Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol Him, all peoples! For great is His steadfast love toward us, & the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! Psalm 117

When I was in seminary, one of my professors told our class that he had entered a seminary tennis tournament years ago (before the tennis courts became a parking lot), and the first year out of 20 people he finished in 18th place.  The next year he finished in 2nd place out of the same number of players.

How’d he do that?

He stared at a tennis ball for 5 minutes every day.

Yep, in addition to his normal practice (which didn’t change), he sat and looked at a tennis ball intensely for 5 minutes every day.  The result was that every time the ball came across the net in the tournament, it looked as big as a beach ball.  The intensity of his focus on what the ball looked like in practice translated into a laser-like intensity on the court.

This past Sunday night I preached Psalm 117.  It is the shortest Psalm, but it is packed with instruction.  I would like to issue a challenge to you through this Psalm.  That challenge will come at the end of the article, but allow me to explain these verses first.

Verse 1 tells us to praise the LORD and to extol Him.  The words “praise” and “extol” are two different words in the Hebrew, but they both mean essentially “to ascribe worth to God, to lift His Name high, and to honor Him with our lips.”  Additionally, these two words are not suggestions or recommendations, they are commands.  In the same way that we are commanded “do not commit adultery” this verse commands us to praise the LORD.

Moreover, the verse commands us to praise the LORD.  In the Old Testament, there are multiple names to describe God, and each of them describe a particular attribute of God.  The word LORD comes from the Hebrew word which means “to come into existence.”  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM (or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE).This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

This God is ever-existent.  He is the LORD who was, who is, and who is to come.  In the New Testament Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega the Beginning and the End, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).

This is the LORD that we are commanded to praise—the One who worked in the past, who is working in the present, and who has promised to work in the future.  Jesus even told His disciples before He ascended into heaven, “Go and make disciples of all nations, and behold, I AM with you until the end of the age” (Matt.28:19-20).

Finally, in verse 2 the Psalmist gives us help to go along with the command to praise. He gives us a reason to praise.  It is because God’s love for us is steadfast (it won’t be moved).  His faithfulness endures forever.  The darkest places of your life are in the bright sunshine with God.  He will not be shaken in His faithful love toward you.  Scripture tells us that when we are faithless He remains faithful because He cannot deny Himself.  If Jesus lives in your heart through the power of the Holy Spirit, God literally CANNOT deny you because He would be denying Himself, and HE CANNOT DENY HIMSELF. (2 Timothy 2:13)

Therefore, my challenge to you is for you to for the next 30 days meditate upon the faithfulness of the Lord.  Praise Him for what He has done in your life, what He is doing, and what He is going to do.  I challenge you to take 30 minutes out of your day, sit down with a notepad and pen, ask the LORD to show you what He has done in your life, and write it down.  If it is too difficult to sit for 30 minutes, break it up into two-15 minute segments, or keep your notepad with you throughout the day & write things down as they come to mind.  Then praise Him for what He has done.

We become what we behold.  If we behold negativity throughout our days, we will become negative.  If we behold the works of God, we will become grateful.  This is a discipline.  It will be hard at times, but I challenge you to do this and see what kind of impact it makes in your life.