Always, Without Ceasing, In Everything
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
THESE things may sound impossible, but they are the will of God, so they must be doable. And notice the preposition “in Christ Jesus.” That means it is about Jesus Christ. On our own, we could never measure up, but when yield to Him, He will bring it about in His strength. Paul put it this way in his letter to the Galatians:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
As we allow the life of Christ to operate in us, we will discover that the will of God for us is not impossible, or even difficult, for Jesus’ burden is easy and His yoke is light (Matthew 11:30).
How to Rejoice Always
Rejoice always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
The Greek word used here for “rejoice” means to be glad, full of cheer, joyful. Paul tells us not only to rejoice, but to rejoice always—to be full of cheer and gladness at all times.
How is that possible? We find Paul saying the same thing in his letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:6). Notice the prepositional phrase “in the Lord.” The kind of joy Paul is talking about is supernatural—the joy of the Lord. Nehemiah said, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
This joy is an inside job; it does not come from outward circumstances. Real joy is not based on what is happening around you, but on what is happening in you. You can have the greatest joy in the worst of situations, and that joy will be the strength you need to prevail in the hardest of adversities.
We receive this joy, first of all, through faith in Jesus Christ, who came that we might be reconciled to God. Through faith in Him we receive the new birth, born of heaven by the Holy Spirit. By that birth, we are born into the kingdom of God, and that has everything to do with joy. For one thing, Jesus said that when we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, everything else will be taken care of (Matthew 6:33), and that is a reason for joy. For another, the Bible tells us that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
The kingdom of God is full of joy because the Spirit of God is the source of joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). When you know Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you; if you have the Holy Spirit, then you already have the fruit of the Spirit at work in you. It may not yet be apparent in your life, but it is at work in you, ready to be released.
How do you release the joy of the Lord in your life? You release it by yielding to it, and since it is a fruit of the Spirit, you yield to it by yielding to the Spirit. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul put it this way:
Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:18-21)
Let the Holy Spirit fill you, control you, lead you. Then you will be filled with so much joy, you will not be able to contain it all, but it will overflow to others. Your heart will be filled with gratitude and your mouth with praise, regardless of whatever difficulties you may be facing.
True and lasting joy is all about God. David said, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11). In Jesus Christ, God is present in us by His Spirit, and when we yield to the Spirit, that presence begins to manifest in our lives. Not only that, but Paul tells us that we are seated in the heavenlies in Jesus Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 2:6). When we become aware of who we are in Jesus Christ, and where we are seated in Him, it is hard not to rejoice.
How to Pray Without Ceasing
Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Many Christians wonder how one can pray without ceasing, without interruption, without omission. It sounds daunting, but that is probably because we often think of prayer as that thing we do in a religious meeting, or when we pull ourselves away from all other activity, assume a certain position, or time, or place and speak religiously appropriate words to God. Who can do that all the time? Most people, including me, find it mind-numbingly hard to keep it up for fifteen minutes. Even after only five minutes, eyeballs start to glaze over.
Fortunately, that is not what Paul had in mind. He was not speaking of duty, but of relationship—and that changes everything. Prayer as a duty is something you perform, and when you’re done, you’re done, until it is time to do it again. Prayer as a relationship, however, is continuous. It is being constantly aware of and enjoying the presence of God.
It is like my relationship with my wife. There are plenty of times when we sit and discuss things, verbally relating to one another. But there are also many other times when we are simply together, knowing each other is near, even though no words may pass between us. We may each be doing different things, but we enjoy being together.
In the same way, praying without ceasing is being together with God. This will come as a shock to some people, but not only does God love us, He actually likes being with us. He has many things He wants to say to us, and if we will listen, He will tell them to us. He is also ready to listen to us when we speak to Him. We can have constant fellowship with Him, even in the middle of whatever else our responsibilities may require of us.
David understood what the constancy of this relationship means. The Book of Psalms is largely a collection of his prayers and praises to the Lord. In them, we see the many seasons of his heart in his relationship with God. He said, “My eyes are ever toward the Lord” (Psalm 25:15).
Another psalm (author unknown) makes this promise: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1). Dwelling and abiding speak of the continual awareness of the presence of the Lord.
Clement of Alexandria, who was a teacher of the late second and early third centuries, understood that the life of prayer is 24/7. He said, “For the saints, even their slumber is prayer.” Psalm 127:2 says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows, for so He gives His beloved sleep.” When we spend our days in the secret place with the Most High—whatever else we may have to do—we will find our rest under the shadow of His wings. It is all prayer, all part of the fellowship.
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection stumbled upon this truth. He was a 17th century Carmelite monk who wanted to know God more, but none of the spiritual guidance he received seemed to be of any help. Finally, he decided that he would not do anything at all except out of love for God. In this way, he developed such a continual awareness of God and His love that he found himself just as much at home with the presence of God in the kitchen as he was in the chapel. It was all the same to him, all part of a constant fellowship with God. He discovered the secret to praying without ceasing, and recorded it in his famous little book, The Practice of the Presence of God.
The Lord Jesus was in constant fellowship with the Father in everything He said and did. He said nothing He did not hear His Father saying and did nothing He did not see His Father doing. Everything He did was out of the desire to please God. He did have many times of special communion with the Lord, as we all can and should, but even in the heat of ministry, He was continually aware of the Father’s presence and purpose. In this way, He was able to pray without ceasing.
How to Give Thanks in Everything
In everything give thanks. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
The Bible tells us to give thanks in everything. It is easy enough to give thanks when times are good and things are going well, although we often neglect to do so. But how are we supposed to give thanks when times are hard and nothing seems to be going right?
First, notice that we are to give thanks in everything, not necessarily for everything. When bad things happen, we do not have to give thanks for them, but we can give thanks in the midst of them, knowing that God is in still on His throne, and that He is much greater than any problem that could ever come our way. Giving thanks to God is a very effective way to begin relating to His solution instead of focusing on the problem. Paul expands on this in his letter to the Philippians:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
Bad things happen, but we do not have to be full of worry and anxiety about them. We can go to God in prayer. To some, that may seem to be nothing more than acquiescing to or retreating from the problem. But it is actually addressing the problem head on by taking it to God, the One who can do something about it.
Supplication is prayer that presents a definite need to be met by a definite provision. Problems require solutions; supplication goes after the solution. Make your requests known to God. Don’t be vague; ask with specificity for whatever is needed. Wrap it all up in thanksgiving, knowing that God hears, that He cares and that He will answer you and take care of the situation.
Paul adds, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). When you give thanks in everything, you will not be anxious, but filled with the peace of God.
The Life of Christ in You
Rejoice always. Remember that you are part of God’s kingdom of joy, that you have the Spirit of joy dwelling inside you, and that you are already seated at the right hand of God in Christ Jesus, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
Pray without ceasing. Learn to “practice the presence” of God in everything you do. Talk to Him and tell Him your heart, and let Him tell you His. Prayer is, first of all, a relationship, a fellowship with God.
Give thanks to God in everything, even the bad things, for your prayers and thanksgiving will bring the power, provision and peace of God to bear in your life. When the solution appears, you will be thanking Him for the opportunity of seeing His glory displayed on your behalf.
All of these are the will of God for you, and He is more than able to accomplish them in you as you allow the life of the Lord Jesus Christ to flow in and through you.
© 2007 by Jeff Doles.
All Rights Reserved.
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“JEFF DOLES is a Christian author, blogger and Bible teacher. His books include The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth: Keys to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew and Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles. He and his wife, Suzanne, are the founders of Walking Barefoot Ministries. Visit their website at www.walkingbarefoot.com.”