Clapping hands is a nearly universal way to express approval, honor, and celebration. Kids sing, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” Fans clap at ball games, audiences applaud musical performances, voters put their hands together in support of political candidates, and party-goers clap after singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend. The psalmist sang, “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy” (Psalm 47:1).
I applaud enthusiastically at my granddaughter’s volleyball games. I smile when the congregation bursts into joyful applause as a new believer rises out of the baptismal waters or the minister introduces a new bride and groom at the end of their wedding ceremony. A few times, unfamiliar with proper protocol, by accident I have applauded inappropriately. It happened at a symphony (that was embarrassing), and another time at a professional tennis match when I discovered I needed to stifle my applause and sit in polite silence until it was the right time to clap for the athletes.
Have you ever noticed how one person in the crowd is the first to applaud? Even when everyone seems to begin clapping simultaneously, some hearty soul goes first and breaks the ice with the first clap, then others follow and join in the applause.
In a way, that’s what worship leaders do. Someone has described praise as “lauding God.” Worship leaders can’t do our worshiping for us, but they can prompt us to honor the Lord, standing in awe of who he is and what he has done. Effective worship leaders don’t do all the praising, but they help to get us started in lauding God. King Solomon functioned as a worship leader for the Israelites. When he finished his prayer for the dedication of the temple, Jerusalem’s gathered crowd “knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 7:3).
Some worshipful moments call for loud hallelujahs, while others deserve reverent silence. Some individuals (and some churches) clap and shout more than others. Nothing in Scripture indicates you will inherit a higher place in Heaven because of the number of times you smack your hands together, but the point is, someone needs to take the initiative in praising God. Why wait for others to laud God when you could get the ball rolling?
We live in a “me-first” culture where self-absorption and griping are commonplace, contentment is unusual, and a grateful spirit is rare as an undercooked steak. Want to break the mold? When the conversation drifts toward negativity, why not be the first to interject a positive word? Instead of joining voices with the grumbler’s choir, could you find a way to remind yourself and others about God’s faithfulness?
We have so many reasons to be grateful. Our ship was sinking, and Christ gave us his life jacket. Daily he bails us out and lifts us up. When our hearts were failing, he gave us his own as a transplant. That’s why most of us need to be quicker to say thanks and slower to complain—quicker to give God glory and slower to think, I deserve this. Why wait for others to get the praise started? Why not be among the first to sincerely say, “Thank you, Lord”?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, ©2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.