“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Over the month of November, we have posted a few blogs about this verse. If you haven’t, please read our first post, Rejoice Always: India’s Joyful Perspective, and our second post, Pray Without Ceasing: Mythily’s Story.
Please join me for the rest of this month on meditating on these verses – praying that the Lord will change our minds and we can live this out the rest of our lives.
The first post in this series, Rejoice Always: India’s Joyful Perspective, takes a look at the context of this passage and what is going on in the Thessalonian church while Paul is writing this. To read more about the context, click here. To summarize, Paul wrote this first letter to the Thessalonians in order to encourage new believers to stand firm in their faith. Chapter 5 ends on Paul giving ways to follow Christ’s example.
“… in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Have you ever tried to give thanks in every situation, including that bad things that happen in life? It might be safe to say that we have all tried to give thanks in all situations, but we have done so unsuccessfully. Giving thanks in every situation is hard. For example, if a family member were to tragically pass away, are you supposed to give thanks for their death?
There are seasons of suffering, sickness, loss, and more. God understands what we are going through, and He empathizes with us. But He also calls us to gratitude.
Jesus himself had to go through suffering and difficult times throughout His life here on earth. In fact Hebrews 4:15 says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin.”
But throughout Jesus’ life, He was constantly giving thanks even though He was suffering. An example is in John 11, the chapter of John that tells about Lazarus’ death. In this recounting of the death and resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus weeps. He is heartbroken by the death of His friend, and the sadness of His other friends, Lazarus’ sisters. But before He calls out to Lazarus to come out, He says “‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me.’” Jesus is not thankful for Lazarus’ death, but rather He gives thanks to the Father. He is choosing to trust in the Lord, look towards Him, and give thanks in everything.
One author writes:
“Also, we don’t need to feel thankful before we give thanks. When God takes us through hard trials, we don’t feel thankful. But by faith we can say, ‘Lord, I trust that You are good and that You know what You’re doing in this difficult situation. I submit to Your sovereign hand and purpose, knowing that You will work it together for my good.’ So, like rejoicing always, giving thanks in everything is often a choice to believe God in difficult circumstances.”
While looking at these few verses, it can seem impossible to do these things: rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks. As we see with the last half of verse 18: “…for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When we have a relationship with Christ, God will complete this work in us. It’s His will! He wants us to be joyful and grateful for what He has done, and He wants us to have a real, meaningful relationship with Him. He will come alongside and change us, and help us turn to Him.
We have seen how our Indian brothers and sisters have been through persecution but how they have continually turn towards God and rejoiced, prayed, and given thanks in everything. One child in our care, Hariharan, shared his testimony and how grateful he is to the Lord!
“My name is Hariharan. I was born and brought up in a Hindu family. Now I am in 4th grade. I have 6 siblings. My father works in a dyeing workshop for daily wages and my mother stays at home. Since my father has low earnings, my parents were not able to care for all of us. It created an unpleasant environment in our family because my parents often argued due to lack of money. All of us were sent to work to make an income. So I discontinued my studies and worked for mere wages. However, I was a minor, and our country doesn’t allow child labor. A Child Welfare officer in my region caught me working, and for my benefit they admitted me to one of Love One More’s homes. When I came to the home, I was very home sick and always crying. Even though the home had better food, education, and facilities, I still wanted to go back to my parents. But my House Parents and Superintendent comforted me and took care of me like their own child. Slowly, I started to adapt to the situation here and started having fun and playing with my new friends. Now I have many friends and I love being here!
I was from a Hindu background and I had no knowledge of Jesus Christ, but after coming here I began to learn about Jesus through our morning devotion and evening prayer. I came to know Jesus and His love through Love One More’s Sunday Classes, Children’s Gospel Club activities, scripture’s stories, reading the Bible, and praying. I know I am here because Jesus Christ is always good. Now I am regularly reading the Bible and praying every day. I am now well disciplined. I am so happy, because it is by the grace of God I am provided with these facilities. I am studying well and my aim is to become a scientist. I love to play guitar and I want to learn how to play it better. I thank God for providing me this good opportunity through Love One More. Please pray for me and my education. Praise God!”
Please pray for the little children in our care, and that many more children will become sponsored. But thank the Lord for all the good He is doing! Many children are sponsored and taken care of through the blessings from the Lord!
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever.” Psalm 118:1