Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. | 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (ESV)
Scripture tells us that it is God's will for us to give thanks in all circumstances.
At first glance, this seems impossible; especially when we find ourselves neck deep in circumstances that are difficult, disappointing and downright desperate. However, the secret to unlocking our ability to honor Jesus, in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, is actually found within the same passage of scripture where we are commanded to do it.
How quickly we settle for immediate and inferior pleasures at the expense of the ultimate everlasting joy we have been created for. Yes, God in his infinite grace, will often times grant to us things like happiness in relationships, prosperity in our efforts, or security with our health...but these things were never intended to complete our joy. Do they offer offer semblances of peace and happiness? Of course they do, but they are inadequate replacements for the everlasting joy we have been promised in the presence of our Savior and when they are taken from us, they tend to bring us into deep states of displeasure or despair.
So, how then can we give thanks in the dreadful circumstances we often find ourselves in? By focusing our gaze on the truest and most precious treasure in the universe.
One of the quickest ways to kill thoughts of ingratitude and doubt, is worship. When we choose to worship God (in biblical ways), our thoughts and affections begin to shift from ourselves onto the Author and Perfecter of our faith. As we sing, meditate on God's promises, and preach the Gospel to ourselves...we rejoice in the reality of our Good, Good Father. It is here that we're reminded that God is good, God is near, and God loves us.
Why does scripture tell us to worship always? Because our hearts are fickle. When we allow seeds of ingratitude and doubt to take root in our minds and hearts, we are pulled away from the source of gratitude and faith. Therefore, it is crucial that we build intentional habits of worship, in the moments where things are as they ought to be, so that when sorrows like sea billows roll, we know exactly where to take our soul. Into the presence of the LORD, with our gaze focused firmly on the realities of our Good, Good, Father.
PRAY WITHOUT CEASING
Wow, as if "giving thanks in all circumstances" wasn't difficult enough, now we're being commanded to prayer without ceasing? Yet another impossible task, right?
Except, no...it really isn't. Do you know that you're already having a continuous conversation all day long? It's true. Though the words may never leave your mouth...they're in your head and they're rolling at an average pace of about 4,000 words per minute. This is incredible.
Now, think back to the last time you found yourself in a difficult circumstance. Maybe it was today or maybe it was last week, but if we're being honest with ourselves...none of us have to go back very far.
What was the substance of the running conversation in your head? Where did your thoughts take you? If you were mad at someone, how fruitful were the thoughts? Here's our gauge for answering that question:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. | Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
Again, if we're honest with ourselves, most of us rarely pass the test. If we're not careful, our feelings have a tendency to turn us into false teachers and negativity-promoters so quickly. This is why it's so important that we build the habit of "praying without ceasing".
As we have these conversations with ourselves throughout the day, why not invite the Holy Spirit to be a part of it as well? When we begin to build this habit, we are reminding ourselves of two things:
Scripture tells us that we must take every thought captive. Prayer is one of the most effective and efficient ways of taking our thoughts captive.
Prayer (i.e. a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God) has a way of reminding us of these truths: 1) we need help, 2) we have a helper, 3) we have so much to be thankful for.
When we remember these truths, God's grace fills our hearts and elevates our thoughts above ourselves and our circumstances. We're reminded that even though we are where we are...God promises to use all things for our good and his glory. And he also promises us that HE IS WITH US and HE WILL HELP US!
What sweet and motivating truths these are.
So the next time you find yourself in the midst of a trying set of circumstances, remember that as you strive to walk in obedience by "giving thanks in all circumstances", God's Word gives you the keys to how you can accomplish this.
Worship and Prayer!
// dustin kensrue - rejoice //
All our sickness, all our sorrows
Jesus carried up the hill
He has walked this path before us
He is walking with us still
Turning tragedy to triumph
Turning agony to praise
There is blessing in the battle
So take heart and stand amazed