We've had cloudy, rainy days in Austin this week. I normally love this weather, but sometimes, it breeds it's own sense of unmooring for me. Well, only if I allow it to. As I sat down to write, I knew that I could choose to face whatever gloom threatened my afternoon, or choose to ignore it. But my goal is joy. Lest I forget, every moment of every day, we have the perfect resource for resilient joy: the Word of God. So, I reread part of Hebrews 13 today (verses 15-16)
Through him then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God
A sacrifice of praise. What does that mean, exactly? I found this excerpt from a John Piper sermon from 1989:
I want to impress upon you as powerfully as I can this morning that this is your sacred duty and joy—to praise God continually with your lips [...]
The word "fruit" demands the priority of the heart. God calls us in this verse to offer a sacrifice of praise which is the "fruit of lips." Fruit is something that grows naturally when the sap is flowing within. Jesus said in Matthew 15:8, "This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me." That is not what Hebrews 13:15 is commanding. That is the work of the lips, not the fruit of the lips. The "fruit" of lips is the natural outgrowth of the heart. And therefore Priority Number One is the cultivation of a heart that stands in awe of God. [...]
But it does say "lips." Not just heart, not just thoughts, but lips. God wants from us lips of praise. Lips that speak and sing the praises of his name. Real sounds. Real words. And the verse says he wants them "continually." "Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips . . . " One of the reasons that so many Christians lead such weak and unhappy and ineffective lives is that this exhortation is disobeyed most of the time. Ask yourself, does the praise of God grow out like fruit on your lips continually?
My honest answer to that last question is a 'no.' But it is not too late to commit to a new song of continual praise. Even in the midst of busy weeks (this is every week, is it not?) and gloomy days and long task lists. I'm praying for growth from the heart—and I'm committed to fruit from the lips. Because what song could be better?
Instead of gloom, may I turn my focus to what this day does have to offer:
- warm candlelight
- early grey tea with honey and whole milk
- a cozy quilt
- sneaking a few gummy orange slices (our favorite totally artificial indulgence)
But predominantly, this day (and every other) offers the chance for cultivation of a heart that stands in awe of God and pursuit of intimacy with my Maker.
And you know what? After that, we can see gloomy days for what they really are. The dreariness is harmless (and even a bit cozy) because praise of Him will always outshine the gloom. Praise God that this is the joy of our reality.