What to do? Take a Lesson from King Hezekiah

I just love this interlude within the book of Isaiah. Yesterday I wrote about Chapter 36-37 where the commander of the Assyrian army come to scoff and denigrate the Israelites belief and trust in Almighty God. King Hezekiah sent for Isaiah the prophet and he gave encouraging words as God answered the insults of the Assyrian. Today as Chapter 37 continues as Sennacherib, the king of Assyria again sent a message to King Hezekiah, Isaiah 37:10-11“Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ 11 Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered?”

Sennacherib, the Assyrian King wanted to intimidate King Hezekiah and sent him a letter by messenger threatening his kingdom and ridiculing His God. Isaiah 37:14-20

 “Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 16 “Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 17 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

18 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. 19 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 20 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God.

What would you do if you received a threatening letter like this? Hezekiah turned to the Lord. Isaiah 37:14-20

I love the order in which Hezekiah acted:

*He laid the letter out before God.

*He prayed and acknowledged God’s power as Creator of all things in heaven and earth.

*He asked the Lord to look and listen to how Sennacherib was ridiculing His name, the living God.

*He acknowledged the earthly power of the Assyrian armies and the devastation they had brought.

*He told God of the Assyrian’s blasphemous idolatry.

*He asked God to deliver them from this enemy so that the world would know God is the one true God.

King Hezekiah knew that in and of themselves they were lost and defeated. Their only hope was in God Almighty! Hezekiah’s example shows us how to react when faced with situations beyond our control. We are to take it to the Lord. God alone has the answer and can defend us. Isaiah relayed to King Hezekiah’s officials that God was going to defeat this enemy in a very unusual way so that there would be no doubt as to who had saved Israel and defeated the Assyrian king.

I also love Hezekiah’s prayer as he did not start out with the request. He first acknowledged who God is and the power which Hezekiah knew and believed that God possessed. He also let God know how upset he was that God’s name and honor were being questioned. He was offended for God. He also wanted God to know that they were pagans and did not even revere or respect their own gods. God knew all this but Hezekiah needed to talk with God about it and as he prayed he gained hope and reassurance. Prayer is a process, a dialogue, communication with God and we receive strength and enlightenment as we pray. Talking about God- who He is and what He can or does brings hope and reassurance.

Review this story again and look closely at Hezekiah’s actions and prayer. Hopefully, you can apply this to your own life’s circumstances. I have done this many times. When I receive disturbing news, a letter, bill, etc., I will physically place it down in front of me and kneel in prayer. The physical action of laying it before God helps me put things in perspective and remember as I pray who is in charge. May this process help you too. Learning to bring things before God in prayer is a valuable lesson we can learn from an ancient king.


Looking to God for A Word from His Word in 2023

As we enter this New Year of 2023, it is time to think about what God has in store for you. One way to do this is to have a Word from His Word to be your focus. I have done this for several years now and have found it to be uplifting for my faith and walk with God. God amazes me how the Word He gives me is repeated continually thought-out the year. Many times it is encouraging to my walk, sometimes instructive but always guiding.

I would challenge you to pray about this as you read and study this week. Ask God what Word He would give you from His Word for this new year. He may give you more than one word to pursue so do that and see where He leads you. The Word you have for your focus has others that are or will be related to it. Make a list of your main word and then 5-10 related words. God will guide you to hone and zero in on the Word He has for you. Now that you have your list, look to scripture for verses that use your word or words and see how God guides in choosing focus verse for the year. I generally end up with 1-2 verses.

Here are some verses and words to get you started:

Joy- Psalm 16:11, Psalm 63:7, Habakkuk 3:18 or James 1:2

Hope–  Psalm 62:5, Psalm 147:11, Jeremiah 29:11, Lamentations 3:21-22, Romans 5:4-5 or 1 Timothy 4:10

Trust- Psalm 28:7, Psalm 31:14, Psalm 37:5, Proverbs 3:5-6 or  Jeremiah 17:7

Grace– John 1:16-17, Romans 3:24, 2 Corinthians 12:9, or Ephesians 1:7

Peace- Isaiah 26:3, Matthew 5:9, John 14:27 or Philippians 4:7

Or you may choose to examine words like: unity, compassion, mercy, steadfastness, stability, generosity, service or enough. When examining words like these you need your list of 10 related words to aid you in your search. Have fun with this and make it an adventure in listening to God and hearing what He has to say to you about your New Year!

May God encourage you as you seek His face this week and look to Him for your Word from His Word.


A Prayer for Others, do it for them!

November 19 and 20

As we think about and plan for the upcoming holiday and the theme of giving thanks, let’s look at Paul’s attitude towards the believers in Philippi.

Philippians 1:3-6 “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.Paul begins his letter to the Philippian Christians with a note of thanks. He is thankful every time he thinks of them because they are coworkers in telling others about the love and redemption they have through Christ’s death and resurrection. When was the last time you prayed with thanksgiving for those who work beside you at church, at work or at home who know the Lord and are seeking to tell others about Jesus? Whether they are near or far, it does not matter to God as He hears our prayers and knows our hearts. Living with an attitude of gratitude for those around us is essential to a fulfilling and abundant walk with the Lord.

Paul then continues as he seeks to lift these coworkers up in prayer. Consider his prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Paul is praying for his friends to have abounding love, knowledge and insight into God and His ways so they can apply His truth to their lives. He wants them to be fruitful and fulfilled in their walk with the Lord. Who do you know this Thanksgiving season that you can pray this prayer for? You can put their name into the scripture and lift them up to Jesus. Here is my version, I pray it inspires you to pray for others.

Dear Lord, I am thankful every time I remember ___________. May his/her faith in Jesus be continually filled with joy. I am confident that You who started the good work of salvation in ______ will continue to do so until Jesus comes again or he/she joins you in heaven. Today I’m asking that _____________’s love for Jesus will continue and grow more and more. I pray _______”s knowledge of Jesus will expand so that __________ will be able to choose what is best in our world filled with temptations and distractions. Lord, I ask that ________ will show the fruits of the Spirit in his/her life so that others may be encouraged by his/her love, patience, kindness, peace, self-control, gentleness and joy. Amen.

A truth to claim with thanksgiving: I am a co-worker for Jesus. The letters in the New Testament all have verses that speak of the co-workers that are toiling with the Apostles. In 1 Corinthians 3:9 Paul says, “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” He affirms their working together for Christ. Paul also addresses the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 about why they are sending Timothy to them. “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith,” Doing God’s work is serious business and appreciated by your fellow co-workers. Together we can encourage and pray for one another, so God’s work is accomplished just as He promises. We are a part of His work in the world! Praise God! He can use us even though we are weak. One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9, may it encourage you to keep on keeping on in Christ. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Blessings as you pray with thanksgiving and hope in your hearts for your fellow coworkers and those they are ministering to!


Thankfulness in Prayer

November 12th and 13th

We are about midway through this month of gratitude and as we near Thanksgiving and all the preparations that go into that day let your mind and heart dwell on the why. Why are you personally thankful this year? Begin this weekend to speak words of thanks for your family, home, neighbors, cities and for our country. Instead of looking for what is wrong, focus on what is right and pray for those around you. Here is a prayer of thanks from Colossians 1. Paul begins by expressing his thanks for the faith of the Colossians. ” We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel .” (verses 3-4) Who do you know that you are thankful for their faith? Who’s faith has pointed you continually toward Jesus and the truth of God’s Word? Offer up your own thanks for those believers who strength and encourage your faith.

Paul continues in verses 9-14 “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

What is Paul praying for the Colossian believers? In verse 9 Paul begins by asking that they will be filled with the wisdom and understanding provided by the Holy Spirit. He then continues and asks that the wisdom and understanding God will give them be applied to their lives so they will please God with their words and deeds. He wants them to produce fruit of the Spirit in the good works they are doing. He desires that they continue to grow in the knowledge of God. Paul wants them to be strengthened so that they may have patience, endurance and joy in their walk with Jesus. He wants them to remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and how he saved them from eternal death and darkness and brought them into a life of light and forgiveness.

This is a mighty prayer. Who do you know that you can pray this prayer for? Who do you know that needs empowerment for living like the Colossian Christians? You can replace the ‘you’s’ in this prayer with their name or your own. I challenge you to pray this prayer over them for several days, a week or even a month. Look for God’s transforming power in them and in yourself as you pray for others.

A truth to claim with thanksgiving: I have the ability to approach God. The idea of approaching God has been fraught with fear and trembling throughout the ages. However, if we look at Genesis Chapters 2 and 3 we see that in the beginning man existed in the garden and had a relationship with Almighty God. Adam and Eve did not fear God until they ate from the tree of knowledge, then they knew sin. Through the work of Jesus on the cross, we can now come near to God as we have a relationship with God again. Jesus has made us clean and presents us to the Father. I love Ephesians 3:12  In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” and Hebrews 4:16  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” We can approach God on behalf of others, as Paul did for the Colossians, or for ourselves.

Prayer is a mighty privilege and through it we come into the presence of God Almighty. Use it wisely and often.


Prayer with Confidence and Purpose

November 9, 2022

Have you ever thought about answered prayer? We love to see our prayers answered in just the way we envision them but often God surprises us with His answers. Most times, I have found, God uses unusual ways to answer all or part of our requests. We see the truth of Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” We know that God is faithful, hears our requests and will answer His way which will be good for us and bring Him glory. Today’s verse of thanks comes from 2 Corinthians 1:8-11. Paul is relating to the Corinthians believers the perilous situation they encountered while in Asia and thanked them for praying. “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Paul does not know how God will resolve this situation but He has confidence in Him. He asks the believers to pray so that many will give thanks on their behalf. Not only will they be blessed but so will the ones who pray. When you pray for someone, you are lifting them up before God seeking His help to provide for them in some special way. When that prayer is answered, you are blessed and your faith is affirmed. Even in the praying you are blessed as a peace or comfort comes upon you as you pray with faith. Paul knew the believers would be blessed and gave thanks ahead of time for their faithfulness.

Who do you know today that is in a situation of some kind and is in need of divine assistance? Will you lift them before God and seek His intervention on their behalf? Paul tells us that you will be blessed for your faithful prayer and so will the one who is prayed for. Claim Philippians 4:19 in your heart as you pray. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” God knows what is needed and will supply the answer in His way in His time just as He promises.

A truth to claim with thanksgiving: I can be assured that all things are working together for good. Romans 8:28 states this promise to all believers. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Here are a few things to consider about this promise: God is sovereign and there is nothing beyond His control. 2 Chronicles 20:6 “and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” God is good and intends only good things for me. Lamentations 3:25 “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” God has a purpose to which He has call each of us. 2 Timothy 1:9 “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,” God’s ways are not our ways and He achieves His desires. Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”

Being assured of these facts from God’s Word, claim this promise with confidence and let it give peace to your heart and mind. Pray with confidence knowing that God is sovereign, good, has a plan and will solve things His way that will be good for us and give Him glory.


Give Thanks for Prayer and Friend Jesus

November 4, 2022

Today’s verse features the action words ‘give thanks’. How thankful do you consider yourself to be? Do you live with a continual attitude of gratitude or is it fleeting depending upon your circumstances? If truth be told, the fleeting gratitude is probably more to what really happens in our lives. However, it is God’s desire that we be thankful at all times in all things.

1Thessalonians 5:17-18 “ pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is exhorting the Thessalonian believers and us too, to be prayerful at all times and have words of thanks on our lips as we pray. This combines two actions towards God- prayer, talking with God, and giving Him thanks with our words. What fills your prayers? Do you constantly seek His help with a give, or an I want attitude? This exhortation is focused on talking with God and having thanks be at the forefront of our praying. Being thankful – not just when things are going well but in all times. This is often very hard to do but seeking to see something to be thankful for in your situation gives you hope. It helps alleviate pain and refocuses you on God and the power of His might in Christ Jesus. God knows there is suffering and pain in this world but He wants to keep us focused on Jesus. Jesus will give us peace, hope and endurance as we look to Him in thanksgiving and praise. Seek to live each day with a prayerful thank-filled attitude just as Christ desires.

A truth to claim with thanksgiving: I have a friend in Jesus. In John 15:14-15 Jesus calls us His friends. “You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Being a friend of Jesus means He is always with you, supporting and caring for you. I pray the desire of your heart is to follow His commands and seek to know Him better. We are not considered servants but friends and we belong to His family. Being a member of God’s forever family is always something you can give praise and thanks for. Knowing Jesus as a friend gives hope and reassurance to us each day. Thank you Jesus.


Singing and Praising Led the Way to Victory

November 3, 2022

Today’s scripture of praise and thanks comes with a story. This event occurred during the reign of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah. Their enemies decided to attack in large numbers and Jehoshaphat did not know what to do. He called the nation to fast and pray, then gathered the people before the temple to pray. He prayed an eloquent, heartfelt prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:6-12. He ended with these words, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” The Lord responded by sending a prophet to tell King Jehoshaphat the following: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’ With this assurance, Jehoshaphat and his men went out to meet the enemy. However, before they left Jehoshaphat did the following, (21-22) “After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    for his love endures forever.”

22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.

This is a wonderful example to us that when faced with problems or circumstances beyond our control, we need to look to God and ask for His help. Then proceed as if it is already done and give Him praise and thanks. The Israelites faced the opposing army with a song in their hearts and praises on their lips. They lived their faith fully that day with thanksgiving in their hearts. God did indeed give them victory as He promised and their rewards were above and beyond their expectations.

What are you facing today that has you worried? Follow the lead of the Israelites and pray. Submit your problems and cares to the Lord. Live like you truly believe in His answer with praises and thanks in your heart.

A truth to claim with thanksgiving: I have access to God in prayer. The Bible is filled with examples of people praying to God. David, Daniel, Paul and Jesus all had the habit of going to God in prayer. They sought fellowship, reassurance and answers to the problems they faced in their lives. Know that you too can approach God and seek His help and guidance for your daily life. Here are a few scriptures to encourage you. Ephesians 3:12 “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” James 4:8a “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

Be assured God will hear you just as He did Jehoshaphat. Live believing and keeping your eyes on Him. God hears and will answer!


God’s Promises, Alive in My Life!

I have truly enjoyed the series God has led to write on favorite Bible verses submitted by my friends. I noticed that the verses are reflective of the person’s life and show a glimpse of their heart for God. I want to end this series with my own favorites. I hope these verses will show my heart for God and my dependence upon Him.

Let me start with my ‘go to’ verse when I’m stressed or facing difficulties in life. 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” This verse grounds me in the fact that nothing is above or beyond the power of God and He promises me sufficient grace to meet the challenges of life. God also assures me that my struggles and weaknesses bring glory to Him when I rely upon Him and His sustaining power!

Isaiah was a book I studied when I was struggling in my personal life. Everything in life seemed in shambles and I found much comfort in Chapter 49 of Isaiah. 16 “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;” This verse assures me that God sees me and knows me personally. I’m literally in His hands.

23 b Then you will know that I am the Lord;  those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.” This verse reminds me that like the Israelites, who were in Babylon at the time, separated from their homeland, God will not leave me. Good things are in store for me if I am patient and wait for His time and His answer. Results will bring honor and glory to God and good to me.

25 b For thus says the Lord,
for I will contend with those who contend with you,
    and I will save your children.
The second part of this verse speaks hope to me. In my situations of life, I know God is on my side and will fight for me. I don’t know about you but many times I feel defeated and like life is an uphill battle. Knowing that Almighty God will do the fighting for me and in addition He promises to save my children. I derive strength and hope from these promises. All three of these verses from Isaiah brought hope and confidence for living in knowing that God has my back and is with me fighting, uplifting and encouraging me all the way. He brought light and hope into my life at a very dark time. I can gladly say “God is good, all the time.” He knows where I am and what I need. Thank you Jesus.

I came across Jeremiah 33:3 while doing a study of the life of Jeremiah. This verse spoke to my heart and really encouraged me. Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.‘ This is a promise that is personal! God is accessible and will answer when I call out to Him. When in prayer or study or fellowship, God will reveal Himself to me in new ways. What wonderful promises!!

Lastly, I have 3 verses that I call my life verses. They have been favorites of mine for years and years. They are all promises of God that I can claim in my life. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I can always trust God for His plans are good for me and will bring glory to Him. Even when things look dark all around me, I can proceed with hope and claim God’s goodness and plans over my life. Joshua 1:8-9 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” God promises that His Word will be a guiding force in my life, if I will study and cling to it. God also promises to be with me wherever I go! This has been proven to me over and over as I study and seek God’s truth in His Word. 1 John 1:9 was one of the first verses I memorized as a young Christian. It is so affirming and reassuring. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This give practical advise on how to stay right with Him so I can abide with Him and He in me.

I pray that the verses God has laid upon my heart will be meaningful to you. As you can see, God’s promises are important to me. I seek to claim and cling to them daily. Year after year, God has been faithful to multiply His grace to me, keep me in the palm of His hands, contend with those who are opposing me, answer when I call upon Him, openly reveal His character to me through His Word, hears my confession, cleanses me over and over and always has good plan for my life that will bring Him honor and glory. I have seen over and over again that I can trust God. He has me and I can rest in Him. What an amazing God!

Targeted Prayer for Ourselves and Others

This reminds me of my friend Stephanie.

My friend Stephanie is a woman of prayer. She believes in the power of prayer to effect change in her life and lives of her family and friends. She recently was the chairwoman of our Pastoral Search Team and brought prayer into this process continually. Through prayer we were all more closely engaged in the search for a new pastor and linked to each member of the body of believers at our church. It does not surprise me that her favorite portion of scripture is a prayer from Ephesians 3:14-19. The Apostle Paul here is praying for the believers at Ephesus.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Paul knew these things to be true in his own life and ministry and desired that his fellow believers experience the same. Here is what Paul knew:

*God is accessible and he could come before him in prayer (14)

*Believers are all in the family of God under the name of Jesus (15)

*God provides inner strength through His Holy Spirit (16)

*God has vast resources at His command (16)

*Christ lives in our hearts through our faith in Jesus (17)

*God makes us firm in our faith through His abiding love (17)

*We can individually and collectively grasp a portion of how great God is (18)

*We can know through faith God’s unapparelled love, which is more than knowledge

*As believers, we can be filled to overflowing with God’s love, presence and spirit. (19)

Paul knew each of these truths personally. How many do you know? Do you pray for these for other believers you know and experience? The army slogan “Be all that you can be” could be applied here. God wants us to be all and experience all that He has for us. I challenge you to choose one or two of these and pray them for a believing friend so that they may experience God more fully and grow in their faith.

Thanks Stephanie for pointing us to this wonderfully rich passage that puts a priority on prayer and shows us how we are to pray for others while deepening our own experience of faith.


Simple Directions Produce Great Results

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.