Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Today's verse is one that I like to skip over in my Bible, even though it's highlighted. And underlined. And on a page that's dog-earred.
You see, whenever I read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, I can't help but think: Really? Be joyful ALWAYS? And how am I supposed to pray CONTINUALLY? And give thanks in ALL circumstances? Who can do all of THAT?
I'm sure you probably have a verse or two that you really don't like to read or mull over either. But, conveniently, God has ordained it so that I've had many opportunities to put my skip-over verse into action just this past week ...
When I said "hello ... how are you doing?" in passing to an acquaintance and was greeted with a cold "hello" and a sharp "I'm fine" in response. Ouch. Where's the joy here? What did I do to deserve that kind of treatment? Why doesn't this person like me?
When funny, but certainly unkind, words flew out of my mouth at the expense of someone else and his feelings. Why, oh WHY, did I do that just so I could make fun of them? And feel better about myself? Obviously, I was not praying while saying.
When a friend's van, in which she had just pumped a couple thousand dollars for repairs a few weeks earlier was pronounced "dead" by mechanics. How could anyone be joyful in this type of circumstance? I want to greet these mechanics with a "holy punch" on her behalf. Argh!
When people are difficult just to be difficult and disagree with every factoid or opinion you might share. You say black. They say white. You say gray. They say plaid. Ugh! Am I supposed to be thankful for this? Isn't there some other way I can learn humility? 'Cause I'd be ever so grateful if it was a different circumstance, Lord.
What also stands out to me about 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, is that each thought gets its own verse. I think that this week is the first time that that has registered with me. It's almost as if Paul wanted to give specific emphasis to each way of living:
Be joyful always
Give thanks in all circumstances
These three directives were part of the "Final Instructions" section in Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. He was reminding the church in Thessalonica of how God's people are to live and how our attitudes should not be affected by (or a result of) our circumstances.
This is a hard pill to swallow, folks. At least for me it is. Sure, it's easy to be joyful, praying continually and giving thanks in all things when life is going great, when everyone is your best friend and when the blessings (usually material) are just raining on down.
But what about when you've had a week like I just did? How are you supposed to live like this?
I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Phil. 4:13).
That's the key. God, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is the one who powers me and helps me to live in this way. And this is the kind of living that God wants for his children. It is his will for us, not our own. And it is that which is pleasing to him.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
Please don't skip over 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 like I have a habit of doing. Let it cause you to pause and take some time to assess your current attitude. What is it—or who is it—that's got you not joyful, not praying and not giving thanks? Ask the Lord to soften your heart and change your attitude. He doesn't want to skip over you. And if you are willing, through YOU he can work wonders!