying my taxes--I don’t feel like loving my enemies--I don’t even feel like obeying the speed limits… You get the point! Many of my actions are not based on based on the idea of only doing it if I feel like it. I try to live my life according to a higher standard than what my emotions dictate. I try to do the things that I believe are the right things to do.
There is a Bible story that illustrates this point: Paul and Silas were doing missionary work in the city of Phillipi. Paul cast out a spirit of divination from a young woman who was interfering with their ministry. This created a situation that caused Paul and Silas to be arrested; to be beaten with rods; to be thrown into prison and put in chains.
I have often wondered and marveled at the mindset that caused Paul and Silas to pray and sing praises in the middle of a crisis where they are suffering. To be perfectly transparent with you--I would not “feel” like singing if I was in their shoes. I would be humiliated. I would feel righteous anger towards those who beat me. I would be repulsed by the smells and disconcerted by the presence of rats. I would not feel the urge to praise God, much less praise Him with singing.
In the midst of the darkness, Paul and Silas maintained their spiritual equilibrium and began to worship the One who is always worthy of praise. They sang...and the other prisoners and the prison guards listened. It was midnight when the prison was shaken by an earthquake. The doors to the prison were ajar--the chains came loose--and Paul and Silas were free. Rather than taking the opportunity to leave, they stayed and ministered to the jailer who was about to take his own life. “We are still here,” cried Paul in a loud voice. The jailer fell down before Paul and Silas and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”
When Believers make the choice to praise God in the worst of circumstances, they stand out from the crowd. Praising God, when you don’t feel like it is unexpected. It defies the norm of human behavior; but it certifies this truth, Jesus is always worthy of our praise and adoration...when we feel like it and when we don’t.