There are many uncertainties in life. Will I get married? Will I have children? Will I die young? Will it hurt? Will the economy collapse? Will I get the job I hope for? Will I succeed? How will I be remembered?
But part of the grace of Jesus is how He cuts through our questions. He isn’t the Cosmic Office Manager rifling off answers: “Yes, No, No, Yes, Definitely, Yes, Not As Much As You Hoped, and A Park Bench With A Plaque With Your Name On It In A Shady Spot Where The Pigeons Like To Gather.” Maybe that’s what we wish for, but He’s actually way more kind than our wishes. And so often He responds to our lists of questions with a question of His own. He would be glad to answer our question if we would only answer His question first. He asks different people different sorts of questions, but I suspect that the question that He asks most often is: Will you praise?
But we were asking a serious question. We were wondering about college, the budget, the children, our health, the future, and generations to come. But will you praise? Will you sing? Will you give thanks for every breath and with every breath?
That’s not just a pietistic platitude. That’s not an emotional gimmick, a bait and switch, leaving you standing there with the bills in your hand and your spiritual shorts down around your ankles. No, it’s the most basic question, the most important question: Will you praise?
The last four psalms of the psalter grow increasingly urgent: Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. We smile and nod and think we know what he’s talking about, “PTL” and all that business, but he knows that we don’t know what he’s talking about and so he keeps insisting again and again: Praise the Lord. Everybody, praise the Lord. Listen, you’ve got to praise the Lord. And pretty soon, it’s not just an exclamation. It’s not somebody having a really good day, six answers to prayer and counting. It’s an imperative, it’s an order, a command. Get this. Don’t miss this. Do this. You’ve got to.
And the command is for all of you, everywhere, always: the heavens and the earth, the fish and the birds, everything that breathes, even the creepy crawlies and the rocks, especially the really big ones with snow on top. Praise Him in the ponds and the rivers. Praise Him in the tree tops and in the thick clouds. Make everything praise Him. Make sounds with everything. Make them all breathe with His praise. Praise Him in the accountant’s office on spreadsheets and calculators. Praise Him with pencils and paper and the three hole punch. Praise Him with hammers and nail guns and concrete mixers and trowels and shovels. Praise Him in the grocery store with the cucumbers and deli meat. Praise Him in Bangladesh and while you’re creeping along in bad traffic. Praise Him in the night watches when the two year old can’t sleep. Praise Him in the night watches when you can’t sleep. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
But that’s not all because not everything listed above or in those psalms has breath. Cucumbers and trowels and rocks are inanimate last I checked. But so are drums, so are strings, so are pipes and flutes and harps and cellos and guitars. Let everything, everywhere be given breath and praise the Lord.
How does it do that? How do rocks praise? How do dandelions sing? How does it receive breath? How does it come alive and breathe? That’s where you come in. You breathe on it. You sing over it. You pray over it. You play on it. You strum it. You strike it. You blow into it. You give thanks for it. And then it breathes. It breathes with praise. It breathes with thanksgiving. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Do it. Do it now. This can’t wait.
Whatever you do, wherever you are, offer it up in praise. Why? Because it’s what you were made for. You were made to give thanks. You were made to praise. You were made to worship your Maker. You are a thanksgiver. You are a praisemaker.
But the bills, my spouse, the economy, my sin, terrorist attacks, my children, my health, my pain, the weather, wicked politicians, militant sodomites, my grades, my bad hair day… But will you praise? Will you defy sin and death and darkness and all uncertainty by doing the one thing that is always in every place certain? You are breathing. You are a breather. You have breath, and so you were made to praise. And when you praise, you breathe and you ignite others and other things with praise. Jesus breathed on His disciples and gave them His Spirit. And now that’s what you’re for. It’s what you can do until you breathe no more. It’s what you must do. You have hands to raise, a voice to sing, a mind to understand, knees to bend, breath to breathe. Will you praise?
It’s the beginning of another school year. What will you do this year? What will you learn? What new trials will your family face? What will happen in our world? Who knows?
But we do know that whether we live or die, whether we succeed or fail, whether we are loved or hated, whether our dreams come true or they are utterly shattered, so long as there is breath in our lungs, we were made to praise. We were made to give thanks. We were made for that kind of glory, that kind of honor. If we know Jesus, if His love has conquered our hard hearts, if His Spirit breathes in us, then we are seated in the heavenly places in a vast concert hall, playing the music of our lives. We are instruments that Jesus is playing with His breath. He is blowing on us and through us, making noise for the praise of the Father. But we are also players and conductors. We are performing CPR on a dead world, teaching the world to breathe again, teaching the world to sing again, teaching the world to live again. And true life, real life breathes with His praise. Because we were once dead in Adam, but now we are alive in Christ. And so we smile at the uncertainties. We sing at the pain. We breathe and so we praise.
We don’t know how our stories will go.
But the psalmist says that if you had the honor of praising the Lord, whether a bit part with the crickets or a lengthy solo with one of those undying trees, you had a life so worth living because you were a breather, a praisemaker, you were part of a cosmic symphony and every note was there on purpose. So breathe and praise, and let everything that you touch breathe with His praise. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.