by Elizabeth Stewart
I call them key turning points, small decisions to obey that radically shift something. It was our Job season. We had lost our beautiful newly built church building in an ugly denominational squabble. Friends we had for years were lost as we made a decision to separate from that denomination, and in their minds, separate from them. Loss and hurt and pain seemed to blanket every area of our life, spiritually, emotionally relationally, financially.
It was Christmas time, and our faithful congregation had hung together through the loss of our building, and moved with us into a rented space in a dark and gloomy strip mall in the bad part of town. There weren't enough twinkly lights or tinsel to make that little sanctuary look appealing. My soul felt as dark and gloomy as our surroundings.
Towards the end of that particular Sunday morning, over the sound system my husband had chosen to have Whitney Houston's version of Joy to the World, the one from the movie The Preacher's Wife, played. I felt no joy, only deep sorrow and mourning for all that we had been going through. However, in my spirit I felt the urging of God's Holy Spirit telling me to worship, to give thanks, and to dance. Though we come from a belief system where none of those acts were considered unusual, no one else was doing it at the time and I certainly did not emotionally feel like doing it. But, something in my spirit rose up and teamed together with my will and grabbed my emotions by the nape of the neck and I began to worship, give thanks and dance. When I obeyed, when I gave a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, my garments of heaviness fell off, and a new sense of peace and joy flooded over me. That experience marked me forever.
I know many of you are going through difficult times and losses far greater than mine. When God asks us to give a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, I don't believe it's because of any need on His part. God doesn't need our worship to somehow make Himself bigger or better. He is already complete perfection in all that He is and all that He does. I think He knows that we need to praise and give thanks for what it does for us, for how it puts the things of this world in perspective in comparison to His greatness and all that eternity holds in store for us. I think He knows that praise and thanksgiving break chains and evict the enemy. The way you praise and give thanks may look different on the outside than what God had me do on that long ago Sunday, but let me urge you to at least open your mouth and express yourself aloud. The enemy is not omniscient and cannot read your mind, but he can hear your words. Let your spirit and will team up against your unruly emotions and grab them by the nape of the neck, then open up your mouth and speak, shout, or sing and give a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. I believe this makes the enemy quake in his boots and makes heaven rejoice and the angel armies get busy fighting on your behalf.