The morning humidity lingered as heavy as my stress. It had been a crazy week of teaching, and here I found myself waiting for my dog to find the perfect zip code to relieve himself while others were free to speed off to work.
My inner-monologue had focused on each little thing not working that morning:
- running behind
- the dog taking his time
- and a mountain of tasks waiting for me at work.
Then, the hiss of an approaching garbage truck jolted me out of my self-pity autopilot mode. I saw a man jump from the iron bumper of the garbage truck and heave a can full of trash bags into the back. He grunted, and repeated this with another large can of overflowing trash.
The garbage truck hissed back to life as it inched one house closer to me and my dog still sniffing for a spot. Well, I thought to myself, I’ll help make his day and ask how he’s doing and just chat.
The truck’s breaks screeched next to me, and the man, sweating through his work shirt, jumped down and grabbed the next can. “Good morning! How are you doing, sir?” I managed in my cheeriest voice.
He paused with the can in his arms, looked me straight in the eye, and responded with a large, genuine smile…
He tossed the trash into the truck and hopped aboard as it left.
A sacrifice of praise is a sacrifice of self
The way he had said “blessed” rang true and full of joy. I stood there dumbstruck….
I was flabbergasted by my complaining moments before and humbled how God used someone who I thought I was going to bless. Instead, God taught me the sacrifice of praise in that short moment.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
– Hebrews 13:15-16 (NIV)
Praise to God is in “spirit and in truth” according to Jesus, and there’s no other way to overflow in praise unless it’s genuine.
But so often I get in the way of that overflow. I throw filters of anxiety or stress over my world, rather than stopping to let the unhindered joy of God’s grace shine through.
Since then, I’ve realized the sacrifice of praise is a sacrifice of self. I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way, but in a biblical way. How Christ poured Himself out for others and for the Father, no matter the trial He faced.
A famous failure at the sacrifice of praise
If you struggle with complaining or vexation, then the Bible offers you some good company.
God had commanded Jonah to go and prophesy to the people of Nineveh, to repent of their deeds so they can experience the salvation of God.
But Jonah wanted none of it. The people of Nineveh and Israel were not on friendly terms, so in Jonah’s mind, he couldn’t bear to see God’s grace shed on someone so undeserving and crude. So, Jonah fled in the opposite direction of Nineveh and boarded a ship.
Rather than a garbage collector, God used a mighty storm to humble Jonah. The boat’s occupants hurled him overboard, where — at that moment — Jonah’s life is spared in the most unnerving, odd way: he’s swallowed by a large fish.
While in the belly of the fish and covered in seaweed, Jonah ends a repentant prayer with these words:
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’
– Jonah 2:9 (NIV)
Jonah learned that obedience and “grateful praise” work together. The sacrifice of praise is more than lip-service. It’s a life led in response to God’s love and compassion. And our sacrifice of praise always overflows onto others; likewise, our anger or complaining does too.
We have to make a choice not let our hearts to be hardened by life. In Jonah’s case, his heart was hardened against a whole people group, and it led to his speech and actions acting against the will of God.
Let's not be like Jonah where it will take a drastic, bizarre moment to humble us to offer the sacrifice of praise.
Rather, let's be like Christ who "endured the cross" for our sake. Let's remember His mercy and grace as we approach Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday this weekend.
There's no better time to overflow with the sacrifice of praise!
Your moment of humility
What was your moment of humility that taught you the necessary beauty of the sacrifice of praise?
It can’t be near as odd as Jonah’s near-aquatic demise, ? so sound off in the comments below!