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Opening Question

When trouble comes to your life, is praising God your first, natural response?

This week takes us to another level of faith response—praying and praising when under the worst conditions. Our study guide will examine a few examples of those praising God when most would be cursing.

Praise in Prison?
Read Acts 16. Paul and Silas had been doing God’s will in preaching to those in Philippi but were harassed by a demon possessed woman; when she was relieved of the evil spirit, those who used her for profit became enraged and had the apostles put in prison. Verse 25 notes that in the middle of the night, Paul and Silas—with feet fastened in stocks, and relegated to the darkest part of the dungeon—were praying and praising. They had been unjustly accused, treated illegally (as Roman citizens), and treated inhumanely and painfully. Yet they could still sing and praise God. Paul tells of his imprisonment in Philippians 1:13-21, yet Philippians is often noted as Paul’s most positive and joyous letter.

What gave Paul and Silas the motivation to sing in prison? Where did they find the reserves of spiritual strength to praise God in such a condition?

Praise in Death?
Another story similar to this is the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. The closing scenes of his magisterial defense of Christ is of Jews picking up stones to execute him (even without Roman approval!). In that moment, God gave Stephen a vision of heaven, of Jesus standing at God’s right hand. Stephen utters a description of the incredible sight of his Lord, exalted, and sitting as King, but the demon-inspired mob rushes him, and began stoning him. Rather than cursing his abusers, he lays his life in Christ’s hands and asks forgiveness for those committing the crime, as did Jesus on the cross. For Stephen, the vision of heaven was a martyr’s gift, and his testimony has become a blessing to us thousands of years later.

We know next to nothing of Stephen’s life, but what must have been his experience with Christ that led Him to such a stirring testimony, and rather than curses, to bless his abusers?

What steps can we take today to be more like Paul, Silas, and Stephen, where praise and prayer is natural in response to mistreatment?

The story of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20 is one of my favorites, because when the people of Israel had no idea what to do, when they were boxed into a corner, they turned to God for answers. Rather than sending their strongest men in the front of the army, they sent their singers and praisers. God answered their call of distress and delivered them. There were times in Israel’s history that God asked them to fight. This was not one of them. He asked them to stand and watch God’s victory. This indeed led to even greater praise from the people.

What is “praise” to God? How does it look in your life? Do you have habits or traditions such as singing, reading poetry, shouting, dancing, kneeling or raising hands?

Are there types of praise which God is more pleased with? Does He need our praise to be “God”? Some have accused God of being a narcissist, demanding the praise of His creatures, but what do we read in scripture about God demanding His own praise?

Closing Comments
Praising God in the midst of our trials is not natural, but we can begin to cultivate an attitude of praise in the little things, both good and bad, that can lead to praise being natural when thrown into the worst crucibles.

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