Their voices lifted up in praise and worship, and accompanied by the tinkly sounds of a piano, an estimated 140 attendees of the 112th annual meeting of the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas on Wednesday lived out the theme of the event: Rejoice!
Praise is “always active, assertive, demonstrative, open. It is not passive or presumptuous or secretive. Whenever it is mentioned in the Bible, movement, action, sounds and songs are seen and heard and felt,” said Dr. Allen Tilley, BMAT president, in his opening address. “It can't be silenced. It is an expression of our lips, it's a reflection of what's on our hearts.”
The annual gathering is a two-day event that allows BMA members to conduct business and join in fellowship with each other as they continue the mission of Christ throughout Texas. This year, the meeting was hosted by Jacksonville's First Baptist Church on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Rejoice,” based on the Bible passage Deuteronomy 26:11, is a call for church leaders to focus on the joy one's relationship with God brings.
As pastors and preachers, Tilley said, “we know a whole lot about the grace of God, but I'm not real sure we understand the joy of God. I believe one of the reasons why Christianity is losing ground is because we see so many unhappy people. We offer very little proof that Jesus really does transform lives. I think it's time we become a time who rejoice, who see the blessings of God in our lives and who rejoice over them.”
The Lord, he added, “has a message for his people, and this message is 'I want a people who rejoice. I want them to see how much I have blessed them until their hearts are overwhelmed with joy,'” Tilley said. “He wants us people to rejoice, (to be) a people how blessed they are and whose hearts are filled with joy.”
Despite our best efforts, however, we encounter negativity and unhappy events, which turn our thoughts away from being joyful or rejoicing.
“God is on the cross, he is in charge and he loves us. But so often we have that one thing that happens to us that's not pleasant – it's a little painful, and we allow that one thing to totally consume us, to saturate our lives until we develop critical, negative, unhealthy attitudes and we end up bitter and sour in life,” he said. “We can have thousands of good things that happen, but we allow that one thing to rob us of our joy.”
We must take care to protect ourselves from the “joy-stealers out there, because if not, they'll the joy from us. The world … wants to rob us of what God has given us. The devil is unhappy with God's people, our joys, he wants to take that away,” Tilley said.
An outlook that incorporates what he terms “positive praise” is the best way to combat negative and unhealthy attitudes caused by pain.
Positive praise should be offered continuously, in all circumstances, and must be shared to be effective, Tilley said, citing Hebrews 13:15. “The Bible teaches whether life is pleasant or it is painful, we are to praise the Lord. Why? Not because we feel like it, but because he is worthy. He's always worthy … there are no exclusions, no restrictions, no loopholes, we're to praise the Lord all the time.”
By adopting a praise-positive attitude, one becomes freer because he is not bound to the hurt or pain that formally consumed him.
“You can either allow pain to sit upon the throne of your heart, or you can allow God to sit upon the throne of your heart. But remember this: There is no help from pain,” he said, adding, “joy is a gift that comes from Jesus.”