Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rejoice, Pray and be Thankful




Scripture

Rejoice always;
(1 Thessalonians 5:16 NASB)
pray without ceasing;
(1 Thessalonians 5:17 NASB)
in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB)

 

Observation


Speaking to the believers in Thessalonica Paul had instructions for their daily spiritual lives. They were to make an effort to love one another and for their entire lives to be bathed in the love of Christ. How as this to happen? They were to "rejoice always; pray without ceasing; [and] in everything give thanks." These three were key to the kind of spiritual life that was to define the Thessalonians, and us as well.

 

Application


There are days when I simply don't want to rejoice and I want an excuse to be a grump! If I want an excuse, I can generally find one. However, on the other side of the spectrum, If I choose to rejoice, I generally can find an excuse to be joyful and rejoice as well. Therefore, there is a choice involved when it comes to rejoicing because there is a lens with which we may see all that surrounds us, and that is either through a lens of negativity, or a positive lens. Interestingly I think that Paul's second admonition has much to do with the first. How in the world can we really rejoice always? By praying without ceasing!

Praying without ceasing is really a mindset of continual communication with the Lord. It is a daily life which is completely and totally plugged into intimacy with him. If I am in continuous communication with the Lord, then he is already there in the midst of the difficult circumstances of life. Therefore, I can rejoice for the Lord is the one who is there with me in the midst of it all! It is separation from God which is the most desperate circumstance of life. It is connection with God which is the most joyful and therefore in the midst of our circumstances, we can find that when we are still connected to Christ, there is something to rejoice about! But let's be honest here, this isn't always easy. There are times in life when the circumstances are changed at such a rapid pace that it's hard to keep up, let alone rejoice. What's the best thing we can do? Stay connected to the one who can bring healing and comfort to the situation, by praying without ceasing. Sometimes it's in our very desperate circumstances that we want to run from him and cling to our hurts. He invites us to come to him with our hurts and then he helps us carry the hurts. Remember he invites us to take on his yoke. Why? Because we're all already carrying around a yoke and when we have one all by ourselves then we are completely weighed down. If we share the yoke with him, he takes the heavy part and carries it around on his neck so that we can continue to move forward and to function. Pray. Pray without ceasing.

Finally Paul tells us to give thanks in everything. Really? In everything? Sometimes this may seem as if it were an exercise in futility and yet, it is truly God's desire for each one of us, to be able to look at and be thankful in all circumstances. Does it come easily? I don't think so. The night that Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane he wasn't thankful that he was going to be crucified. Instead, he prayed that the Father would take it from him, if possible. Jesus went on and died a horrible death on the cross for you and for me. The silver lining? All of humanity was saved. I know there are those who are wondering whether there can really be a silver lining to their suffering. Paul knows that if we only focus on the very worst part of our pain and suffering, we will never see Jesus. We are to look for him, to pray without ceasing, and give thanks. Be careful here, the suffering is not God's will, but our response to the suffering is God's will.

Today and over the next few days a group of women have gathered in Wilmore, Kentucky to pray for a dear follower of Jesus Christ, Beth Coppedge. Beth is suffering terribly from her treatment for cancer and is extremely weak. If anyone knows Beth, you know that she is always looking for the silver lining -- looking for a way to rejoice. While she may be facing her own mortality and is terribly ill, she has been sharing about her personal encounters with Jesus Christ; about how he continues to become more real to her on a daily basis. That through this suffering she has gotten to know him as never before! For those of us watching from the outside we are astounded for we have seen her deep and intimate relationship with Jesus for years and it's hard to imagine there can be even more. I know that not every day and in every moment of her sickness does she feel like rejoicing, but she has learned to see Jesus in what is happening.

No, life isn't easy. No, we have no guarantee that things will be easy. Paul knew this and yet encouraged the followers to rejoice, pray and be thankful.

 

Prayer


Jesus, I love you. Thank you for the incredible privilege of simply getting to know you. Amen.

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