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 (NIV).
I’m always amazed at how much power God packs into short verses. Good writers will tell you to not waste words. Go easy on the adjectives, use adverbs sparsely, watch the prepositional phrases. Above all: brevity (which, said William Shakespeare, is the soul of wit). God is the wittiest writer of all.
Rejoice always; noodle those two words for their power. Not “don’t worry be happy” but “rejoice.” Not “when you feel happy” but “always.” Freaking always; as in “all the time” or “every minute of our lives” or “without ceasing” or even “wholeheartedly.” That’s not wimpy.
Pray continually. Be in 100% communion – in spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual union – with God at all times and in all ways. Prayer is an active conduit; a transmission line of the most real, visceral matters of the heart. Paul isn’t lobbing more human weight on us. He’s imploring us to hook our lives up to God’s lifeline and channel Him into every second of our lives. The way to do that is prayer, praying in all that we do. Make it second nature.
Give Thanks. Give thanks when we awaken. Give thanks when we fall asleep. Give thanks for victories and defeats and challenges and setbacks and love and hurt and family and even enemies. Give thanks in all circumstance for all circumstances serve God’s better purposes.
For this is: for this is God’s will. “This is.” Think of those as a way of saying the I AM, the ultimate etre, to be, is being in your life. What is is because He wills it to be so. If something is, it is because of God, not because of any other reason for God is the only reason, God is the only being and ultimate truth. We get to rejoice, pray with Him, and be thankful for Him. Because of that, life has meaning and purpose.
Paul uses this benediction to remind his friends of the actions a follower of Jesus would want to take. It isn’t easy: doing these things – rejoicing, praying, giving thanks, accepting the fact of God – requires deep personal commitment. Faith in Jesus isn’t for the faint of heart. Indeed, not believing is the coward’s track in life. Atheism and agnosticism are the easy paths even as they result in dead ends. Yet Paul’s friends – and us – got to take these simple steps in a faith walk that continues to this day.
And God says it all in just a few simple words.
For further reading: Philippians 4:7, Luke 18:1, Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:19
Lord, thank You for the power you pack into your words. Make them the constitution of my life.