By Sheri Ellington
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
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.
If you’ve ever been encouraged to memorize scriptures, then you have to love verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:16 and 17! “Rejoice always,” “pray without ceasing!” Got it! Two verses memorized! Maybe we should add verse 18 since it is part of the same sentence (notice the commas, not periods, at the end of verses 16 and 17): “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Three verses, one sentence, twenty-two words
Why is this statement in 1 Thessalonians so important?
Take a look at the last phrase: “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It conveys God’s will for us in Christ Jesus! In other words, as Christians, this is how God wants us to live: rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks. When does He want us to live this way? Notice the words that reflect time periods: always, without ceasing, in all circumstances. He wants us to rejoice and pray and be thankful all the time, no matter what situations we are facing!
Our family has had various challenges over the years. When we experienced 19 months of unemployment, God’s will for us was to rejoice and pray and thank Him. When we faced long-term illnesses, sudden injuries, surgeries, chronic medical conditions with our children and ourselves, God’s will for us was to rejoice and pray and thank Him. When we lost family members and were full of grief, God’s will for us was to rejoice and pray and thank Him.
Maybe you’ve had similar challenges in your life, or perhaps you’re in a difficult situation now. Do you find yourself rejoicing, praying constantly, and thanking God? It can be easy to look at our circumstances and compare ourselves to other people around us and find ourselves envious of the peace they seem to have in their lives. Sometimes, we throw a little pity-party for ourselves and sing “Woe is me” instead of a song of rejoicing. Instead of praying and being thankful, our response is to complain and wish our time away (“when this is over, I will…”). God has more in store for the Believer than this! His will is for us to rejoice and pray and be thankful because the result of choosing to obey this command is that we will experience His joy and peace.
The choice to rejoice
Joy isn’t based on how we feel. It is a conscious approach to life, an attitude we choose. Jesus came to give us His joy, and He wants our joy to be full (John 15:11). What difference does joy make in our lives? “The joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10)! Joy is possible because of a personal relationship with Jesus, and joy is the result of a choice to rejoice. Joy gives us the strength to face whatever comes next.
The way to pray
In addition to rejoicing always, we are to pray without ceasing. How can we do that? By maintaining an attitude of prayer, realizing that God is with us wherever we go. He has promised if we are in Christ that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)! He is always with us! We can talk to Him any time, day or night. We can cry out to Him or meditate on Him in our hearts! He is God, and He hears our cries and delivers us (Psalm 34:17), in His way and in His time.
From grieving to giving thanks
Philippians 4:6-7 tells us to offer up our prayer requests with thanksgiving, and we will experience the peace of God! We are to give thanks in all circumstances – not just when things are going well, but also when we are sad, lonely, suffering in pain, and overcome by grief. From my own experience with grief, when I really miss my recently deceased mom and feel the emotion welling up within me, I say, “Thank You, Lord, for a wonderful mom! Thank You for the 51 years I had her as my mom! Thank You that I know she is with You, no longer sick and suffering! Thank You that I will see her again one day!” Thanking Him settles the grief and emotions by taking the focus off of how I feel and putting the focus on Him and on what is true. And as a result, I experience His peace!
We may not always feel happy, but we can always choose to rejoice, to pray, and to give thanks. When we do these things, aligning our lives with God’s will for us, we will sense His presence and experience the peace and joy Jesus came to give us. We must not forget the significance of His joy: The joy of the LORD is our strength! So, be strong in the Lord and in His joy!
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.