"Rejoice always, praying without ceasing, in everything gives thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Wow. Those are some challenging commands to follow. Does it really mean to rejoice always? To pray without ceasing? To give thanks in everything? These were (and still are) some of my initial thoughts about this passage in 1 Thessalonians 5. I mean, how can I truly apply this to my life? It it even possible?
No. It is not possible. I cannot rejoice always, praying without cease, and give thanks in everything without Jesus Christ. Humanly, it is not possible. But with God all things are possible.
Sure, it's easy to thank God when things are going my way, when life is good. But what about when things are not good from my limited view point? When things don't do my way? Do I still believe that God has planned it for good? That everything is a gift from Him? So many times I let my circumstances control my attitude instead of letting Jesus Christ rule over all.
In order to be thankful at all times I must realize that God works all things out for good. I must look for the good in the "bad". Until I realize that all is a gift from God, I will complain when life doesn't go my way. All I have is a gift from Him and without His grace I will fail to see these gifts. That's why I must pray without ceasing. I must live in constant dependance on Him because if I'm not dependent on Him, I will be dependent on my flesh. And my flesh doesn't want to thank anyone for anything because it depends on itself. Without Jesus Christ's grace, I won't even want to look for the good.
So I must die to my flesh and purpose to look for the gifts of God in each and every moment of life.
This is hard. It doesn't come naturally. But with God all things are possible. I won't be perfect. But I must continue, by God's grace, to create the habit of looking for God's gifts. To practice, practice, practice. To ask God to open my eyes that I may see His wonderful works.
This is where the joy comes in. The Bible says, "In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11b) Joy is found in God. And God is evident everywhere - if I'm looking for Him. I must choose to acknowledge His presence and His working in every detail of every part of my life. It's when I thank God for His gifts that I can live in His presence. "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His name." (Psalm 100:4) Joy only comes with thanksgiving. I cannot rejoice always unless I am thankful, unless I am continually looking for the gifts God bestows on me.
So, "rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks." Creating these habits will allow me to live life to its fullest - "for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." There's no better place to be than in His will.
May God give me grace to live these verses out in my life!