Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
Paul helped establish the church in Thessalonica as recorded in Acts 7:1-9. The church continued after Paul had to flee the city due to an uprising of jealous Jews. They were jealous because many other Jews and Greeks had chosen to follow and believe the teachings that Jesus was the Messiah and that He was buried and rose again from the dead. The church at Tessalonica continued but not without struggles, suffering, and persecution. Paul prayed prayers of thanksgiving because of Timothy’s good report concerning their faith and love. (1 These. 3:6) He encouraged them to live in a way that is pleasing to God in the midst of a wicked society. (1 These. 4:1-12) He encouraged them not to lose hope because their salvation was in Jesus, and He would return one day to take home those who have fallen asleep and those who remain waiting for His return. (1 These. 4:13-18 … 5:1-11) If Paul was writing this letter to us today, how would we accomplish the challenge of continuing to live well in order to give testimony of Jesus? I believe three things to be important as instructed by Paul.
As a verb, according to one dictionary, rejoice means to feel or show great joy or delight. Joy always equals strength. To have joy is to have strength, for what makes us joyful makes us strong. I’m referring to the realization of the eternal joy that we have in Christ. This is the only place where true happiness can be attained, for God is eternal. Everything else will pass away. Nehemiah 8:10b states, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Delighting yourself in the Lord will give evidence of His presence in your life. Joy does not mean the absence of difficulty but gives ability to look beyond the circumstance to know God has a purpose for all that you are experiencing. James tells us to, “Count it all JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3 ESV ….. Jesus gave us the greatest example of this truth. Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the JOY that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrew 12:2 ESV
Praying is communicating with God. This communication is a result of fellowship with him and recognizes the presence of God with you at every moment. Have you heard the saying, “There is strength in numbers and one with God is a majority?” It really is a true statement. Often when Paul would address people in his letters to them, he would say something concerning how he prayed for them. Paul never told people they wouldn’t have struggles, but he did encourage them to press on. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul tells of his sufferings for being a witness of Christ. Paul could not have endured all this without his communication and acknowledgment of the presence of Jesus being with him. Praying continually is acknowledging His presence with you…. that is relationship.
Give Thanks In Every Circumstance:
Rejoicing and praying…. that seems understandable when living the Christian life but giving thanks in every circumstance? Yes, this is what we are to do as Christians, for it communicates that we really do believe God is in control. Not only that, but it also is a testimony to the lost that you trust God, and you love Him. We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 ESV This is easier said than done; and if you do not have joy and pray relationally with Him, it is impossible. When things become very difficult in my life emotionally or physically, I ask this question in my prayers, “God, what are you trying to teach me?” As time passes, sometimes I see how He had worked in my life, and other times it didn’t make sense. However, this I know: God is in control and is working all things for His glory. I believe if God wants us to live on purpose for Him, then He does or allows things on purpose in our lives and “all thing work together for good.”
In my years of ministry I have heard many times, “I wish I knew what God’s will is for my life.” Here’s the answer……. rejoice, pray and give thanks. I know it sounds simple but it is a simple truth. I have never witnessed anyone practicing these three things that didn’t have clearer direction in life. Let me encourage you, when things don’t seem clear in your life as a Christian, to always go back to the basics of rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks just as Paul instructed the church at Thessalonica to do in difficult times.
Because of His Grace ~ Pastor David