Written by BCC Counselor Joel Bradshaw
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
In these three simple commands, Paul was directing the church at Thessalonica regarding their relationships with one another. Ever practical, the apostle gave them things not only to start but also to stop.
In the previous verses 13 and 14, Paul challenged not only their doing but also their being. The Thessalonians were to be at peace with each other and also patient with each other. How they were was just as important as what they did. Thus, the Christian life is not simply behavior management but a new life that flows from a new and renewed identity centered in Christ!
With this in mind, we encounter Paul’s three biblical imperatives.
1. Rejoice Always
Think of joy as a response to God that begins on the inside and flows to the outside. Over twenty times in the Bible, rejoicing is linked with gladness. The Hebrew language pictures gladness as a satisfied pleasure. Does that describe how you respond to the faithfulness of God?
2. Pray Without Ceasing
If you are always satisfied and pleased with God, your prayers carry that attitude with them. Scripture reminds us to cast all our anxieties and worries upon God, for He indeed cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). That level of trust flows from being satisfied with the faithfulness of God. Do you bring that attitude to your prayers to God?
3. Give Thanks in All Circumstances
If you are already satisfied with God and regularly take your needs to Him in prayer, then you are in a natural position to respond with thanks to His faithfulness. In our relationships, gratitude is a very powerful thing. Being thankful is the perfect perspective for every day, but it can be challenging.
I once led an anxiety support group at my church, and I’ll never forget an older participant named Bob. It was the group’s concluding session, and participants were giving feedback regarding how the group had gone. Bob said these words: “I am never happy for my anxiety. But because of it, I have learned to trust God. I am therefore grateful for the anxiety.”
I remember hearing those words and immediately feeling encouraged. I have journeyed with multiple sclerosis for over half of my life. And nobody with MS is ever happy about having it! But over these years, God has used my daily challenges and stressful seasons to draw me closer to Him. He has nurtured within me a deep and powerful trust in Him. Through this journey, my faith has been strengthened. Bob had put into words the very perspective of my soul. I am grateful for my MS and satisfied with the God who daily cares for me!
Learn from Joseph
Can you maintain that perspective throughout the challenges you face? Remember the life of Joseph. He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, thrown into prison on a false accusation, and left in that prison for two extra years even after the man he helped to free promised to remember him.
Joseph could have felt bitter at his brothers or even at God. However, the grand story of Genesis concluded with Joseph’s powerful words of perspective. “…You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20).
My friend Bob learned Joseph’s perspective. I am learning it. How about you?
If you see your life that way, then joy and gladness come naturally. It then makes sense that Paul used words like ‘always’ and ‘without ceasing’ or even ‘in all circumstances.’
God is at work in your life, and you have the opportunity each day to not only remind yourself to be grateful but to live in a way that communicates satisfied pleasure with God. This is indeed the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. We are most grateful for the person and work of Jesus. We are certainly pleased and satisfied that our salvation and hope are centered in Him.
So take those attitudes to your daily situations and respond biblically using Paul’s three imperatives. Happy Thanksgiving!