1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says,
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
How can I rejoice always?
What does it mean to pray without ceasing?
How do I give thanks in everything?
It can often feel like we’re told to do something pertaining to our walk with God, but never given a clear way to go about it.
How do we follow Paul’s exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5 in a practical way?
In my women’s Bible study, we were going through Laurie Cole’s book, There Is A Season. Through it she shows us the different seasons of life and how to experience contentment in each one.
One day of the study was all about rejoicing and it caused me to remember difficult times in my life where rejoicing in The Lord brought me so much peace and joy.
When we are going through trials and tribulation, it can be so hard to take our focus off of the situation and focus on God. For me, rejoicing is always my last resort. I take my time to dwell in the depths of despair, cry, and be angry and even flat out say, “No, I don’t want to focus on God right now, it’s too hard.”
Then I think of Paul and Silas. I imagine them sitting in a dark, cold cell with their feet in stocks and their bodies bloody and bruised from the beatings they faced. If this was like any other story, I’d probably go on to say how they gave up on life and succumbed to the darkness surrounding them. After all, that’s probably what I would do.
However, this is a true story unlike any other.
In the midst of their pain and suffering, they chose not to focus on their circumstances, but to sing praises to God.
They chose to rejoice.
”But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” ~ Acts 16:25
When we are facing persecution, we can rejoice because we know who we are suffering for.
”Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” ~ Matthew 5:11-12
When we are facing any sort of trial, we can rejoice because we know it is for the testing of our faith and produces spiritual growth.
”My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” ~James 1:2-4
My friends, it’s easy to rejoice when the sun is shining, but can you rejoice when the rains come pouring down?
Paul and Silas show us that we can rejoice at any time, in any season because our Lord is constant. He is good all the time and He is worthy to be praised.
Pray without ceasing:
This is a commandment I have personally always struggled with. Am I really supposed to pray at every single second of the day?
The answer is – no, you are not.
Praying without ceasing simply means that our prayer life should be consistent.
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving. ~Colossians 4:2
Prayer is our way of talking to our Father. It’s when we tell Him our struggles, our fears, our needs, give Him praise, and thank Him for His blessings. It’s through prayer that we grow closer to God. Our relationship with Him needs to be tended to more than any other relationship that we have.
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. ~Psalm 145:18
I’ve always liked this analogy:
Think of how much time we spend getting to know our significant others. We talk to them all the time and spend as much time with them as possible. We learn all of their likes and dislikes and we listen to them intently.
Even if you don’t have a significant other, we do the same thing with our best friends.
Our relationship with God should be the same way – but to an even deeper extent. We need to set aside alone time to spend with God to hear His voice and speak to Him.
Pray throughout the day. In the car, at work, at school, in the shower, wherever. Talk to God consistently so that you are remaining connected and growing your relationship with Him.
On the other hand, don’t always come to God in a rush. He is holier and mightier than our finite minds could ever comprehend. We should take the time to acknowledge that in our prayer life.
In everything give thanks:
In the same way that we are to rejoice always, no matter the circumstance, we are also to give thanks in everything.
Don’t just thank God when He answers your prayer the way you wanted Him to. Thank God in everything.
Are you thankful you failed your test? Well, no, but you can thank God for the opportunity to learn.
Are you thankful your loved one passed away? Of course not, but you can thank God for the time you had with them and the impression they had on your life.
Are you thankful your life is falling apart? Definitely not. However, you can thank God that He is always with you to give you strength, comfort, and peace even in the darkness.
No matter what you are facing, there is always a reason to be thankful. Even if all you can think of is, “God, thank you that I have food to eat.” Or “God, thank you that I have clothing.”
Above all else, you can always thank Him for being your God.
There will be dark times, I know. It’s just about the hardest thing to even think about being thankful or rejoicing or even praying when life feels so wrong and the darkness is closing in around you.
Yet you can take these steps. It’ll be hard and maybe you can only manage to whisper to God, “Help me,” at first. Even if that’s all you can manage, God promises to comfort you and sustain you. No matter what we are facing, He means it for our good.
We see an example of that here as we continue the story of Paul and Silas in prison:
”Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
”So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.” ~Act 16:26-34
God allowed Paul and Silas to be whipped and thrown into a prison. As Paul and Silas rejoiced in The Lord, they were representing Christ to the prisoners and to the prison guard, who ended up helping them and accepting Christ as his Savior.
God was there in the prison with Paul and Silas. His presence surrounded them and moved them to rejoice.
He is with you, too.
Our God is always, without ceasing, and in everything. That is a reason to rejoice <3