A young couple asked what my favourite verse of the bible was. I gave them these three:
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16–18)
It turns out that the elderly wife of one of our retired clergy also loved this passage as I recently discovered when reading through her funeral service.
In this autumn season of Remembrance, allow me to share with you what meaning these verses hold for me. My prayer is that you yourself will make use of them.
Consider the verbs in this sentence: rejoice; pray; give thanks. They are all commands. What right has the apostle Paul to command his friends to do anything? Well, he wouldn’t have any authority, unless he knew this was what God wanted them to do. How does Paul know that this is God’s will for them? He writes ‘in Christ Jesus’ right there in the second part of the sentence. Do you see it?
The first command “rejoice” literally means “experience God’s grace”. And the third command “give thanks” means “acknowledge that God’s grace works well.” So we see that the grace of God is something Paul and his listeners see eye to eye about. Grace is like favour. Did you know that you are really favoured by God? How do I know this? Because Jesus Christ Himself came for you, he taught clearly, he showed you God’s love in His life by His suffering, His death and resurrection. How do I know it was for me and for you personally? Because He said so: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” (John 3: 16). The world is every one of us.
Do you notice that with the commands are words like, “always; unceasingly; in every circumstance.” This knowledge of God’s loving favour is not meant to be a flash in the pan. We are told to “pray constantly”. This isn’t calling for the recitation of prayers on an endlessly repeating playlist. Just, instead of talking to yourself all the time, talk it out to God and listen up for his response in your heart and mind.
Basically, you were never meant to be alone. God’s will is that you have Him as your constant friend. Although circumstances may not always be happy, you can still rejoice and give thanks because Jesus has been there already and shown you how to come through. Learn from Him and speak to Him about your life.
Well, this one sentence is a gem isn’t it? I hope you can learn it by heart as I have found this useful – especially when life is tough.
May we all discover how dearly favoured we are this time of Remembrance.
In His grace,