A few weeks before the pandemic’s arrival in early 2020, my wife and I drove to Grand Island, Nebraska, to speak to a conference of rural churches from across the state. We had the privilege of encouraging 125 leaders. That was a pretty long trip, even in a hybrid vehicle, so we needed to stop every so often to fill up with gas. If we were to run out of gas, it would be pretty silly to get mad at the car. It’s our responsibility to fuel up when needed. In a similar way, we need regular fuel stops to keep us moving forward in our spiritual journeys.
Praise is the last foundation stone of the church recorded in Acts 2:41-47. Praise normally rises out of circumstances . . . it’s a response to something good. Praise is like your car . . . it needs fuel to fire up. But sometimes the circumstances aren’t good or at least they don’t seem good and it can affect the outflow of praise. We would like to believe we would praise God in spite of our circumstances, but there’s no denying that circumstances can get the best of us, especially in these times.
Since circumstances can be so critical to having an attitude of praise, consider a new approach. How about creating the right situation by drowning out the lower-story circumstances with the upper-story circumstances? Living out the 10 directives in Acts 2:41-47 does exactly that—it provides a different set of circumstances and fuels up our spiritual lives with praise. Let’s review the foundation stones I’ve written about over the last several months.
We start with baptism. Baptisms remind us there is victory, that lives are changing, and that people are becoming new creations in Christ. In a world that seems headed for Hell, we are reminded that people are finding their way to Heaven . . . and that’s gas in the tank!
We rely on biblical authority. I have people who teach me, watch over me, coach me, keep me out of the ditches, and who will come to my rescue. I don’t have to bear all of the responsibility myself when I’m under authority. That’s gas in the tank!
We focus on God’s Word. Spending time hearing and digesting God’s Word together serves to both calm me down and fire me up. I get power for living, hope in the struggles, and counsel in the confusion. More gas in the tank!
We deliver that Word. Preaching connects with me in my circumstances. It reminds me that with God, it’s personal. It’s being delivered to my kids, my friends, my coworkers! Gas in the tank!
We have community. I’m surrounded by hundreds of people just like me; they’re in my small group, at my church, and in thousands of other churches. We have a collective voice and impact, and we work together as one to make a difference. More gas in the tank!
We center on Communion. When storms rage and winds blow, the Lord’s Supper is the anchor that holds us to the solid rock of Jesus. We remember the price and we cherish the scars while we expectantly wait for his return. Gas in the tank!
We speak and listen to our Father in Heaven. He hears and answers our prayers. He provides for our needs. He holds our future, fights our battles, calms our seas, and heals our diseases. Gas in the tank!
We plug our God-given gifts into the body. We can feel the power of our purpose. We know what it feels like to fit in, contribute, and make a difference. We serve together, shoulder to shoulder, unique and unified. Gas in the tank!
We share what God has given us and are fulfilled through generosity. There’s nothing like watching God take our offering, join it to others, and work a miracle that couldn’t happen otherwise. Gas in the tank!
That’s how praise is fueled. That’s how circumstances are changed. That’s how we live in the upper story.
Not long ago, I was driving to work and the lower story was grinding me down. Negative conversations were playing in my head, I had no peace, I was tired from the weekend . . . and it wasn’t even 9 in the morning! Then I remembered my “92s,” which I take twice a day.
“It is good to praise the Lord . . . proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night” (Psalm 92:1-2).
I remembered that Jesus loves me, no matter what.
I can’t just believe it; I need to proclaim it.
I don’t have to understand it and it doesn’t have to make sense; I just need to proclaim it.
I don’t need evidence for it and I don’t need to defend it; I just need to proclaim it.
I don’t need to dissect it or measure it; I just need to proclaim it!
Later that same day, in the evening, I took my second dose of 92 . . . faithfulness.
“Well, Lord, I’m still here, you’re still here. We made it,” I prayed. “Someday I won’t still be here . . . I’ll be there. And that will be the greatest faithfulness of all!”
When we remain grounded in our Lord and Savior through these foundation stones, we will keep our tanks full by making faith our priority.