Last night, five of my COMMITTED girls sat together on my couch while we spent two hours discussing I Thessalonians 5. What a rich chapter! We dissected the verses, turning each command into a personal question, and shared our answers with one another. Humbling - convicting - vulnerable ... those are just a few words to describe the content of our conversation. As Scripture says, For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12, 13
The thoughts and intentions of our hearts were most definitely exposed. And it was WONDERFUL!
Of all the fantastic verses with which we interacted, it was these three that kept wrapping themselves around my heart - and squeezing tightly.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:16-18
At face value, they seem simple and lovely. But when you look at them through the eyes of the Lord, they pack a powerful punch, for they are not suggestions - but commands.
Pray WITHOUT CEASING.
In EVERYTHING give thanks.
For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
The questions we answered were these:
- Are you always rejoicing?
- Is your prayer life consistent, without pause?
- Do you give thanks for all things?
We spent a good amount of time here, each of us marveling that we find it difficult to obey such a positive and happy command, and then realizing that it goes back to the ugly roots of selfishness and pride. We don't rejoice always, because we are discontent, and we are discontent because we don't have what we want or what we think we deserve. We do not pray without ceasing because we let the cares of the world distract us, suck up our time, and focus our eyes on our circumstances rather than our Savior. We do not give thanks in all things because we find some of them unfair, unsettling, or outright painful. And yet, the verse gives us no wiggle room. There is no clause stating, "Rejoice, pray, give thanks unless you don't feel like it, you don't understand or like what God is doing, or you don't want to obey." The trio of commands closes with, "This is the will of God." Period. End of discussion.
And the words of Job rang in my head. Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.” Job 40:4
There was nothing to say. No argument. No excuse. No defense.
After the girls left, I studied the notes I had written during our time together, feeling the conviction deepen with every line I read. I could not sleep, for my mind was not at rest. I rejoice, I pray, and I give thanks - but not enough. Not always. Not without ceasing. Not in everything.
Something has to change.
And it begins with renewing my mind.
I printed the words REJOICE - Pray Constantly - Give THANKS on a piece of neon pink paper, and taped it to the cabinet above our school books. I stand in that spot dozens of times each day, and now, every time I do, I will be reminded that it is GOD'S WILL for me to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Always.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
... and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:17,18
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, ... Ephesians 5:20
Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! Psalm 100:4
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15