Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.
Rejoicing, praying, giving thanks…
f we were to reassemble the New Testament in the order that the books were written, chapter one would be the first letter Paul penned to his friends at the church in Macedonia (1 Thessalonians).
The book is a wonderful piece of inspirational literature, and I’d recommend reading all five chapters in one sitting.
THE CHOICE TO BELIEVE: What strikes me today, reading over Thessalonians one more time, is how intentional Paul’s understanding of faith tends to be. I believe many Christians miss this principle, and misunderstand the basis for assurance, faith, inspiration and certainty. Too many look for and then rely on an emotional “feeling” they believe is supposed to be a constant part of our experience once we accept Christ.
When we substitute emotion and “feeling” for the day-to-day work of an intentional walk with God, then we set ourselves up for disappointed when God doesn’t conform to our expectations.
I think we all know people (we might even be those people) who miss out on a rich life of faith because they refuse to follow Paul’s encouragement to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12).
That’s the foundational idea of the Thessalonians text: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.”
Rejoice always: That’s a decision as much as it is a response. Wake up in the morning, first thing, and make the decision to enter into a joy-referenced frame of mind.
Pray without ceasing: Communication with God; acknowledgement of God; listening to God; talking with God; celebrating God; thinking about God. Not confining God to convenient interludes, but consciously choosing God as the operating system that runs underneath everything else.
Give thanks in all circumstances: The “attitude of gratitude” needs to be intentional rather than reactive, otherwise thankfulness is stripped of its power to transform. Gratitude that stays ahead of circumstance tens to impact the circumstance rather than the other way around.
For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you: God not only intends for us to live, joyfully, in the context of gratitude, but God intends to transform the world via our transformed disposition.
Do not quench the Spirit: When we fail to act proactively in terms of our decision to rejoice, pray, and be thankful – then we have made the choice to quench the Spirit.
THE CHOICE TO BE CYNICAL: I listen to people who refuse to pray, and who allow doubt, cynicism, and unbelief to poison their minds, and they too are transformed. But their transformation is negative, as they fail to take responsibility for the intentionality that is necessary for “renewing our minds.”
God created us, and God knows how our minds work. Paul understood very clearly that we don’t just wait for some magical spiritual experience to bring us assurance and confidence and transformation. No, he recommended that we take the bull by the horns and get on with it:
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
(for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you).