Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
It is like Paul is running out of scroll material or time. This section is filled with some of the simplest and clearest instructions that Paul provides anywhere. There are no long sentences or difficult words that would be easily misinterpreted. Instead, there is a clear description of how the body of Christ is to think and act all the time.
Rejoice always. Why? We rejoice because we are people who are living out the incredible reality of eternal life in Jesus Christ. We have hope. Regardless of current circumstances we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to confirm for us that there is something better coming. Today’s circumstances may or may not be difficult, but we can choose to be filled with joy whichever the case may be. More than that we can choose to express our joy to others without denying our circumstances.
Pray continually. Why? We must pray continually because we are human, and life is hard. We often find it difficult to choose joy. We must continually remind ourselves that we are children of a good God who is actively working for what is best for us. There are many things in life that we do not control. We would often make different choices about our circumstances. We can always choose to pray.
Give thanks in all circumstances. Why? The instruction is clear and there are no loopholes. That’s what makes this so hard. Almost everyday we encounter something that we would change if we could. Only by acknowledging that God is aware of what we’re going through and recognizing that He can use it to make us more like Him will we be able to say, “Thank you God”.
There’s more in this section and Paul concludes it with this prayer:
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NIV)
I need this prayer every day. The simple commands in this passage I still find difficult to practice on a consistent basis. I very much need God’s help.
For my grandchildren:
Practice thanking God for everything every day.