Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This Thanksgiving is so very much different than any we have probably ever witnessed in our lifetime. If you stop to consider the meaning of Thanksgiving Day, giving thanks for our blessings over the year, it might even leave you feeling a little unsettled. Normally at this time of year, we are all running around planning huge get-togethers with family and/or friends, huge meals, and probably throwing in a shopping trip or two for the weekend. We often don’t even slow down long enough to be truly thankful.
We usually spend our Thanksgiving traveling 3 hours north to be with my husband’s whole family. It’s been a tradition for pretty much my entire 34 years of marriage and one I look forward to every single year. But not this year. This year, like many, we are having a much smaller gathering, just our immediate family. My Black Friday and small business Saturday shopping will be from my computer screen!
So what do we have to rejoice about, pray about or give thanks about anyway? Paul reminds us, in his closing remarks of his New Testament letter to the Thessalonians to “Rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances”. So let’s briefly go over each one.
Rejoice always. Paul is most definitely to the point. The key here is always. For a Christian, experiencing joy should not be determined by what is happening through the up and down periods in our life. Joy should be what shapes the experience of what his happening during those periods. What I’m trying to say is that when we are faced with difficulties, our joy should not be reduced, but instead, endured with joy. It is a choice that we make to focus our hearts and our minds on the grace and goodness of God instead of the hardships we are going through during our struggles.
Pray without ceasing. This one always sounds awfully difficult. You’re probably thinking, I’m too busy to pray without ceasing! Paul isn’t saying that we walk around, or even worse, drive, with our eyes closed and our heads bowed. What he is saying is that we are to live every moment of the day fully aware that we are in the awesome presence of God. If we do that, and are being led by the Holy Spirit, we will automatically be more prayerful, not only for ourselves, but for our neighbor as well. It’s a little hard to be angry or upset with someone when you are praying for them on a consistent basis. I like to think of prayer as communicating with God as He molds our hearts and minds to match His.
Give thanks in all circumstances. The only way this command is possible is when we trust our Savior by recognizing God’s wisdom in every single circumstance of our lives. Unfortunately, having a thankful spirit is not human nature. Because of sin, we are naturally unthankful and untrusting. But God gives us a command like this so that we are pushed beyond our human capabilities into God’s grace that empowers the faith for us to believe that He does work all things together for good to those that love him and are committed to obedience (Roman 8:28). Our thankfulness comes from trusting Him.
This scripture ends with Paul saying, this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Since we don’t have the ability on our own to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances, we must rely on God and His beautiful gospel of hope. We know that our God is good, and He will do what is right, even if we do not see any good in it.
Our thanks must not be based on our limited understanding of the circumstances. It must be based on the nature of our good and kind God. Thankfulness is what God wants from us. The will of God for us as followers of Jesus Christ is to be thankful.
May God help us live a life of thanksgiving as we learn to stop frequently and rejoice, pray, and give thanks for what He has done and is doing in our lives.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday.