Dear Friends in Christ,
In his final comments to the Thessalonian church, the Apostle Paul exhorts them to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). Those are all such tall orders! While this might seem like hyperbole—Really, who can be joyful, prayerful, and thankful 24/7?—the essence of Paul’s appeal is that he wants our daily living to reflect the very nature of heaven where joy, prayer, and thanksgiving are ever-present. If we can bring more of heaven into our days, our lives become leaven for the world to see and experience the glory of God.
Remembering to rejoice, pray, and give thanks can be difficult. Life isn’t always joyful, there are times when our prayers seem to go unanswered, and it can be hard to be thankful when hardships come. Paul knew this, and he knows what he is saying is not easy. Paul experienced hardship, setbacks, and rejection, but he still found ways to give thanks to God despite the rough roads and seas he encountered time and again. So, how can we do the same?
I think the first step is to make a conscious effort to practice joy, prayer, and thanksgiving wherever we might find them. Sometimes the opportunities come in small packages, like the joy of seeing a brief patch of blue sky in an otherwise cloudy day. Prayers can be said on the go while we are driving from place to place or under our breaths as people and circumstances come to mind during the day. And we can express our gratitude to God or to others with simple thank-yous to people who serve us in stores, restaurants, and other places.
We can also take a cue from Paul’s teaching in Romans 12:15 where he encourages his readers to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. If we are not experiencing joy, chances are someone we know is—we can share in their joy! When we hear a siren in the distance, we can take this as a call to pray for circumstances that affect people we may not even know.
The fact is that God is present in this world and therefore joy, prayer, and thanksgiving are never far away. In this season of thanksgiving, may our eyes truly be open to the opportunities the Spirit presents us to express a bit of heaven in our world. For, as Paul writes, this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us. Rejoice, give thanks, and pray! Godspeed,.