1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
This whole last section of 1 Thessalonians is loaded with “sound bite” teachings which are widely known and loved. However, just because something can be said compactly doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, and these three verses are certainly illustrations of that. They have been set to music multiple times, but just singing them doesn’t mean we are necessarily doing them. They call for two things: our will, and the power of the Holy Spirit. There are circumstances in which it is easy to be joyful, but there are also circumstances in which it is humanly impossible. Jesus famously spoke to that when He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) We can be joyful when we are fully focused on Christ and what He has done for us. If we are focused entirely on the world around us, joy will be sporadic and entirely circumstantial. Praying continually sounds good, but the world is loaded with distractions, and few people really pray very much at all. We “run out of things to pray for,” when actually every detail of our lives and the world around us is a fit subject for prayer. Again it’s a matter of focus. There’s an old hymn that says, Did You Think to Pray? The problem is, all too often we don’t. And then there’s the matter of giving thanks. The NIV says, “in all circumstances,” and the Japanese says, “about everything.” We need to be careful to note that this doesn’t say to give thanks for everything. We aren’t to be thankful that the Islamic State is teaching young children to saw through the necks of living prisoners, for example. However, even there we can be thankful that God is still God; His justice will ultimately prevail, and the eternal destiny of anyone isn’t dependent on how they die. The Lord told me personally that He’s not pleased with many things in the world today, and we can be thankful for that fact in and of itself. It all boils down to faith and trust. If it is God’s will for us, as Paul says, then we are to apply ourselves to obedience.
This is remarkably close to home at the moment. All sorts of things are pressing in on me, and if I fail to pray and give thanks, I allow the devil to steal my joy. That benefits no one! Just thinking about everything involved in setting up an assisted living facility, not just the construction but particularly the red tape, and then everything involved in actually running it, is enough to make me want to run and hide. However, that accomplishes nothing. I need to put feet to these extremely familiar words and choose to do what God desires of me in Christ Jesus. Frustration and resentment simply tear me down, and they have repercussions for those around me as well. I am to rest, relax, and rejoice in my Lord, choosing to accept the faith and trust that He offers me, so that His plans may be fulfilled in and through me for His glory.
Father, thank You for this strong reminder. It’s not like I didn’t know it, but I need help in staying on track. Help me indeed put into practice Your truth that is in me, so that I and those around me may be set free from the traps of the enemy, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!