One of the most fascinating verses in the Bible is found in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Near the end of that letter, Paul writes, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. Quite frankly, on the surface, none of those admonitions seem to be even remotely possible. Think about those statements for a moment. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. These are all remarkable statements.
Rejoice always and in everything give thanks.
Let’s focus on these statements, as they are very similar in concept. These statements sound like appropriate admonitions for someone living either in Heaven or perhaps the Garden of Eden, but they certainly don’t seem to be reasonable or even rational for those of us who live between those two places. Even recognizing that we are to give thanks in everything rather than for everything, it still seems a long way from our world experiences. The reality is however, that a man who knew all too well the difficulties of this life made these statements under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Consider these realities that were a part of Paul’s life:
“…in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”
Rejoice always. In everything give thanks. These words came from the mouth of the person who experienced all of the above difficulties, and more! These are words that we must understand as being intentionally communicated to us, by Paul, through the Spirit of God, and as such, we must take the personal application of them seriously.
Rejoice always. In everything give thanks. The first question that comes to my mind is “Why?” Why give thanks when things are bad? Why rejoice when there is nothing joyful in the circumstances surrounding you? I believe the answer is found in other verses of scripture. Psalm 100 tells us unequivocally that, “The Lord is good.”
Why rejoice and give thanks
in the midst of hard times?
Because the Lord is good. The One who spoke the world into existence, the One in whom all things hold together, the Alpha and Omega, he is good. In the midst of the worst, the Lord is good, and the power and authority of our Father is greater than the whole of all the bad there is or will ever be! Furthermore, God uses even the bad for our good. Trials, tribulations, difficulties… all things work together for our good. We have a good God who is greater than all the bad, and demonstrates it every day by using even bad things for our benefit.
This leads us to a second question. The question of “How?” Even if we can see why we can and should rejoice always and give thanks in everything, that doesn’t make it easy for us to do. It occurs to me that it is not just these two phrases that fit together, but all three phrases are intrinsically connected. How can we rejoice always? By praying without ceasing. How can we give thanks in everything? By praying without ceasing. The key to a life of rejoicing and thanksgiving is a continual communion with the Lord who is always and forever good. To bring each situation of life to Him, to surrender ourselves to Him in the midst of every life situation, to commune with Him in the midst of every situation we face, acknowledging who He is as King, Lord, and the Lover of our souls, is how we can get to the place in which we are able to rejoice in the midst of difficulties, and give thanks in times of distress or trial.
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
When you think about it, it really does make sense.