My friend and fellow servant Wayne has chosen as his favorite verses ones from 1Thessalonians 5:16-18. These verses are placed in a paragraph in which Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to be diligent in practicing their faith. Let’s look at the passage as whole and then Wayne’s verses in particular,
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
Paul wanted the Thessalonian church to thrive. He wanted them to be working together in faith, encouraging and uplifting one another. He warned against putting the work of others down by asking them to esteem highly those that are working for the Lord and appreciate their efforts for the kingdom. Paul encouraged them to live in peace, working, helping those that are struggling and to be advocates of patience. He wanted them to not try and seek revenge when wronged but seek to do good. Paul does not want them to stop the flow of power from the Holy Spirit into their lives, but to be open to His leading. He also wants them to not believe everything they hear but to test it against scripture and pray for guidance. I particularly love his advice- ‘hold fast what is good’. Rather than focusing on the negative, hold fast, cling, proclaim in your life that which is good and from God. Lastly, he just says stay away from evil. Don’t even let it be in your heart and mind, keeping clear of it.
In the midst of this instructive paragraph come Wayne’s verses. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. These verses give practical actions that will lead to being able to carry out the instructions in the passage. Rejoice always speaks to the heart attitude that God desires. When working for the Lord, do you have an attitude of rejoicing? Are you doing things at church more as an obligation rather than joyfully for the Lord? You will know the difference because joyful service makes for an uplifted countenance and hope in Christ. We are not be be joyful in our service just when we feel good but always. Rejoicing in the Lord brings joy and encouragement to the saddest of hearts. Verse 17 tells us to pray without ceasing. I take that to mean proceed through your day and pray as you go. When you need to make a decision, speak to someone, tackle a hard or boring task… in all things pray! If we can do this, we will see God in all things and know His presence continually!! Verse 18 tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. This one is really hard to do at times in our lives. This is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit and true believe in Romans 8:28. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”. As believers we need to cling and proclaim the sovereignty of God over all things in heaven and on earth. We know that God’s will is perfect and that He will see to all the details. What might be hard or devastating can and will be used for our good and His glory. How is your faith in this area? Can you trust God for the hard things in your life and know He will bring good out of them? The last part of verse 18 tells us why we need to do these things- rejoice, pray and give thanks because for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. All of these actions are part of God’s will for our lives. He desires these things for us so that we may glorify Him with our lives. What do you consider your purpose in life? In the Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy 10:12-13 God lays His purpose for our lives: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? All these things- loving the Lord with our heart, mind and soul and seeking to follow His ways, are for our good and His glory. This is God’s will for our lives. He knows we need to rejoice, pray continually and give thanks in all things to keep ourselves in His will and our attitudes aligned with His purpose.
Thank you Wayne for pointing me to this powerful paragraph filled with encouragement and direction. As I serve with you in the cause of Christ, I see your heart attitude of joy and thanksgiving and your desire for prayer. May we all seek to live with these in mind so as to glorify God and walk in His will.