Our devotionals for the next three days are written by Sam Oldridge, Associate Pastor of Borras Park Church in Wrexham. They were first published on the EMW Daily Devotional earlier this month.
1 Thessalonians 5.16
There are some activities that should characterise the spiritual life of every Christian. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 18 Paul gives us three of them:
‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’
Rejoicing, praying, and being thankful. These activities are not the will of God for all people. Nor can they be put into practise by all people. They are the peculiar privilege of God’s people – those who are in Christ Jesus. That is what the second part of verse 18 tells us, ‘for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’
What a wonderfully freeing verse this is. By it we are in no doubt as to what God would have us to do, as his blood bought children.
Over the next couple of days, we are going to consider each command so that we would be helped to know what God is calling us to do.
The command to rejoice is something that we find in the Scriptures again and again.
– Deuteronomy 12:12, ‘And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God’.
– 1 Chronicles 16:10, ‘Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!’
– Psalm 37:4, ‘Delight yourself also in the Lord’
Paul even says in Philippians 4:4, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!’
Clearly this is something that we are prone to forget to put into practise and we need reminding to obey. And it is a case of obeying. We need to seek the Lord for grace to obey the command to rejoice. The fact that it is a command means that it comes with a moral obligation. What do I mean? I mean it is sin if we are not taking this command seriously and putting it into practise daily.
We need to repent and seek forgiveness if there is no rejoicing in our daily experience. This is what makes Christian joy so different from natural happiness. Because whilst we cannot command into being the ‘feeling’ of happiness, we can obey the command to rejoice whatever our circumstances and however we feel.
Let me give you some examples of people rejoicing despite their difficult circumstances.
Rejoicing is what Jeremiah was doing in the midst of his legitimate sorrows, (Lamentations 3:21), ‘This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”
Rejoicing is what Habakkuk did when faced with the coming judgment of God upon his people, (Habakkuk 3:17) ‘Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labour of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.’
And rejoicing is what Paul and Silas did when they were unjustly imprisoned for the gospel. Instead of bemoaning their desperate and unfair situation they were found ‘praying and singing hymns to God’ (Acts 16:25).
So, what does Paul mean when he commands us in verse 16 to ‘rejoice always’? He means rejoice as a Christian always. As one who is united to Christ by faith you have much to rejoice in.
– Rejoice in the Gospel.
That Jesus came. That Jesus died. That Jesus rose again. And that he did it for you!
– Rejoice in the benefits of the gospel.
Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Peace with God. A clear conscience. Solid hope. Real love. Freedom. Eternal Life.
– Rejoice in the word of God.
His promises. His commands. His purposes made known. His character revealed.
– Rejoice in the love of God.
His acceptance. His protection. His providence. His chastening. His leading and guiding. His speaking voice.
Rejoice, believer, in the Lord,
who makes your cause his own;
the hope that’s built upon his word
shall ne’er be overthrown.
Tomorrow we will consider what it is to ‘pray without ceasing’ (v.17) but today let’s pray for grace to ‘rejoice always’.Th