In Sunday School today we talked about I Thessalonians 5:16-18, and the Pastor suggested that these three verses could be considered a “Prescription for Life”. I’m inclined to agree.
They are short verses, and seem to be literally impossible, so I think that we tend to pass over them rather quickly.
Be joyful always;
give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
As a programmer, I am uncomfortable with words like “always” and “continually” and “all”. Looking at the first verse, though, it doesn’t seem out of reach. What is joy, after all? We think of joy as being synonymous with happiness, but it isn’t, really. You can have a joyful expectation and anticipation of God’s power and triumph, even in the midst of unpleasant conditions, as witness Paul and Silas’ conduct in the jail in Phillipi. Hard to imagine being ‘happy’ while sitting in the stocks after a severe flogging. Inspired by the Holy Spirit to display a joyful spirit, these two prisoners were able to sing and praise God in spite of their condition.
So to be joyful always — this means that I should have ever-present in my mind the hopeful anticipatory expectation of possessing the promise of salvation in Jesus Christ. That joy ought to be the backdrop against which my life is played out. It seems to rule out fear and despair.
Pray continually. This one really challenges me, because I am far from having a regular prayer time (apart from daily prayer with the kids), and my sentence prayers are fairly sporadic. I subscribe to the Brother Lawrence Practicing the Presence of God school of thought, in that I think the only way to do this is to live your life as a conversation with God, to include him more and more in your daily tasks. I think that a major part of my struggle over these last 16 months of unemployment and self-employment comes from a lack of a steady conversation with God.
Give thanks in all circumstances. This is a hard one, especially when we have our hearts set on some thing, rather than on God. Frankly, I expected that God would answer both of my prayers regarding my consulting business, and that He would give me both the number of customers and the amount of income I requested for the month of February. Unless someone shows up with a bag o’ cash in the next hour or so, the answer seems to have been yes, with regard to customers, but no, with regard to the amount of money I requested.
Let me step out in faith, then.
Thank you, God, for NOT giving me the money I asked for as earned income during the month of February. I accept that this was not your will and I submit to that will. I can see that several good things can come out of this ‘no’ answer, and I am committed to seeking God’s glory in this situation.
I have so much for which to be thankful. God has repeatedly met our needs, and most of our wants, since I was laid off in November of 2002. Perhaps I will devote a blog entry to listing just a few of the reasons I have to be thankful.
In case you missed the last part of verse 18, this is not merely Paul’s personal suggestion for us: “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We often complain that we don’t know God’s will for our lives, usually when faced with a difficult decision or opportunity.
In many ways, these verses are the New Covenant version of Micah 6:8: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Not a bad prescription for life.