Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
Let’s get back to our discussion of God’s will. A few weeks ago, I talked about a period where I viewed God’s will as an enchanted path that, if we could find it, led us through a perfect life. Instead, though, there is much more in the Bible telling us that God is more concerned with who we are than what we do. Our verse this week is a good example of that principle.
This verse is from the closing of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. I suspect that the Thessalonians knew this was not simply a platitude from Paul, he had lived it. They had probably heard the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi. They got into trouble with the local authorities because Paul cast a demon out of a servant girl. The girl’s owners were upset because they could no longer make money from her predicting the future. So, they brought charges against Paul and Silas. The two were arrested and beaten without a trial. Then they were thrown into prison for the night. About midnight, they were praying and singing hymns. There was such a violent earthquake that their chains fell off and the prison doors were opened. In the end, Paul and Silas shared the gospel with the jailer and he and his family became believers. You can read about it in Acts 16:16-40.
We have talked a little about Paul’s admonition to pray continually in Pray Now and A Simple Plan for Daily Prayer. Today, we’ll talk about rejoicing always and giving thanks in all circumstances. I heard someone speak on this over 20 years ago. I don’t know if I had ever thought about it before then. His challenge was simple, do what the Bible says, give thanks in all circumstances. As I thought about his challenge, I realized that I usually gave thanks in the good circumstances and asked for help and deliverance in the hard circumstances. His point wasn’t that asking for help in times of trouble is bad, it’s just incomplete. If we believe that God is directing our life, can we put that belief into practice by thanking God, even in the hard times, and asking Him to use the hard times for our spiritual growth and for his glory?
I began applying the principle of thanking God in all circumstances. I will admit that I often don’t remember to lead with rejoicing and thankfulness when there is trouble, “thank you God, the car won’t start” or “thank you God, I am off to the hospital, again.” But, I have done it and I have seen God respond. I don’t have stories of earthquakes in the middle of the night. But, I have seen God work in situations that I thought were hopeless.
How does this connect to the topic of God’s will? Paul tells the Thessalonians (and us) that it is God’s will for us to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Not only is this good to do, it is what God wants us to do. There was a period in my life I spent so much time trying to find the enchanted path that I thought was God’s will that I spent little time doing what the Bible clearly says is God’s will. I eventually learned that fulfillment is not found along some mystical enchanted path, but in doing the things that God clearly says: rejoice, be thankful, pray, serve.
The application is simple to explain but may be hard to do. As you go through your week, thank God in all circumstances. To remind yourself, you may need to write it on Post-It notes and stick them around the house and in the car. Test God in this one area this week and see what happens.