November is the month of thankfulness (though why people feel they only need to focus on gratitude during this one month, I don't understand). During November, Facebook members post a daily gratitude post, and Christian radio stations focus their selections of music on songs that deal with praise, worship, and thanksgiving.
As I listened to one such station the other morning, I heard a song that rubs me the wrong way. I'm sure the author meant well, but every time I hear the song, I feel the need to turn it off because it aggravates me. The verses talk about going through a trial, coming out on the other side and then being thankful. Then the chorus talks about how he's thankful like Daniel after the lions, thankful like Paul and Silas after the jail and so on. Well, I'm sorry, but that's just not Scriptural because these men weren't just thankful after the trial. They were praising and singing during the trial.
Sure, it's easy to be thankful when the storm is over, and everything is "back to normal." But true thankfulness is discovered during the storm, not after it. And many times, it is that praise in the storm that creates the blessing and escape. Just ask Jehoshaphat.
Second Chronicles 20 recounts one of my favorite stories in the Bible (though I probably have a hundred or more "favorites.") Anyway, Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah, and he was in a royal pickle. Several of the neighboring nations had joined forces and were heading toward Judah to destroy it and take the people captive. Jehoshaphat, being a holy man, immediately took the problem to the Lord. I encourage you to read the whole story, but Jehoshaphat's prayer can be summed up in his final words to the Lord:
O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee. (vs. 12)
We have no strength. We don't know what to do. But we're looking to you. Wow, does that prayer sound familiar (only regretfully, I sometimes leave off the latter part)! King Jehoshaphat knew they didn't stand a chance apart from God. The battle was in God's hands. And God answered Jehoshaphat's prayer, basically telling the king not to worry and that He would fight for them. They only needed to stand still and watch what God would do.
Now, I want you to notice the king's response.
And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord. (vs. 18)
As soon as they were done worshiping here, Jehoshaphat arranged the people and the armies of Judah to march out to the "battleground" where God had told them to go. In the front of the procession, the king placed the musicians and singers, who led the people forth in song and praise.
Now, catch this, and pay attention to the wording:
And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. (vs. 22)
When did God move? When the people praised. When did the people praise? Before the battle ever began. Before the victory was won.
Jehoshaphat prayed. God promised. The people praised. Then God provided.
Based on the song I mentioned earlier, we have the mentality that praise is only necessary AFTER God works a miracle in our lives, but that's not what the Bible teaches. And I dare say that we often miss out on the blessings that God has in store for us because we fail to praise Him in the storm.
We don't seem to realize that praise often opens the door to blessing, nor do we take into account that God is worthy of our praise whether He changes our current circumstances or not.
Let's be careful not to reserve thankfulness for only the month of November, but let's also watch that we're not holding back our praise until we get what we want. God has already given us far more than we deserve. If He never gave us another thing, we still couldn't thank Him enough for what He's already done. But I'd like to spend every day trying. How about you?