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
The above passage is from Paul’s concluding remarks in his first letter to the Thessalonian church, and it is sometimes easy to just race past it to finish up the letter. But I believe that is a big mistake. These three tiny verses have some very practical application in our daily lives, especially if we want to follow God’s desire concerning our character. Three simple directives that will make such a big difference in who we are.
Rejoice always! I am sure you have know people who always seemed positive, who always see the good, who brighten your day whenever you encounter them. God wants me to be one of those people. Not one who is wearing a mask and just pretending to rejoice. But one who just does. To have a heart that is always rejoicing in the Lord.
Pray continually! This sounds impossible; and it is if you limit prayer to something that requires you to close your eyes, bow your head, and tell God what you want him to do for you. But prayer is so much more than that. Think of prayer simply as talking to God, without all of the ritual that we so often seem to wrap around it. There is generally no need to bow your head, although there may be a time for that. Closing your eyes can be useful when you need to block out other distractions, but would normally be a bad idea, especially if you are driving. Prayer should not be limited to making requests, treating God like a giant vending machine in the sky. Just talk to him, like you do your closest friend. That is how you will get to know him best.
Give thanks in all circumstances! It is easy to be thankful when everything is going just right. It is quite another thing to be thankful when your life seems to be the subject of a country western song; dog died, wife ran away, and the truck is broke. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t find something that is hard to be thankful for. But fortunately we are not being instructed to be thankful for those things that happen to us. Instead we are just told to be thankful while we are going through those trying circumstances. Be thankful that we have a God who cares about us. Be thankful for what the trials can produce in our lives.
This is God’s will for you. There are a lot of things that I might identify as being God’s will for me, including some things that are specific for my life and not necessarily for others. But for all of us who are ‘in Christ Jesus’, who have a relationship with him, he wants us always to have a spirit of joy and thanksgiving, and to stay in constant contact with him. After all, we have been invited to be a part of God’s plan for eternity and to enter into fellowship with our creator. Why would I not be filled with joy and thanksgiving?