Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Joy Of Praising God

The late author, C. S. Lewis, struggled with the fact that God called us through the biblical writers so often to praise him (after all, how could a self-sufficient, fully satisfied God need praise?). Eventually he came to this important realization:
But the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I have never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, workers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors…. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and [generous], praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least…. Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible…. I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely?  Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about….
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment: it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.[1]

The point is that we praise what we admire and love—and this praise is the culmination of our joy. If joy is at the heart of true life, then magnifying God’s glory and praising him also must be at the heart of true life.
This line of thought leads us to the summit of why it important for us to grasp that at the heart of true life is joy in God. It seems that based upon the way the Bible repeatedly appeals to our pursuit for pleasure,[2] all people are created for pleasure. “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.”[3]  Since this is true, there will be no true life present or experienced apart from the presence of joy in Christ. This joy will lead us to praise God, which will lead us to greater joy.

[1] C. S. Lewis, Reflections On The Psalms, in The Inspirational Writings Of C. S. Lewis (New York: Inspirational Press, 1994), 179.
[2] See, for example, Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Joshua 1:8; Psalms 1:1-3; 16:11; 34:8; 37:4; 119:72; Matthew 6:19-21; 7:7-11; 16:25-26; 19:28-30; Luke 11:9-13; Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; 1 Peter 1:6-8; Revelation 21:1-22:5.
[3] Blaise Pascal, Pascal’s Pensees, W. F. Trotter (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1958), 113 (thought #425), cited in Piper, Desiring God, 15.