Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
It is often the case that people, myself included, wonder what the will of God is for us in some area. We might wonder about jobs or housing or relationships and it s good for us to want to know the will of God for these specific things. Almost as often, it is the case that pastors and preachers will say that I should start with making sure I am fulfilling the revealed will of God before I go looking for further instruction. While I am not at all certain that God has the same approach, I do know that He expects me to be obedient to His revealed will for my life.
These verses are one place where God’s will is explicitly revealed.
Paul gives three instructions that constitute God’s will for [me] in Christ Jesus.
Rejoice always. The verb used can mean rejoice, which is not terribly comprehensible to most modern English speakers — we do not do much rejoicing in our daily lives. The verb can also mean be glad. God has given me much about which to be glad. He has paid the debt for my sin, He has made a way for me to talk with Him and walk with Him, He has displayed His love for me, and the list goes on. But, so that I do not leave an instruction unexplored, to rejoice means to show great joy or delight. Am I delighted with God and His benefits, as the psalmist put it?
Pray without ceasing. I know that I have wondered how I can pray without ceasing and still carry on a “normal” life of working and raising kids and whatnot. I would love to say that diving into the Greek in the concordance gave me some reprieve, but it does not. If anything, it actually makes it more emphatic. What then? I think that the thrust of the verse; the intent of the instruction is that I be ready to pray at a moment’s notice; that I keep the lines of communication between myself and God wide open. And this understanding of the verse jives with other instruction to do things like encouraging my brothers and sisters in Christ and sharing the great things that God has done for me with others. A good litmus test is, I think, how I respond when something difficult happens. When I am stuck in traffic or someone cuts me off and nearly causes and accident (as a couple of everyday examples) or when my kids or wife or I am sick, is my first response to pray and take the situation and individual to God? If yes, then I am, I think, praying without ceasing. If no, then I am not.
In everything give thanks. Notice that the instruction is not that I gives thanks for everything, but in everything. I am not commanded to be thankful for the accident that bruised my foot bone and left me hobbling for weeks. I am, however, commanded to find something to be thankful for even as I am hobbling around. I was vacationing in a beautiful place at the time and it was no less beautiful for me being injured. The injury could have been more severe, but it was not. I have medical coverage that allowed me to hobble in to an urgent care and make sure that I was not walking around on a broken foot, which I have tried to do in times past (Hint: It really does not work well.). All of this is circumstantial and does not take into account the blessings of God that abide every day like salvation and peace with God and His love for me. There was much to be thankful for even in a difficult moment. There is much to be thankful for every day. Have I stopped to give thanks recently?
Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. This is God’s will for me this and every day.