1Th 5:16-18 “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
If we give these verses only a casual reading, then our first reaction might be to think this impossible for us. We might be tempted to think that Paul simply did not know all the trouble and sorrow that would fill the world in our day and time. How could we possibly give thanks in everything?
We need to first remind ourselves that this is not simply Paul’s thinking. This is Paul speaking as He has been inspired by the Holy Spirit of Almighty God. It might be true that Paul could not know, on a personal level, the things we are facing today. However, Paul is speaking by the authority of Him who saw the end from the beginning and has never been surprised or caught unawares by the condition of the world.
First, we should be full of cheer or calmly happy (see Strong’s definition of the Greek word rendered “rejoice”). We sometimes think that rejoicing involves being moved to the point that we cannot sit still. It means we have to be giving outward voice to what we feel in our heart. According to the root meaning, when we find ourselves sitting quietly with a smile on our face and thanksgiving in our heart for the grace of God in our lives, then we are rejoicing.
According to God’s word, not only are we to rejoice, but we are to do so all the time! We tend to think that rejoicing is a matter of our current situation, whether it is good or bad. Paul is calling on us to consider that our rejoicing is not based on what we feel but rather on who God is and what He is doing in our lives in spite of the turmoil we may be facing. Consider the words of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as one example of what it means to rejoice all the time.
Even though they knew it could mean the end of their earthly existence to disobey Nebuchadnezzar, they also knew that God was with them regardless of the immediate outcome of their situation. They rejoiced in knowing that whether they lived or died they were in the hands of God, not the king. Regardless of what we may be facing today, we are in the loving hands of God and not at the mercy of whatever or whoever may be confronting us.
Part of being quietly happy all the time comes from being in constant conversation with God. We all know that we cannot literally be on our knees in prayer every moment of every day. This would violate many of the principles that God has taught us about caring for our family, being good employees, and caring for our bodies with food and rest. What we can and should do is be involved consistently in daily prayer and devotion to Him.
We need to resist the attitude of “Thanks, God. I’ll call you if I need you.” We always need Him! We need His involvement in every decision we make and every action we take. Praying on the spur of the moment in a time of trouble is fine, but to pray without ceasing we need to set aside a time every day when we are purposed to lay all else aside and talk with our Heavenly Father.
Finally, we should be able to give thanks in everything. Note that Paul did not say we should give thanks for everything, but in everything. I doubt Paul was thankful for the beatings and the imprisonment he had endured. However, we find him giving thanks to God in those things because God was using Him for His glory. God was using Him to encourage and strengthen the churches. God was with Him to prove always that His grace is sufficient.
God’s grace is still sufficient today. This is a great constant in our lives in which we can always rejoice. It is God’s will in Christ that we give thanks in everything. It is God’s will in Christ that we are always happy in Him. It is God’s will in Christ that we pray to Him without ceasing.
May we always remember that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Php 4:13)!