Why your Praise Matters

“…Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”  James 5:16 

Authenticity is central. Authenticity is essential. Whether it is knowing what you have discovered or purchased is real gold, or you wonder if you have genuine tickets to the Broncos game, or whether the cash you pulled out of the bank is genuine, there are endless pursuits in our life that are established on the promise of authenticity.

We live in a society that treasures authenticity. Former child actor and leadership expert Lance Secretan says, “Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet — thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing — consistently.” Whether it is buying groceries at the store, clothes for our body, or parts for our car, we want to know that the brand on the package is going to match the product that we purchase. The same is true when we call ourselves Christians or gather as a church.

Your praise matters because it is one of the hallmarks of someone who has been radically transformed by Jesus Christ. Recently, Thom Rainer (Current president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources) noted that millennials are seeking 3 things in their worship experience when the church gathers: meaningful words, quality worship service (things done well), and authenticity. Rainer notes that, “millennials can sense when congregants and worship leaders are going through the motions. And they will reject such perfunctory attitudes altogether.”

Personally, in my experience growing up in a multi-generational church and through experiences at every church I have attended, I believe that the traits of millennials are not unique to that generation. I imagine that everyone craves authenticity in worship. Authenticity in worship can only come when what comes out of our mouth (what we proclaim about God in song) matches what is happening in our life (a heart that has been truly redeemed by God).

When we declare praises to God and before others about his qualities and works, it must come from personal experience of cheerfulness brought about by God’s attributes and works at work in our own life— especially in a small town where everyone has the privilege of seeing the dirt in our lives. When we do not experience cheerfulness that is available by the hope of Christ— even through difficult times of grief, if we sing praises, then what is coming out of our mouth does not match what is going on in our life. And it is glaringly obvious to those around us.

This matters because praise is not only to God, but it is also before others. Praise before others also reveals that we are cheerful because of Him. Our praise literally points others to God. So if what we sing is not authentic to what is in our life, it is impossible to hide. What is in our head, mouth, heart and feet, if one of them is out of alignment, then we would say it is inauthentic. Or to state it another way, when someone sings from a heart that is not truly changed, they are lying to God and others. God always knows. The people around us usually do too.

Being inauthentic is one of the fastest ways to kill our faith and our church. When we pull cash out of the bank, and look at our $20 bill and do not see the hallmark signs of an authentic bill, we will not keep that bill. We will turn it back in and report it to the authorities because a crime has been committed. In the church, when hallmark signs of genuine faith are not observed (see Gal. 5:13-25), people will not come back. They see a crime that is committed: people trying to sell faith that is not genuine. Genuine faith results in praise to God and before people. That too is impossible to hide. You know it when you see it. You know it when you experience it in your life.

If you are having a hard time genuinely being cheerful, then take some time regularly to pause and reflect on the Gospel. You once were in trouble because of your sin. You had no way to make it right. But God rescued you through the blood of Jesus, and now you regularly and continually experience the perfect love of God who has promised us eternal life. Regularly reflect and give thanks for all that God has given to you. If we have life and breath today, that is more than we deserve, and that is more than enough to be cheerful. Let us sing praise.