Many times in Paul’s epistles (letters) he ends with a few final words of advice to whomever he’s writing to. With the amount of “urgencies” Paul offers, you would think he didn’t know he would write another letter in six months. I counted fourteen different things that Paul urged the believers to do at the end of his letter. Among the fourteen, there were three verses that I think would be a beneficial reminder for us today.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT) 16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Verse 16 in the NIV reads, “Rejoice always.” What’s very interesting about this statement is that we forget Paul is writing to a persecuted church. I think we can all understand rejoicing in the best of times, but what about rejoicing in the worst of times? It would be one thing for Paul to say and not do, but we couldn’t say that about Paul. In fact, just the opposite is true. Here are some examples of Paul rejoicing in the midst of suffering:
- Acts 16:25 (Singing and praising God in prison)
- Romans 5:3 (“…rejoice in our sufferings”)
- 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 (A laundry list of things “servants of God” should endure)
- 2 Corinthians 12:10 (“…delight in weakness, in insult, in hardship, in persecution”)
- Colossians 1:24 (“…rejoiced in what we suffered for you)
We can learn a lot from Paul who figured out that joy was a powerful weapon against life’s many ups and downs. Connect with joy, Paul moves on to the instruction, “never stop praying.”
Never Stop Praying
You may recognize verse 17 in it’s more popular form, “pray without ceasing,” but there’s always been a lot of confusion surrounding what it means exactly. The first thing you should know, which may serve as good news for some, is that Paul didn’t expect everyone to bow their heads, close their eyes, and continuously be on their knees in prayer all day long. However, it was Paul’s intention that everyone have an attitude of prayer. This means allowing God into the everyday moments of our lives. Prayer is not only a vital part of our relationship with God, it’s also something that should happen on a regular basis. It wasn’t just good enough for Paul, but it was good enough for Jesus. Luke 18:1 (NLT) 18 One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.
Be Thankful in All Circumstances
Lets notice what the verse doesn’t say:
- Be thankful in some circumstances
- Be thankful in a lot of circumstances
- Be critical in all circumstances
No! There’s a reason why Paul included to be thankful in ALL circumstances. There’s a reason why Paul included circumstances. I mean, think about it, Paul isn’t communicating to these baby Christians that their life would be circumstance free, instead, he’s saying when you experience circumstances, give thanks!
Unfortunately many can attest that even though we don’t like it, God typically uses difficult times and difficult situations to grow our character and strengthen our faith. I do believe there are other ways God can grow our character and strengthen our faith, but it seems growing character and strengthening faith is on hyperdrive during difficult situations.
Try It Today
Like I said earlier, the reason these three verses stuck out to me, is because I think you can apply them to your life today. I think not only you can, but you should apply them to your life…TODAY! Think of it this way: Rejoice, Pray, Thank…Repeat. When your dealing with life’s circumstances: Rejoice, Pray, Thank…Repeat. When you’ve experienced an incredible moment in your life: Rejoice, Pray, Thank…Repeat. Worked for Paul.