Rejoice, pray, and give thanks at all times - November 12, 2023

NewLife Christian Fellowship's Podcast

13-11-2023 • 28 mins

This morning, I am continuing in my sermon series through 1 Thessalonians, which was a letter written by a leader in the early church named Paul to a church in Thessalonica that he had been instrumental in starting around the year 49 AD. Paul and his fellow missionaries had been driven out of Thessalonica by a mob of angry Jews who found his message about Jesus being Lord to be blasphemous. And 2-3 years later, Paul has not been able to return to Thessalonica, so he sends Timothy, one of his fellow missionaries, who brings back a report about how the Thessalonians are doing and what issues they are facing. In response to Timothy’s report, Paul sends this letter. Last week, we looked at the vision Paul gave them regarding their horizontal relationships with others in the church. This week and next, we will look at what he tells them about their vertical relationship with God. I want to focus on three verses this morning:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18- Rejoice always;  17 pray continually;  18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

This passage may be short, but the exhortations in this passage are truly what you need, more than you even know, at the core of your being. You need a joy and a peace that can survive the ups and downs of your life and can weather the hardest storms and worst enemies of life. Clearly Paul is communicating that no matter the circumstances, we ought to be rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks. In the good times and the bad. In sickness and in health, whether wealthy or in poverty. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. This is what your loving and good Father desires for you.

Now, the NIV used to translate this as “Be joyful always,” which I think was a really unhelpful way of phrasing this. After all, how do you honestly tell someone to be joyful always? Am I supposed to instinctively feel joyful when a loved one dies, or I find out I have cancer, or my spouse divorces me? After all, even Paul told us in Romans 12:15 to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, and Jesus himself was called a man of sorrows. We do not always feel joy, nor should we, especially in tragic circumstances. But we can CHOOSE to rejoice. We can CHOOSE to pray. And we can CHOOSE to give thanks. More specifically, we can choose to rejoice in the Lord, even when we don’t find joy in our circumstances. And we can give Him thanks in every circumstance, even we are not thankful for our circumstance. Paul notes this apparent contradiction in 2 Corinthians:

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