1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Why do so many commentators fracture this proclamation and only quote the 18th verse regarding thanksgiving? This is a prescription for successful Christian Living!
You actually see all three verses quoted separately. Separating them has never made sense to me as each is just as the next, at the same time, collectively they form a prescription for success in following The Way.
I want to be abundantly clear that by rejoicing, praying and giving thanks, we have it all covered in our walk with the Lord. No, I am not at all. However, these three things serve as the catalyst for enabling us to fully focus on the task(s) at hand.
Romans 10:9 (NIV)
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Your faith in Jesus as your redeemer is what saves you. This is demonstrated by a changing of direction (mind) and moving forward. This is repentance. Salvation is the act of creating a new being from a corrupt and damaged existence. The essence of this change is the surrender of our will to the will of God.
John 14:15 (NIV)
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
Keep my commands; in other words follow my will.
We see here that the Holy Spirit is given to every believer and as this faith is demonstrated by our willingness to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and God Word the believer will produce the Fruits of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
These are the products of Christ centered life. We’ve gone through this exercise to point out the importance of the three verses in 1 Thessalonians chapter five. These three things which are the raw materials for producing these Fruits of the Spirit.
Let dive into these three verses a bit more intently then, so we can see how they are the essential ingredients (prescription if you will) to fuel our journey on The Way.
It may at first seem a bit preposterous that God would see it as a priority that we rejoice all the time. After all, as the saying goes ‘Into every life a little rain must fall’. Right? Well, yes, that would historically seem to be consistent both in history and across populations of human kind. We all have times when things don’t go so well or we fail to attain our objectives and that may bring our level of enthusiasm to low tide.
Psalm 31:7 (NIV)
I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.
But rejoicing isn’t the result of circumstance. Rejoicing is the result of an individual’s decision to exhibit praise. It isn’t dependent on having things go our way. It is in fact the precursor to true ‘joy’ as evidenced in the Fruits of the Spirit.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV)
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
By making a premeditated choice to rejoice despite our circumstances we can transcend the troubles and calamities that come along the way.
Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Again, as with Rejoicing, the task may seem to be insurmountable but actually it isn’t that difficult to do so long as we approach the topic from the correct perspective.
In these writings, I’ve talked before about ‘Conversational Prayer’ which isn’t some mystical tool of worship. It’s approach to prayer based on the perspective that Jesus is ever present with us. The Holy Spirit lives within us as believers and so in fact prayer isn’t making a ‘long distance’ communications link. The Spirit of the Living God lives in us, so we are not talking about ever being further away than a whisper of the heart.
Psalm 145:18 (NIV)
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
Conversational Prayer takes this relationship into account and considers that it would be rude to have someone in your proximity that you consider your close friend and not share conversation with them.
1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
God doesn’t want the ‘big issues’ of the day laid before him. He wants us. Furthermore, he wants that relationship with us to be constant and not a series of disjointed requests and supplications that He gets on a periodic basis. He wants to hear from the individual right there beside Him (That would be you and I) and he wants to hear all we can share with Him. The big stuff and the small stuff, the praise and concerns, the things that make our hearts light and the sorrow that weighs heavy; He wants it all.
So talk to Him like He is right there with you; because He IS!
Give Thanks in All Circumstances
Give thanks to God regardless of our circumstances because by His Grace we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, if we have given our heart to Him. That alone is sufficient cause to give thanks always. Sure we could methodically go down a list of the blessings in our lives from the air we breathe, to getting up in the morning to laying your head down at night. However, the list would only contain peripheral benefits that are a direct result of God’s love through Christ Jesus. Salvation is the gift! Begin there and the rest is easy; regardless of what befalls you.
Psalm 107:8-9 (NIV)
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
2 Corinthians 9:11 (NIV)
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This Is God’s Will for You in Christ Jesus
Remember when we talked earlier today about ‘surrender’? If we truly are surrendered to the will of God then understanding that these three things are so critically important to you is a result of coming to the realization that they are the Will of God through Jesus His son.
Surrender tends to be one of the most difficult challenges we face as Christians. This goes hand in hand with the god of ‘self’ that we can find so challenging as well. It’s so easy to insert our will ahead of the will of the Lord for us. We use excuses like ‘I’ve got this, God doesn’t need to be bothered with this’, ‘God wants this for me’, and ‘I need this’.
Galatians 2:20 (NIV)
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
1 Corinthians 6:20 (NIV)
you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Christ died on the cross to purchase our salvation. Paul states it clearly in Galatians and then again it is punctuated in 1 Corinthians. When we give our lives to Jesus in exchange for our forgiveness our lives are no longer our own. We have been bought with a price. All that we have belongs to the Master.
Three components that energize and enrich the walk with the Savior; Rejoicing, praying, and thanksgiving.
Which ultimately leave us at…
1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIV)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
After all things are consumed by time Paul states in the love chapter that three things remain; faith, hope and love. Among these the greatest is love. Why love?
Love because God so loved the world that he gave his only son. That whoever believes in Him shall have life everlasting. Because love conquers all fear. Because Love He frees us to love.
It’s a pretty awesome prescription if you ask me.