Friday, July 23, 2004
As a musical composition, Frederick Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," stands in a category by itself. Few pieces of music have the power to stir our hearts like that majestic chorus that even brought the King of England to his feet the first time he heard it. But before Frederick Handel wrote the "Hallelujah Chorus" and "The Messiah" oratorio of which it's a part, he wasn't having much of a hallelujah time. He was basically broke, depressed, and against a wall. Then someone asked him to write an oratorio to be performed at this benefit concert on behalf of people who were in debtors prison - locked up because they were too poor to pay their bills. There were 700 people who contributed to be at that premiere performance of "The Messiah" and the "Hallelujah Chorus" - and 128 prisoners went free as a result!
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The Liberating Power of a Few Hallelujahs."
That night of hallelujahs turned Frederick Handel's life around and it set some people free. Hallelujahs still have that power today. It's the power of praising God; especially when it's hard to praise Him.
Turning our predicament and our prison into praise is part of the mission for which Jesus came as announced in Isaiah 61:1-3, our word for today from the Word of God. The Bible says of Jesus: "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners ... to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion. To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
I like those trade-ins, don't you? Jesus says He wants to trade our bondages for freedom, our mourning for comfort, our ugly ashes for something beautiful, and our despair for praise. And liberation from so much that's dark in life is rooted in wearing that garment of praise, no matter what situation we're in. Praise can set you free from discouragement, self-pity, frustration, bitterness, even grief. And, on any given day, there's always something to praise Him for. It's like we're always living between these two mountains - the one behind you that He brought you over and the one ahead of you that looks impossible just like that last mountain did. So, on any given day, there's always something to praise Him for, and there's always something to trust Him for.
My friend Kerri kept months of vigil at the hospital as she watched her young husband die a long, painful death. But she never sank to despair, and I think I know why. She said, "Every day on the way to the hospital, I would play praise music as loud as I could. I filled up on praise - because I knew there's only one place the devil will never be - in praise to God." Kerri understands that praise is a choice - you choose to dwell on the greatness of your God rather than the greatness of your problems, on the God who never lets you down instead of the people who do, on God's faithfulness instead of your failure. You make a choice, usually in the very first moments of your day, to be all about Jesus today rather than all about you.
That way you can experience pain without being a pain. You can walk on the water instead of succumbing to the storm. Praise doesn't just lift up the Lord, it has a way of lifting you up, too. And it's a choice - praising instead of complaining; hallelujahs instead of hassles; the Lord instead of the load. And why can your life always be a Hallelujah Chorus? Because your Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords, and He shall reign forever and ever!