CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

In Praise of Praise

Aug 15, 2007

I confess. I am writing this article for selfish reasons. You see, anyone who is in the public spotlight to a fair degree will be subject to two things: bouquets and brickbats. Praise and criticism. Compliments and complaints. Blessings and cursings.

The problem is, often the former are few and far between, especially when compared to the latter. Often for every word of support or praise one receives, there are many words of criticism and complaint. And these can take their toll. And since we are all human, the accumulation of carping and criticism can bring discouragement and despair.

And those who tend to be at the forefront of the culture wars, and who are most engaged in taking on the various anti-faith and anti-family forces can tend to have a prophetic disposition. That is, like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, they may have a melancholic personality to begin with, and live a fairly lonely life, so all the negativity and opposition can simply make things even worse.

But if the calling is there to take on these battles, then the grace is also provided. But still, those in leadership and the public arena know all too well that a continual dose of criticism, without an offsetting bout of praise, can tire out the best of us.

Thus this short homily on the importance of giving out encouragement and praise. I am not suggesting that there is no place for constructive criticism. It is vitally needed. We all have blind spots, and we all need the perspective and insight of others to keep us on the straight and narrow. But with the critiques we also need some support, some uplifting words, some encouragement along the way.

It goes without saying that Scripture is full of exhortations to praise one another, to encourage, to build up, to edify. Plenty of passages come to mind. For example, Yahweh told Moses to provide support for Joshua as he took Israel into Canaan: “But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see” (Deut. 3:28). He certainly needed the encouragement.

And there are lots of examples of encouragement as well. After Israel had just experienced a crushing military defeat, it says “the men of Israel encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day” (Judges 20:21).

Of course we take ultimate comfort and encouragement directly from our Lord. When the people were greatly distressed and even wanted to stone David, it says that he “encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (I Sam. 30:6).

But God works through his people, and we are commanded to uplift one another. As Paul said, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thes. 5:11). And this is to be a regular event, not a once off: “But encourage one another daily” (Heb. 3:13).

Such words of encouragement are certainly needed, because Scripture also records many cases of discouragement and weariness. Plenty of examples are found of murmuring and complaining and tearing down, instead of building up. Exodus 16:2 is a classic passage in this regard: “And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness”. Hey, it’s not easy being a leader!

Jesus faced the same thing. Consider the story of ten men with leprosy who were healed, and only one returned to praise God (Luke 17:11-19). We can often work our tails off for the kingdom and God’s people, but very few people actually offer thanks, or even seem to notice our efforts.

What we need are more people like Barnabas, whom Luke tells us means “son of encouragement”. While the etymology is problematic, the description is fitting. For example, we read in Acts 11:22-23 of Barnabas being sent to Antioch: “When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts”.

We all need such encouragement. Sure, we need censure and constructive criticism as well, but this must always be delivered in a spirit of humility, and clothed in prayer. And when given, it should be bracketed with praise.

In closing, let me give what I think is a wonderful yet hilarious example of God going out of his way to encourage his servants, by means of lavish praise. In Judges 6:11-12 we learn that Gideon was basically hiding from the Midianites. Yet an angel of the Lord appears to him and says, “The LORD is with you, mighty man of valour”.

I think that is great. This timid leader is called a mighty warrior, and encouraged with the promise of the Lord’s presence. Not a bad habit for us to get into. Let us encourage each other, reminding one another that God is with us, and because of that fact, we can all be mighty men and women of God, doing great exploits in his name.

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18 Responses to In Praise of Praise

  • Thanks Bill. It is always a real blessing to read the blog articles you make. As it says in scripture somewhere, if the Lord is for us who can be against us. As God says in the Book of Samuel, those who honour God he will honour. As each of us does what the Lord wants us to do the Lord will bless us. Trust in the Lord for your strength and he will bless you.
    Matthew Mulvaney

  • Bill be encouraged. Your site is a place where all of us can come and know that our views are taken seriously – that is if we are sincere and not just out to waste time. It’s a place for those who have been a long time on the road, for those just starting , for others on the road side and for some who are way off. I appreciate the way the threads are purposeful and constructive. They are also highly informative and thought -provoking and often cause me to go off and do further reading. Above all, they are relevant, especially in a day and age when the Christian is beginning to feel more and more isolated and needs to know he is not the only one whose is considered mad by the rest of a sick society.
    But be encouraged if you receive hate and vitriol then this is surely a sure sign that you are saying the right things. Blessed are those who are persecuted in Christ’s name.
    I personally have been encouraged by Jonathan, Dee, Rebecca, John, Matthew, Ewan, Jesse, Joe, Frank, Mr. Huffmaster, Stanley and many others. God bless you all. I receive far more than I put in. Bill I pray for you and your family, don’t neglect them, for that is often where the enemy will attack.
    Thank you for a great site
    David Skinner, UK

  • Hello Bill,
    I have not responded to any of your many articles previously, but I have read them. I want you to know that I find your articles edifying, orthodox and sometimes challenging. I hope your site gets noticed by more and more Christians and non Christians. It is good in the original true meaning of the word. God bless you and your efforts to extend His Kingdom and bring glory to His Name.
    Robert Phillips, Melton, Victoria

  • Bill. You are certainly appreciated, and appear to be a man who is exercising your talents of knowledge and wisdom in a very effective manner. Your depth and objectivity gives those starved of ‘truth’ a reliable source of information and encouragement.

    One challenge that appears to face you and the Christian community in general is the breadth of dissemination, constrained as it is by a dominantly secular media and Christians following a relatively cowardly leadership.

    Praise God for His raising up organisations like the Australian Christian Lobby, Australian Prayer Network, and the Australian Christian Channel.

    Bill, do you have a ‘critical’ mass of people to take your voice and views to a wider public? Even though you have some articles in Fred’s ‘Family News’ this has a limited audience.

    Hopefully, you also have a group of intercessors that hold you and your family up before Y’shua.

    Keep up the Righteous work.

    Ray Robinson. Wollongong

  • G’day Bill,
    I’ve always found Matthew 5:11 encouraging when experiencing insults and persecution. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven..”

    So be encouraged, even if you don’t receive any praise from others for what you do. Your a real blessing to us who regularly read your writings.

    Bill Kitto, Manager, 1WAY FM, Canberra

  • Dear Brother Bill,
    I was carefully reading through your text and saying, “Hey, I wonder if Bill will pick up on Barnabas the Encourager?”, and sure enough you did.
    My life and experience as a Judaeo-Christian worldview practitioner would be greatly impoverished and isolated if it were not for your website Bill and its many articles.
    Well done, good and faithful servant! Your faithfulness is attested to by your fruitfulness. And your fruitfulness attests to your abiding in the Vine.
    ‘Keep on keeping on brother’, like the old Bergers’ Paints ad I regularly saw plastered across the Hardware Store in my boyhood town.
    As for a way of disseminating Bill’s website, I try regularly to feed the URL of a new article of Bill out to my family and friends and church family, suggesting they might look at other articles as well, and pass them on.
    Was it Bill, or the Puritans, or somewhere else I read some time ago, something like: “If we seek wages for our labour here, what will be left to receive from above?”
    So I encourage Bill and us all, “Let’s keep labouring here below for the prize that cannot perish, that of knowing Christ Jesus the Lord and the Father of His love, and to be known by Him; and let our labour be to share this prize with as many of our fellows as we can, while we commend and contend the plethora of ideas flowing from their hands and hearts.”
    Bernard Tibbs, Wollongong, NSW.

  • Bill, I’d like to send back to you all those verses you quoted from our most precious book so that you will personally be encouraged, restored, blest and built up by them. Your writings are a constant supply of well expressed christian thought and understanding and a vital part of my on-going education. I thank you for equiping me so well with information and ideas I can share to “help make a difference”.
    Dawn McGregor, Buderim

  • Bill, thank you, thank you, thank you. It is easy to get depressed with all that is going on around us but then an email will arrive from you which is always spot on, and which encourages us to put on our ‘suit of armor’, get over our self pity and take action.
    May the Holy Spirit continue to guide and bless you as you carry out this important ministry.
    Madge Fahy

  • Hey thanks guys.

    Your kind words are greatly appreciated. Of course when I wrote this piece is was not with the explicit intent to be inundated with praise, although that is always nice. It was hoped that all believers would take more seriously their obligations to encourage one another and support each other. But your kind words are certainly welcome, and they do indeed encourage me to keep on with the good fight.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Praise God for you, Bill!
    I find your site a breath of Holy Spirit inspired fresh air, in a different way to say Andrew Bolt’s.
    John Angelico

  • Hello Bill,
    Let me add to the chorus of lifting up you blog. I’m a regular visitor and normally only browse like I suspect many others but this time thought it important to write.

    In the past I was one who thought you were a bit over the top with your constant ravings about a biblical worldview but now I understand, your insights and clear thinking have been a wonderful blessing to me (not to mention other correspondents). Be encouraged brother, God is using your blog to reach many who are lost and searching for some meaning and purpose and of course only found in the good news of Jesus Christ.

    Dallas James, Essendon

  • Bill, a young Christian couple recently in Canberra taught us to laugh at the devil’s accusations. Since I heard this, I’ve been reviewing the taunts and accusations that he’s used to keep me enslaved to shame, humiliation etc., for years, timid and generally of not much use to the Lord. I am now putting this into practice, and I find it is brilliant! I think of the taunts of those three who tried to stop Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and I laugh at them. They can’t stop the Kingdom of God being built. Your work is GREATLY APPRECIATED by me, and I find your name is a household word among the sincere seekers of the truth. God bless you always Bill, and love your family.
    Ian Brearley

  • Hello Bill,
    I first heard of you early this year when I was sent a recording of a presentation you gave that I wished to attend but missed due to other commitments. I was very impressed with the clarity of your argument although it was on the complex topic of ‘world views’. This led me to look into this site and, after a long time to build up the courage, to eventually contribute some comments. I hold similar views to yours but had never been able to articulate them. Partly due to a lack of in depth knowledge of the scriptures such as yours and that of many of your regular commentators and partly due to feeling isolated in my views in an ever expanding secular and relativist world. However, your site has provided me a window into the theology behind the views I intuitively hold and shown me that there are many other folk out there who also concur. This is more than just about praise and encouragement; your site gives us an opportunity to share our views, learn from each other and defend our faith as a community regardless of where we are geographically. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us and for providing us with such a powerful tool. Keep up the good work.
    Frank Norros

  • Hi Bill, great research, scholarship, analysis and persistence. You have been faithful to the Biblical witness. I am passionate about this website and it is a highlight of my reading.
    Stan Fishley

  • Yes, I concur with all the above. I’ve been reading various blogs for a few years now, and I reckon this one is one of the best. In terms of Australian blogs it probably is the best. As others have already said, it is a great encouragement to those of us who identify with Bill’s worldview – unfortunately the church can be a lonely place for biblical thinkers much of the time. I also appreciate many of the regular commenters and also the occasional atheists who provide the entertainment.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Hi Bill
    You have created in me an awareness of the the circumstances surrounding me in the world today.
    What I have come to notice is that many of the arguments of those holding world views are based on emotions whilst those presented by yourself are based on fact and logic.
    It is a pleasure to read both your articles and your readers’ comments.
    This world NEEDS educated Christians, such as yourself, who are able to put forward logical responses based on proper ethical values in answer to modern academics.
    Your letters effect people in many ways, they create a greter interest than you could possibly know.
    Jim Sturla

  • Dear Bill
    You’re a hero and inspiration to many of us and we’re praying for you. I’m looking forward to catching up with you before long.
    Regarding discouragement after stressful ministry: Sometimes like Elijah and Jesus we have to pull the plug out, go into hiding and let the Father feed us body soul and spirit.
    “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd..and gently lead those that are with young”.
    Best regards from yet another apologetical hippie.
    Terry Darmody

  • Hey great to hear from you Terry and thanks for the kind words. Yes we need to catch up some time.
    Blessings,

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

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