How do you feel about the word “sacrifice?” I confess it’s not my favorite. In Hebrews 13:15, sacrifice is paired with praise and thanksgiving. And for me, praise usually connotates something hopeful and heart-warming. Sacrifice does not.
I’ve seen this verse used quite a bit this time of year as one of the standard Thanksgiving verses. But what does it mean to offer a “sacrifice of praise?” This is unfamiliar terminology in today’s vernacular. I think of sacrifice as giving something at a significant cost to myself: usually, something I do for someone else or a financial or material relinquishment.
Seemingly, there is not much of a cost to praise. I praised my kids for a job well done on the courts or in the classroom. I feel the bubble of encouragement when thanked or praised by a friend or family member. Easy to give, easy to receive.
In this same vein, I find it easy to thank and praise God for the good stuff: for His protection, provision, and blessings. No sacrifice there.
Yet there are times when God seems to have looked the other way, ignoring my pain and problems and allowing my heart and body to hurt. When I’ve lost loved ones, been betrayed, or watched my children drowning in misery, it seems He’s forgotten me. Praise is not effortless in these times. It’s a struggle.
Here we are in November; ‘tis the season for gratitude, right? However, not a day passes that I don’t hear a story of tragedy or immense challenge in the lives of friends and their loved ones. Additionally, this is a heavy time here on earth as our attention drifts to the heart-wrenching news in the Middle East. We also see grim reports from other parts of the world, in our country, and locally.
And, of course, there’s the price of eggs (and gas and food and…)!
Sometimes, it requires a sacrifice to lay our praise and gratitude on the altar of a God we don’t understand, a God who feels distant. The times when we are in the deepest valley, moments we can’t see our way out enough to praise. This is an act of faith and obedience—an act of the will.
In doing so, we choose faith despite our circumstances and what feels like distance. We make a trade in this sacrifice of praise and gain the following:
- We remember that God is still good and trustworthy. (Psalm 135:3, Naham 1:7)
- By bringing Him honor, our faith grows. (Malachi 3:13-17, Job 13:15)
- It lifts the spirit of heaviness. (Isaiah 61:3, Psalm 45:7)
- It causes us to focus more on God and less on our problems. (Psalm 35:28, Psalm 71:15)
- Our humility deepens. (Psalm 51:15-16, Colossians 3:12)
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to offer this sacrifice of praise continually.
This year may be ending painfully for you, and I am sorry. Friend, I have found the “sacrifice of praise” a beautiful balm in my deepest valley.
There is healing found when we continually offer Him praise and thanksgiving despite our pain. I pray you find relief here, too.
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above;
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Robert Robinson, 1758
- How are your heart and mind today? What deters you from praising and thanking the Lord?
- For the remainder of the month, give an offering or a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving each day: write down one personal praise to God, something that was difficult, and one thing you are thankful for.
You are excellent and trustworthy! You are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow despite my circumstances. I continue to offer you a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, even in the moments and days when it is an act of obedience and feels like a sacrifice.