On the eve of Thanksgiving 2019, I would like to offer some Biblical advice.
As a nation, we face numerous challenges: The division in our nation politically; the ongoing impeachment hearings; the looming trade war with China; the nonstop crisis in the Middle East with Israel, Iran, Iraq and Syria; the upcoming elections; Russian meddling in our national affairs; the sanctity of human life. The list goes on and on.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, however, the Apostle Paul offers a short series of personal exhortations which give instruction to Christians on how to live their personal lives in times like these.
Verse 16 exhorts, “Rejoice always.” In other words, “be joyful all the time.” God wants His people to be joyful and He gives them every reason to be. This is actually a command. A Christian’s joy does not spring from his circumstances but from the blessings that are his because he is in Christ. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Philippians 4:4, exhorts, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”
To be honest, I have a hard time with verses that say, “always” and “never.” Not that I disagree with them, but I find them harder to attain. In particular, James 1:2-3, where it instructs us “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” This verse alone is proof that the ability to “be joyful all the time” has nothing to do with circumstances.
Notice that he did not say “be happy all the time.” Happiness is completely dependent on circumstances. If you have a well performing stock portfolio, a large bank account, a wonderful home, or are in a loving relationship, you can be happy for a while. But what happens if and when any of those things begin to unravel? The ability to “be happy all the time” flies out the window.
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The ability to “be joyful all the time” is a byproduct of a relationship with Jesus. How does this work? It works because of His faithfulness to us. The uniqueness of Christian joy is that it emerges under the most adverse circumstances. Our challenge is not the ability to “be joyful,” our challenge is found in the ability to be joyful “all the time.” We have no capacity to accomplish this, in and of ourselves. But since it is based on God’s faithfulness, it becomes entirely possible. The Bible tells us over and over again that God will never leave us or forsake us. That promise alone gives us the ability to “be joyful all the time.”
Verse 17 states, “Pray without ceasing.” That does not mean we must always be mumbling prayers. The word means “constantly recurring,” not continuously occurring. Paul was speaking of maintaining continuous fellowship with God as much as possible in the midst of daily living in which concentration is frequently broken. Psalm 37:4 tells us that God knows the desires of the heart and He responds to those desires even when our voice is silent.
Finally, verse 18 commands us to, “in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” The two previous commands deal with our ability to manage our time (“always” and “constantly”); this one, however, deals with our circumstances. Please notice that it reads “in everything” give thanks, not “for everything” give thanks.
Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This verse is a fact of the Christian life. Since all things are orchestrated by God to work together for good for those who love Him, Christians have the ability to give thanks in every circumstance of life. In other words, no combination of events can be termed “bad” for a Christian because of God’s constant attentiveness to our lives.
You may have noticed that this article has been primarily directed to people who are already Christians. If you would like to have these things apply to you, pray this simple prayer: “Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Savior. I accept the gift of eternal life. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I may follow You all the way to heaven. Thank You for saving me. Amen.”