Rejoice Always, Pray Continually, and Give Thanks

Lessons From 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

Rejoice Always, Pray Continually, and Give Thanks
Photo Source: Rgbstock / Composition: Sue Chastain

First Thessalonians 5:16–18 contains three quick and to-the-point orders: rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in everything. These are short, simple, and straightforward commands, but they tell us a great deal about the will of God in three important areas of everyday life.

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

The Bible verses tell us to do three things at all times. Now, some of us have trouble doing two things at once, let alone three things simultaneously and continually to boot. Don't worry. You won't need physical dexterity or coordination to follow these commands.

Rejoice Always

The passage begins with this command: rejoice always. A perpetual state of rejoicing is only possible if we have the supernatural joy of the Holy Spirit bubbling up from the inside. We know that our hearts are clean and our salvation is secure because of Jesus Christ's redeeming sacrifice.

Christian joy is not determined by our circumstances or dampened by difficulties. Our ability to rejoice always is not dependent upon happy experiences. Even in sorrow and suffering, we have joy because all is well with our souls. We don't lose our joy in difficult circumstances because we have the hope of eternity:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  (2 Corinthians 4:16–18, ESV)

Even when we don't feel like rejoicing, we can choose to focus our eyes on the Lord's goodness and grace:

... fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  (Hebrews 12:2–3, NIV)

Pray Continually

The next order is to pray continually. Wait. What? Never stop praying? Paul must not have known how busy life can be.

Non-stop praying doesn't mean you will have to close your eyes, bow your head, and recite prayers aloud 24 hours a day. Praying without ceasing means maintaining an attitude of prayer at all times—an awareness of God's presence—and staying in constant communion and close relationship with the divine giver of joy.

This is the Christian life. It's a humble, devoted, day by day trust in God's provision and care:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7,NIV)

The only way to rejoice always is to pray continually through close, daily fellowship with the God who supplies us with supernatural, soul-satisfying joy.

Continual prayer is a posture of unceasing dependence on God. We may not be kneeling or praying out loud, but we are abiding in, delighting in, trusting in, depending on, and acknowledging the Lord's presence in our lives at all times. As we cultivate a spirit of constant devotion, our lives become filled with the presence of God at all times. And he satisfies our every desire:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4, ESV)

Give Thanks in Everything

And thirdly, we are to give thanks in all circumstances.

Only if we believe God is sovereign in all of our affairs, can we give thanks in each and every situation. This command requires complete surrender and peaceful abandon to worship the God who holds every moment of our lives securely in his grip.

Unfortunately, this kind of trust does not come instinctively to most of us. Only by God's grace can we fully trust that our heavenly Father is working all things out for our good:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)

God's Will for You

We often worry and wonder if we are following God's will. This passage plainly states: "This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." So, wonder no more. God’s will for you is to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks to him in every circumstance and at all times.