God has a specific plan for every Christian. Our family’s life verse is Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Other versions say that His plans are good and not of evil. Romans 12:2 echoes that His plans are good saying, “…that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” God’s will is good in that it will bless you. His will is acceptable in that we should accept and embrace it. His will is perfect because it comes from the hand of our loving Heavenly Father and He knows us best. Just like God has a specific plan for each believer, He also has a general will for all believers. We will look at three elements as we continue through 1 Thessalonians 5.
Verse 16 says, “Rejoice always.” A Christian cannot lose their salvation, but they can lose the joy of their salvation. David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Ps. 51:12), after he had sinned with Bathsheba. Joy is not always a feeling, but a way of living. “Always” is tough! It was Paul’s word to the church at Thessalonica, Philippi, and to us today. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). How can you always be joyful when everything is not joyful? It is a choice. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Joy is the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). He goes on to say, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn. 15:11). The key word is “abide.” Joy is found in Jesus. The joy of the Lord is our strength. David said the Lord’s salvation is what brought him joy. We can be joyful in Him, even when our circumstances are not good. We are not always going to feel it, but we have to choose to rejoice. Our feelings will follow.
“Pray without ceasing” (v. 17). We have to keep on praying, living in a constant attitude of prayer. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer….” Always pray and never give up. Pray for big things. Pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Pray for God’s agenda. Pray Scripture. Pray for revival and world missions. Pray for God to hold back His hand of judgment and pray for His hand of blessing. Prayer is not to get God to move toward you, but to get you to move toward God. If you only pray when you are in trouble, you are in trouble! The Psalmist said, “Early will I seek thee.” Start your day with prayer and devotional reading. You have heard it said, “All’s well that ends well.” No, “All’s well that begins well.” Continue praying throughout your day. Stay in constant communication with Him. Prayer is the difference between what we can do and what God can do. There is a connection between prayer and praise.
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (v. 18). There are so many verses that tell us to be thankful! The Psalmists were thankful in the Old Testament, and we are told again and again to be thankful in the New Testament (Eph. 5:4, Col. 2:6-7, Col. 3:15). It’s not always easy to be thankful but notice it does not say to thank God for all things but in all things.
God desires for us to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful at all times. To know the will of God and not do it is a sin. God never commands us to do something that He will not enable us to do. God does the impossible. He is the Way-maker! You may say, “But I feel like a hypocrite giving thanks when I don’t feel like it.” We do not live the Christian life on feelings but on faith. If we obey God, the sincerity and feelings will follow. We walk by faith and not by sight. In faith, hope, and love we can be joyful, prayerful, and thankful.