“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
I’m sure that most of us have seen this verse plastered on wall-hangings, pillows, pictures, stickers, and so much more. In the western world, it is as normal to a Christian as a Christian football player quoting Philippians 4:13 after they score a touchdown. But do we know what these verses mean?
Over the next month I want to explore what these verses actually mean, show how the church in India is actively living these verses out, and how we can too. Please join me this month in meditating on these verses. Let us pray that the Lord can change our hearts and that we can fully live these verses out for the rest of our lives.
“Rejoice always.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16
To give some background, the church in Thessalonica was undergoing severe persecution. Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians for many reasons, one being an encouragement to all the believers in the Thessalonian church. He wanted to ground the new believers in God’s truth that Christ died and rose again for their sins so they could come into a relationship with God and be forgiven. Paul wanted the new believers to stand firm in their faith, in God’s truth. Paul also wrote to ground the new believers in God’s truth about the day of the Lord, which is the day that Jesus will come back and completely destroy the evil in this world. At the end of all of this, Paul concludes by listing the practical ways to follow Christ’s example set for those in the Thessalonian church and for us today.
The first practical way to follow Christ’s example for us is to “rejoice always.” Since this was written at a time of persecution in the Thessalonian church, it must have been hard to hear this command with so many things going on. How many times have people told you to just be happy, or look on the bright side, but you feel as though it were impossible?
Everyone has experienced tough times, rough patches, heartbreaking moments. We are not alone though! As told through the Gospels, Jesus also experienced immense pain and suffering. John 11 talks about Jesus weeping for His friend’s death and his family’s pain and sadness. Jesus did not cover the pain up, He did not ignore it. He embraced it, felt it, and turned His head towards the Father to rejoice. Just like Jesus, we will experience pain and suffering. Yet we are still called to “rejoice always.”
What does this command mean, if not to remain happy all the time?
Let’s look at the meaning of the Greek words used:
- Rejoice comes from the Greek word “xaírō” meaning to delight in God’s grace, to literally experience God’s grace
- Always means at all times
So when Paul says “rejoice always,” he means to delight in God’s grace, to experience it at all times.
Even though the church in Thessalonica was undergoing persecution, even though everything seemed to be crumbling around them, they still had God’s grace. No matter what happened, at the end of the day, God’s grace covered them fully. And that is enough to rejoice in. We will experience hard times in our lives… But with the grace of God, we can recognize that our suffering will not last forever and that we have an everlasting hope in God. He has forgiven and saved us! Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Our brothers and sisters in India have had a beautiful opportunity to rejoice despite their circumstances. The political climate in India is arguably the worst it has been in recent years, if not ever. In early October, an opinion piece was written on the new state of India:
“If asked what this government’s one great recent achievement is, some people might draw attention to the number of toilets built in a country with poor sanitation. Others, whose experience of the new India is different, would say that its greatest success has been in creating a climate of fear. As a consequence, dissent has a purer form now. It’s not longer, as it was once, preaching to the converted. It’s not even the pointing out of unpleasant facts. It’s simply a demonstration that dissent continues to be possible.”
However, this does not stop our brothers and sisters from walking with the Lord and preaching the good news of God- that the God of the Bible is the one true God, and Jesus is the only way to come into a relationship with Him. And how fruitful it has been! In Love One More alone, a total of 4,010 children have received loving care and have heard the good news of Jesus Christ. There are many stories of children experiencing suffering but continuing to praise the Lord. There is no climate of fear with the Lord, rather a climate of joy, prayer, and gratitude.
Our Indian brothers and sisters are moving forward, joyfully. They continue to rejoice in every circumstance and continue to press on despite the persecution that is inevitably ahead.
We can live this joyful life as well. The key is fixating your eyes on the Lord, and communicating to Him in prayer! Please pray for the people in India, that God can open their hearts to the message of His gospel. Pray for protection against persecution and that God will allow Love One More and India Gospel League to continue working in India. Pray for our offices, that we can be good stewards of what God and our sponsors have given. Please continue to pray for your sponsored child and other Christians in India, that God will have His hands over them. Also, praise God for what He has done in your life, and how He has used your contributions!
Along with prayer, please consider giving your financial support to come alongside our brothers and sisters in India. This can be done in many ways:
- Sponsor a child in need! For only $35 a month, you can give a child basic necessities and the love of Christ.
- Give towards our unsponsored children’s fund. Many of the children in our care are not sponsored. These funds are used to help and love those who do not have a sponsor.
- Give towards our Children’s Wellness Center. Your gift will help children with disabilities.
- Give towards our Safe Spaces for Children and help spread awareness. India is home to the largest number of sexually abused children in the world. This campaign calls to seek justice for the poor, afflicted, and vulnerable children in India.