Over the next 3 weeks I will be writing on 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
God revealed these verses to me at a time when I was paralyzed by my inability to see what God’s will was for my life. In reading this passage I realized the key to knowing and understanding God’s will for my life lay in understanding what it meant to be joyful always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances. As I have studied these verses over the years, I have come to realize that God’s will is not so much what we do as who we are in Christ.
Verse 16 says to BE JOYFUL ALWAYS. Let’s start by taking a look at the difference between happiness and joy. The Christian’s joy is not dependent on circumstances. It comes from what Christ has done and is constant. Happiness is dependent upon external forces. Joy goes deeper than happiness and is anchored in our personal relationship with Christ.
In Philippians 4:4 Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” We cannot always control our emotions but we can strive to control our focus. Our focus needs to be on the constant and stable character of Christ. Without that relationship and focus we will live a life of continual turmoil tossed about by the currents of external circumstances.
In John MacArthur’s commentary on 1 Thessalonians he made a list of the nature, character and promises of God that should be our constant. These include God’s righteous character and Christ’s redemptive work because in Luke 10:20 Jesus says “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” This list also highlights the Holy Spirit’s ministry on our behalf and the Spiritual blessings we possess. 2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” And in Philippians 4:19 it says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
We can rejoice in God’s providence as it orchestrates everything for our benefit. Romans 8:28, “And we know in all things God works for the good for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Joy comes in the promise of future glory - Jude 1:24 says, “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy” And in answered prayer- Jesus says in John 16:23, “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”
As Christians we rejoice in the gift of God’s Word. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 it says, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
And finally joy comes from deep & sincere relationships in the body of Christ (Proverbs 27:17) and the privilege of being able to share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8).
None of the things on this list of the nature, character and promises of God are about our talents, abilities, income, house, spouse or children giving us joy. Because let’s face it we can lose a job, or a house or a spouse – often in circumstances beyond our control. They are, however, about experiencing a joy that only comes from having a deep and abiding personal relationship with Jesus Christ.