“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Is this a short list of three random things or a connected statement? If it was the former, it’d be a bit like a “To do” list. (Take out the trash, buy milk, walk the dog).
But it’s the last part of the passage that shows how connected the statements are. “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” This is what God wants for you. “I will that you live this way.”
It’s not a to-do list as if there is some dreary bit of personal effort involved. “Ho-hum, here we go: GodblessMummy,GodblessDaddy…” Not at all: It’s a bucket-list of the essential ingredients of what life itself is about, when it is lived before God. “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
You people who belong to Christ Jesus are characterised by three amazing attributes: joy, worship and gratitude.
Anne Lamott said “Joy is the best make-up”. Isn’t that lovely? Joy is so attractive, so nice to be near. It’s like sitting round a table in a restaurant, and that table over there explodes into chaotic, loving laughter. Don’t you want to just get up and go join in? That’s the attractiveness of joy. Joy bubbles though and puts everything in its right perspective again.
Take off the grouch, slip off the sulks. Be nice to be with. Lighten up.
Joy even filters through difficult circumstances and forces reappraisal. “Be thankful in all circumstances.” It’s a mistake to go thinking that Paul had it easy and wouldn’t understand all the stuff we have to go through. Many times he lets us in on the inside story of his own struggles. In 2 Corinthians 11, for example, Paul says, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. In my frequent journeys, I have been in danger from rivers and from bandits, in danger from my countrymen and from the Gentiles, in danger in the city and the country, in danger on the sea and among false brothers,…
Yet I have learned to be content.
So how did he manage it? He found a way of looking past the circumstances to the God of the circumstances…. To a God who was using the circumstances towards certain ends in his life. And he learnt to trust that God knew best. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)
But how? How do I arrive at joy and trust? How do I learn to be content? The secret is at the centre.
When Paul encouraged the new believers to “pray without ceasing” he obviously wasn’t speaking quantitatively but qualitatively. Your joy and trust are expressions of your worship life. You never rise higher than your own prayers. Your times of intimacy with God create the energy for your pilgrimage walk.
Smile more. Dare to ease up on yourself (and definitely on everyone else!).
Stay close. Keep your God-conversation open 24-7.
Notice more. Keep your eyes open to what God is doing for you all the time.
And have a nice day J