The Apostle Peter drew his second letter to a close with these wise and pastoral words: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). The word “grow” is an exhortation and a command, and it implies that if we’re to progress in Christ we must play an active role, by the grace of Christ, in building habits that nurture our progress. Therefore, I am offering a series of devotionals this summer on eight essential habits that help us to grow in grace. For today, let’s consider the place of praise in the Christian life.
Paul writes in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” The three clauses in this verse are often quoted in isolation from one another, but they are in fact designed to be kept together. As Jesus enriches our lives with his Word, by his Spirit, we cannot help but overflow with praise for God through teaching, singing, and thanksgiving.
As Jesus teaches us his will and ways, we naturally long to share what we’ve learned with others. As he reveals to us more of his beauty and excellence, we naturally long to say and sing our praise, sometimes in the privacy of our hearts and sometimes at the top of our lungs. As he applies his will and ways to our lives, we naturally overflow with specific thanksgiving for who he is and what he’s done. As the Word of Christ becomes our treasure, the expression of praise becomes our pleasure. Indeed, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, the verbalization of joy completes our joy (Reflections on the Psalms).
Now, having said that, I must add that there is discipline to praise. That is to say, we must discipline ourselves to treasure the words of Christ and receive from the Spirit of Christ day by day. We must sometimes press ourselves to overflow with praise through teaching, singing, and thanksgiving. We must sometimes force ourselves to fix our eyes on him who is the prize of life that we may exalt him in one another’s eyes. Praise is the natural overflow of a heart enamored of Jesus and rich with the Word of Jesus. And praise requires effort, discipline, and perseverance.
So my exhortation to you today is this: spend some time with Jesus and search your heart in the atmosphere of his grace. How are you doing with regard to his Word—is it dwelling in you richly or poorly? Are you overflowing with praise through teaching, singing, and thanksgiving? How can you grow in discipline with regard to these things?
May Jesus grant us the passion and power to grow in the grace and knowledge of him, and to overflow with the praise of him all the days of our lives. Lord, hear our prayer!