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Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks - 4.28.2024 Bulletin

Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5.16-18

Paul concludes his first letter to the brethren at Thessalonica with some final instructions and exhortations. One of the main themes of the letter is the second coming of Christ, and each chapter is concluded with a reminder of this hope. A message that is just as relevant today as when it was first pinned by Paul. It is an event that all people, especially all Christians, should constantly be preparing ourselves for so that we don’t miss out on that hope. Among these final exhortations Paul gives three short, but powerful instructions that will forever be connected. Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (vv. 16-18 ESV).

Rejoice always (v. 16). This may be the second shortest verse in the Bible but that doesn’t take away from its weight. Paul wrote this letter to a group of people who were facing persecution from the Jewish people. In 2.14-19 we learn Paul was driven out from Thessalonica by the Jews which hindered him from preaching to the Gentiles, and he was longing to return to them. How is it then, given these circumstances, can Paul tell them to rejoice always? How can we rejoice always given all that is going on in the world? How can we rejoice always when things are going wrong in our life? How can we rejoice always when it seems that evil gets more attention than good? It’s because our rejoicing is not in the physical things of this world, but our rejoicing is in the Lord. When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice” (Philippians 4.4 ESV). Without the Lord, rejoicing always is a vain effort. It is through the Lord that we can have victory over sin, and the assurance of a hope of eternal life in heaven. It is in this hope that we look past the physical and rejoice in the spiritual. Those who are without the Lord can’t say the same, they do not have the “peace of God” (Philippians 4.7). When we consider the depth of God’s love and mercy how can we not rejoice always?

Pray without ceasing (v. 17). These three commands are intertwined with each other, exclude one of the three and a person loses out on the full effect. Here Paul reminds his readers to “pray without ceasing.” In Luke 18.1 the reason Jesus told the parable of the persistent widow was “they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” While in Colossians 4.2 Paul wrote “Continue steadfastly in prayer.” It is through prayer a Christian can open his or her heart in gratitude and praise to God. Those who continue in prayer can rejoice always because they have the assurance and confidence that God hears and responds to the prayers of the faithful. Prayer is not the avenue through which we selfishly go to God to fulfill our fleshly desires. Prayer is reminder of our dependance upon God. Even in the difficult times, when things don’t make sense, we can still go to God to relieve the distresses of our heart. Praying to God should fill us with peace, knowing that we put our concerns in the hands of the one who made and sustains the world. God will answer prayer in accordance with His perfect will (1 John 5.14-15).

Give thanks in all circumstances (v. 18). One way we show our thanks to God is through our prayers. The Christian is not immune to the trials, tragedies, and distresses that come from this life. But even the Christian can live a life of continual joy and thanksgiving because of the matchless love of God. Ephesians 5.20 says, “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There is so much the disciple of Christ can be thankful for. Each day we should do as the hymn says “Count your blessings! Name them one by one. Count your many blessings! See what God hath done.” God know how to take the evils of satan and use them for good (Philippians 1.12-14). A person who has experience the grace of God understands no matter the physical circumstances, God has enriched their life. In James 1.17 we read “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” To understand this is to know why the Christian is thankful despite what may be going on in their life.

Our rejoicing, our never ceasing prayers, and continual thankfulness are all anchored by the hope of an eternal home in heaven that will far surpass anything this physical world has to offer or throws at the disciple of Christ (1 Peter 1.3-9).

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