Good morning! This is our 5th year in Summer Buddies and it has been fun. Each year we have a different Christian focus where we teach kids to read, write, and to fall in love with our God. This year we have been focusing on prayer. Each week has a different memory verse which reminds our kids about the importance of prayer. During our first week we learned Phil. 4:6-7. The week after that was 1 Thess. 5:16-18. Last week was Jeremiah 33:3 and next week we will be learning Luke 18:1. For today though, I want to focus our attention on 1 Thess. 5:16-18.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
~~~~~~~~~Take a moment to PRAY~~~~~~~~~
In these verses, Paul gives 3 directives. What are they? Repeat after me: Rejoice always! Pray always! Give thanks always! The reason for these commands is because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. For any of you who have struggled with finding your purpose in this life – ”Here’s your sign” (1 Thess. 5:16-18)!
Now let’s get deeper into the text and see what we can come up with.
The first directive from Paul commands us to rejoice always. Now you might ask yourself, how is that even possible? How can I rejoice or be joyful all of the time? Am I supposed to rejoice when the doctor tells me that I have cancer or some irreversible disease? Am I supposed to rejoice when our family has a miscarriage? I just lost my job and can’t pay my bills and you’re telling me to rejoice? Many friendships have ended over this kind of advice. Many people have turned away from trusting the Lord because of situations like what I’ve mentioned where, in the midst of difficulty, they didn’t rejoice. Notice that I said they didn’t and not that they couldn’t. There is a difference.
Let me just pause right here and say that I am in no way trying to be insensitive. This is not a get-over-it type of message. I am well aware that in life there are some extremely difficult things that we deal with and those things make it hard to have joy, but it’s possible and I’ll explain how in a minute. Turn to James 1.
The apostle James tells us that we are to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2). One interesting thing about this verse is that the word translated “count” or “consider” means to govern or rule over. It also means to lead. It is the same word used to refer to Jesus by Micah and Matthew. “For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel” (Micah 5:2; Matt. 2:6). It is also the word that Luke uses in his recounting of Joseph in Egypt, “…and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house” (Acts 7:10). Here is a picture of Someone leading the flock of sheep, governing, ruling over a nation of people in order to bring them into a more beneficial, a more prosperous situation.
If I am to rejoice at all times and count it all joy when I go through various trials it means that I have to take charge of the situation. I have to choose, I have to make up my mind, that I will be joyful in the midst of my trials. I can’t let my circumstances determine whether I will have joy or not. I can’t allow a bad breakup to cause me to not have joy! Because joy/rejoicing is a by-product of grace! and when you have experienced the grace of God rejoicing flows a little more freely. As a matter-of-fact, the word rejoice is closely related to the word we get for grace. These words together mean to “be glad about or in response to the undeserved and unearned favor of God.” It means to have “absolute freeness of the loving-kindness of God to men, finding its only motive in the bounty and freeheartedness of the Giver”. That’s why Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4 that we are to “rejoice in the Lord always.” And just in case you have short term memory loss, he says, “And again, I say rejoice.” We commanded to rejoice in every situation because God has determined this for our lives, but you can only be joyful in every situation on one condition…you have to be “in Christ” (1 Thess. 5:18). Again, joy is a by-product of grace. It’s not something that we can manufacture. It’s given to us when we surrender all of ourselves to Christ. When we exchange our sinfulness for His righteousness. When we say have your way O’Lord.
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11).
Your anger is momentary, but Your grace is for a lifetime! Weeping may endure for a night, but joy, unspeakable joy, shall greet me in the morning!(Ps. 30:4-5)
And again, I say Rejoice!
Not only are we told to rejoice always, but the second directive from Paul commands us to pray always.
First, one of the main reasons why we pray is because we need the help. We pray simply because there are somethings in this life that are just beyond our ability to change. We pray because that’s the only way the spiritual darkness that is engulfing our world gets dealt with. Look at Luke 18:1-3.
Then [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’
In these verses we find a widow woman who is being treated unfairly. We aren’t told what her situation is, but regardless, it appears to be something that she feels is out of her hands. She can’t change it and she needs some help so she goes to the one person who had the power and authority to help her. She went to the judge. “Avenge me!” she says. “Do something about my situation!” Luke goes on to say, “Shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night (who always pray) to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily” (Luke 18:7-8).
Leonard Ravenhill, one of the 20th century’s greatest revivalist and evangelist, says that “The Cinderella of the church is the prayer meeting” (Why Revival Tarries, p19). In his comparison of preaching and praying he says that “preaching…affects men; prayer affects God. Preaching affects time; prayer affects entirety” (Why Revival Tarries, p19). He goes on to say that our attitude to prayer tells whether we are trusting in God or trusting in ourselves, “that what was begun in the Spirit we can finish in the flesh” (Why Revival Tarries, p21). We can see this playing out in the lives of the disciples. A man brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus for Him to cast out the deaf and dumb spirit. Jesus does. The disciples had tried before, but they couldn’t. When they asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast out the spirit, Jesus says, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). The implication here, is that they had done neither. What about you? Are you trying to face the the things in your life without God’s help? Look, we cannot face spiritual issues in human strength. The disciples finally realized that after the resurrection of Jesus.
If you look in the 4 Gospels you would be hardpressed to find a single place where the disciples themselves actually pray. They had plenty of opportunity. They asked to be taught and Jesus did teach them on several occasions, but I have yet to find a single verse where they are praying. Then, we come over to the book of Acts and everything that the disciples do is after prayer! Jesus was gone, they needed God’s help to do God’s work so “they devoted themselves to…prayer” (Acts 2:42).
Why do we call on Jesus when things don’t go our way? Why do we praise Him in the midst of a storm? Why do we seek His face when life is hard?
- Because He is the God who hung the stars in the sky (Job 9:7-9).
- Because He “reign[s] over all the Earth” (Psalm 47:8).
- Because all power and might are in the palms of His hands. And He uses it to make great and to give strength (1 Chronicles 29:12).
- Because just touching the hem of his garment can make us whole (Matthew 9:20).
- We call on Jesus because when they crucified Him on Friday, He got up early on Sunday morning by His own power and might, overcoming hell, death, and the grave.
- Whenever you need a helping hand, call on the Lord Because He’s ABLE to do more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21).
The Word of God tells us that we are to pray in faith (Mark 11:24) Hebrews 11:6 tells us that when we come to God we have to believe in Him and when we are convinced of that then we have to believe that He will reward the diligent seeker. We have to pray in the Name of Jesus (John 16:23)! It’s the only Name given under heaven whereby men must be saved. It is the Name at which every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. We are to pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18)! The Spirit of God speaks Truth. The Spirit of God gives life and He gives power. We are to pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2)! Pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:44)! Pray for the lost (Matt. 9:38; 17:20)! We are to pray about everything and worry about nothing!
We are to ALWAYS pray and not lose heart!!
Paul tells us that, while we are rejoicing, while we are leading our situations into the throneroom of the Lord, and while we are praying, that we are also to give thanks always. That is his final directive in these verses. I can remember growing up in mother’s home with all of her rules and regulations. The curfews, teaching me to show respect to elders. Making me memorize scripture. Making me go to school and church when I didn’t want to. As an immature kid who had the world figured out, I thought that my mother was just trying to ruin my life. She didn’t want me to have any fun. I had no idea that her rules and demands was protecting me from danger. As a man though, I have called her many times to say thank you! And if I only knew then, what I know now.
The same is true in my walk with God. When I look back over the course of my life I have so much to thank God for. I’ve had to thank the Lord in prison and in freedom. I’ve had to thank him in miscarriages and in the birth of my children. I’ve had to thank him when employers refused to hire me and I thank him for bringing me to this place. I’ve thanked him when my money was low and when I thought that it would never run out.
Look, I just want to encourage somebody this morning!
You might be at the end of your rope; you might be wondering where is God in the midst of your situation, but I want you to know that even if the vision takes a little while to get to you, even it seems delayed, it’s for an appointed time and it’ll get there just when you need it (Hab. 2:3)! Jesus is not Amazon Prime. Sometimes you gotta wait on Him. However, while you’re in the “waiting room” you need to praise Him! You need to thank Him for what He’s already done in your life. The thanksgiving of our lips is called a sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13:15), that’s because after we’ve led our situation into the presence of the Lord and after we’ve prayed about everything, it might still be hard to see that the blessing is on the way, so when you got nothing left to give, you give Him a praise (Psalm 116:!7)! You say, Lord, I thank you for letting me cast all of my cares upon you because you care for me (1 Peter 5:7)! You gotta say, thank you Lord, that your grace is sufficient for me (2 Cor. 12:9)! Thank you for supplying all of my needs according to your riches in glory (Phil. 4:19). Thank you for my daily bread (Matt. 6:11)! Thank you that according to your grace, you have already provided everything that pertains to life and godliness in Christ Jesus (2 Peter 1:3)! Your praise shall continually be in my mouth (Psalm 34:1).
Give thanks always!
Call to Respond
Let me say this; rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks always is a spiritual gift. It’s God’s desire for us, but it is conditional. The carnal mind does not understand the things of God because they are spiritually discerned. This is not something that you can get scrolling through social media. You can’t get it through positive self-talk. You can’t get it from a good book. The only place that we can get the gift of rejoicing, praying, and being thankful always is in Christ Jesus.
I’m talking about the Jesus who went to the cross in your place. The Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. The One who invites us to come to Him with our burdens so that He can give us rest. I’m talking about Jesus, the Creator and Sustainer of all things. If you don’t know Him, if you have not surrendered the control of your life into His hands I want to invite you into His presence where there is fullness of joy! All you have to do today is say “Lord, forgive me. I believe that You died to bring me life and I want the life You give.”