Joyful, Prayerful, and Thankful
Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
At the end of 1st Thessalonians, and especially in chapter 5 verses 12-22, we have a series of commands given regarding issues related to practical Christian living. This is the context of our text. The commands given here are universal in nature. They apply to believers of every age and in every place. They are all-the-time commands that have universal application to us. There are three commands given in these three verses. They are amongst the shortest verses in the Bible (verses 16 and 17 are but two words in the Greek). They are very succinct in what they command us to do: Rejoice always, Pray without ceasing, In everything give thanks.
In the Greek, they are all imperatives. They are part of the inspired Word of God—it is God Himself who is commanding us to do these things. Inasmuch as God commands them, then it follows that it is possible for us to do them. God would not command us to do something that is impossible. Even we, as parents, would not be so evil as to command our children to do something that is impossible for them. That would be cruel. So, God not only commands us to do these things, but He has also given us the resources in our Christian life to do them.
They are commands that can have a powerful impact on our Christian lives and witness. We are not joyful, prayerful, and thankful by nature. Left to our own devices, we gravitate towards complaining, self-dependence, and thanklessness. Romans 1:23 speaks to the condition of the lost: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks…” People are not thankful to God by nature. That is a part of our sinful condition. So, when we are joyful, prayerful, and thankful, then we are different. Many work in a non-Christian environment. I have too, and you know the truth of what I am speaking. Paul commanded the believers in Philippians to do all things “without grumbling and complaining” (Philippians 2:14). The point is that when we are joyful, prayerful, and thankful, we find ourselves in a condition where we will be a blessing to ourselves and to others. A life that is attractive in Christ to the lost—adorning the gospel—can be much used by God in making His truth known.
These commands are all the time commands. It is not just rejoice, but rejoice always. It is not just pray, but pray without ceasing. It is not just be thankful, but be thankful in everything. That’s the rub in this passage. That is where the difficulties lie. Even unbelievers can be happy in the good times. Even unbelievers will speak of prayers that they offer up to God. Even unbelievers are sometimes thankful. But their joy (happiness), their prayers, and their thankfulness exist only in scattered moments and only to the extent that it is convenient and expedient for them to do so. And even we, as believers, must readily admit that we often fail to measure up to these commands. Often we are without joy, our Christian lives are not characterized by prayerful devotion, and we are not as thankful as we should be.
It is in Christ that all of these are possible. He is our great High Priest who has passed through the heavens to gain us access to the very throne of grace where we may “receive mercy and…find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16). He is the believer’s abiding and inexhaustible cause for joy (Philippians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:8). In Him alone—not to mention the countless blessings He has bestowed—we have reason enough to be overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:7). It is the Spirit who leads us to do such things. Joy is His fruit (Galatians 5:22). Thankfulness is the result as He instructs and reminds us of the glories of our Savior and His wonderful works (John 16:14; Ephesians 5:18-20). He is the ultimate prayer partner (Romans 8:26-27). To walk in the Spirit is to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful!
In Christ, we have an abiding reason to do these things. By the indwelling Spirit, we have someone who can lift our eyes above the troublesome and mundane to the reality of things from a heavenly perspective. Joyful, prayerful, and thankful—Lord help me to be so, moment by moment, this day and every day–to your honor and glory! Amen.
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.