Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Paul here tells us that we are to do three things all time: rejoice, pray and give thanks. And he says that we are to do these things because it is God’s will for us.
The first thing Paul tells us to do is rejoice always. And joy is a central part of our spiritual salvation and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. True Christian joy reflects an inner peace and delight in God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. It is the blessing that flows from our relationship with them. Joy is deeper than emotional happiness, which often depends on outward circumstances. Joy is based on God’s immeasurable love for us and on the peace and hope we have because of what Christ has done for us. Our greatest joy will come when God reveals what is stored up for those who remain faithful to him. God’s Word teaches the following things about joy.
(1) Joy is directly related to the spiritual salvation (forgiveness of sins and personal relationship with God) provided by the personal sacrifice of Jesus Christ, “who loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:2). Joy is also directly connected to God’s Word. For this reason, true joy does not increase or decrease depending on our feelings or circumstances because it is based on the solid foundation of what Christ has already accomplished for us and on his eternal and unchanging Word.
(2) Joy comes from God as one aspect of the Holy Spirit’s “fruit”-the character traits he develops in Christians’ lives. Joy does not come automatically, but is experienced only as we remain in a growing, personal relationship with Christ. Our joy increases as the Holy Spirit gives us a deep sense of God’s presence and nearness in our lives. Jesus taught that complete joy is directly connected to knowing and remaining in God’s Word, obeying his commands, loving others and being set apart from the evil in the world.
(3) Joy comes from the comfort and delight of God’s nearness and his gifts of forgiveness, spiritual salvation and an eternal relationship with him. True joy cannot be destroyed by pain, suffering, weakness or difficult circumstances.
(4) Joy provides the highest motivation and strength for serving God and fulfilling his purposes for our lives.
The second thing that Paul tells us to is “pray continually”. To “pray continually” does not mean to be constantly speaking God or repeating formal prayers. Prayer is simply communicating with God, which suggests a two-way conversation (the process of talking and listening). For our blessing, the most important part of this communication is what he (God) says to us. This means that we must take time and learn to listen to God in prayer. That is how we hear his answers. Therefore, praying continually has more to do with an open heart and mind (that stay in contact with God) than with an open mouth. This allows us to truly go throughout every part of our day in communication with God, open to his voice and prepared to follow his guidance. Continual prayer also involves speaking to God “in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests” (Ephesians 6:18).
And the last thing Paul tells us to do is “give thanks in all circumstances”. Expressing gratitude for all that God has done for us through Christ should be one of the constant character traits of all Christians. This kind of gracious attitude will cause us to stand out in our settings and good examples of Christ.