1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT
Earlier in his letter, Paul had told the Thessalonian believers that it was God's will for them to be holy. then he gave them a practical example of what that kind of life looked like. They were to avoid sexual sin at all costs. They were to control their own lustful passions and live holy lives, not impure lives. They were to love and honor one another. They were to live their lives in such a way that they honored and pleased God. And now, at the close of his letter, Paul gives them another practical application of what a holy life looks like – a life that reflects God's will for all believers. It is a life marked by joy. Not a giddy, unstable happiness based on changing circumstances, but a deep joy that is founded on the knowledge that we have a right relationship with God, our sins forgiven, our eternity secure and a God who loves us so much that there is nothing we can do that would ever cause Him to fall out of love for us. He is constantly out for our best interests and our circumstances, whether good or bad, are not an indicator of God's love for us. His love is expressed in our spiritual transformation, that was made possible by His Son's death on the cross. And that transformation is ALWAYS taking place within us, because of the indwelling presence of His Spirit. Which should bring us joy.
We are to pray without ceasing. In other words, prayer should be a constant part of our lives because God is a constant part of our lives. Prayer is not just petition, or asking God for things. It is also expressions of thanksgiving and praise. Prayer is the intimate communication between the Father and His child. And He wants to hear from us as much as we want to hear from Him. Prayer includes spending time listening to God, which is difficult, because we can't hear His voice audibly or out loud. He speaks to us through His Word and His Spirit. God is always speaking to us, but the problem is that we seldom take time to listen. So we are to pray or communicate with Him constantly, unceasingly.
And we are to live lives that are marked by thankfulness – not just for the good things that happen in our lives – but even for the trials and difficulties. Why? Because as believers, we should know that God is at work in our lives at ALL times, using even the difficulties of life to transform us into the likeness of His Son. And we can live our lives with the assurance that He ALWAYS loves us – at all times – even when our circumstances seem to shout otherwise. And we can be thankful for that love and express our gratitude back to Him. None of this comes naturally. It isn't a normal reaction for most of us, because it runs contrary to our sinful nature. We are wired to complain, not express thanks. We are prone toward dissatisfaction and discontentment, not gratefulness. Prayer is the ultimate expression of dependence on God, and we tend to be far too independent to have to rely on God. And since joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and not a byproduct of our human nature, it must be produced by the Spirit in our life. We can't manufacture it or even fake it well. As we live in tune with and in obedience to the Spirit, He produces within us a joy that goes far beyond mere happiness. It is not based on circumstances, but on the certainty of God love for us.
God's will for us is that we live holy live. But holy lives are practical lives. And ultimately, Paul tells us, God must make us holy. That is his prayer for the Thessalonian believers and, by extension, his prayer for us. "Now may the God of peace make you holy in every Way and make your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ returns again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NLT). It is not only God's will that we be holy. It is His mission. And one day He will complete that mission. There is a day coming when our holiness will be complete. Sin will be eradicated. Our transformation into the likeness of Christ will be finalized. We will be holy and blameless, because God is faithful and true.
Father, our holiness is of great importance to You, so it should be of great importance to us. Not that we should try to make ourselves holy, but that we should see it as our highest priority. We should view the circumstances of life as Your laboratory in which You are refining and perfecting us. You are always at work within and around us. Your ultimate goal is not our temporary happiness, but our eternal holiness. Give us that divine perspective. Help us to see our lives from Your viewpoint and with Your ultimate goal for us in mind. Amen.