1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB) 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
These three little verses tell us the answer to some very frequently asked questions…
“What is God’s will for me?”
“How does He want me to live?”
“What is God expecting of me?”
It’s interesting that Paul, the writer of the letters to the Thessalonians goes out of his way to be all inclusive with his language here. His commands are clearly for all situations, all times, all seasons, in every circumstance.
1) Rejoice ALWAYS.
God’s will for us is to decide to celebrate God’s goodness even when things don’t go right. It is important that we remember who He is (His character) and rehearse His deeds in the past (His works). God really does expect constant celebration from us at ALL times (see also Philippians 4:4). This is most difficult in times of trials, but most necessary to move us toward hope and remind us that He is sovereign and in control as the King of all.
2) Pray without ceasing. (NLT says “NEVER stop praying”)
In addition to the rejoicing of our hearts constantly, there is supposed to be a soundtrack of constant prayer to go with the cheering, smiling, and celebrating of God’s goodness. This attitude of prayer and continual conversation with God is what He wants. It’s like that text message conversation that evolves during the day, taking hours and hours to finally end. With messages that go back and forth when each person has a minute to respond. This looks like asking God lots of questions about what He is doing in a particular situation and what He wants you to do in the midst of it. It could mean making the same request for help every five minutes for a whole day. It may look like a steady stream of requests for God to intervene and bless or deliver others from evil. It means that when you hear a siren, you pray for the person they are going to care for. Praying without ceasing might mean that you pray silently at the restaurant for the couple at the next who are having an argument. It could include asking someone if you can pray for them when you see they are sick or have an injury.
3) In EVERYTHING give thanks.
We are called to constantly live in a thankful space. It is a place of realizing that all good gifts come from God (James 1:17) and even when we are still waiting for an answer to our prayers, we thank Him for what He has already done and for what He will do in the future. We thank Him for the strength He gives us before we receive it and after it arrives. We make every day, every hour, and every minute a time of thanksgiving. It is easier to thank God for answered prayers and blessings than it is to thank him for the trials, challenges and difficult situations we find ourselves in. This verse is clear, however, that what God really wants from us (His will) is to thank Him at all times. This can be a challenge, but it also is a practice that will remind us that God is in control and we are not. Thanksgiving gives honor and credit to God and helps us to rely and expect God to come through for us because it flows from His generous, kind and faithful heart.
So, as we approach a day where we practice thanksgiving, may it truly be a warm up for every minute of every hour of every day of the year. Let us do God’s will by rejoicing always, praying always and giving thanks non-stop. May we grow into followers of Jesus who live this way more and more.