2012 Fall Bible School Message
Give Thanks in All Circumstances
1 Thessalonica 5:16-18
“Be Joyful Always, Pray Continually, Give Thanks in All Circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Through the messages this week of Jeremy Knar, Pastor Kevin, Amanda, Esther, and Jeremy – we are so thankful because of Jesus, friend of sinners. Are you thankful to Jesus? Throughout 1 Thessalonians, Apostle Paul mentions that Jesus Christ’s second coming – the day of the Lord – will come soon. Verses 16-18 state, “Be Joyful Always, Pray Continually, and Give Thanks in All Circumstances.” These commands are good not just because they allow us to live with a relationship in Christ, but with these commands we will be prepared when Jesus Christ comes again.
Part I: Rejoice Always
I am very lucky to be given this message. Usually, when given a message to prepare, the speaker must read through many verses and come up with key points that summarize the gospel lesson. Fortunately, God blessed me with this message which only contains 3 verses! It’s a bit easier.
Verse 16 says, “Be joyful always.” Let’s read it aloud with enthusiasm, like we’re rejoicing…Let’s go “be joyful always.” Amen! Here, we see the phrase “joy”. There are different kinds of joy – Almond Joy, Joy perfume; we even have a Joy in this room (Joy Kim). The kind of joy that Paul talks about here is the joy that we always find in a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. The word “joy” is unique in Christ. In the world, there exist many things to make us happy. In academics, when we do well in class – we’re happy. In relationships, when we meet and befriend someone new – we are happy. In our careers, when we are paid well and given a promotion – we are happy. Right?
However, while these things of the world may satisfy us for a time, they do not last forever. A good grade may not mean as much many years down the road as it does right now. As a college student working towards becoming a teacher I’m sure that if any of my classmates were here I’d catch some flak for saying that, but the truth is that letters alone can only get you so far in life! We must carry our knowledge out into the world like good shepherds. In relationships, it makes sense to be happy when new friends are made, but if unwise friendships can wither away! Sorry. People often change. Finally, working hard for money and success is good if for productive purposes. But beware of the individual who lives for self-glory. The joy of Jesus is the joy of knowing that the Son of Jehovah God has come down and saved us from sin and he can be counted on forever and ever. Amen!
How can we be joyful at all times? Well, it would seem that in answering this question, many common phrases can get thrown out to provide answers. Yet, these do not always answer the question. However, in Luke Chapter 1 verses 46-47 it’s written, “And Mary [that is, the mother of Jesus] said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” At the end of Acts Chapter 16 – which is earlier than 1 Thessalonians in the New Testament- the Apostle Paul and Silas were confined to prison. Yet Acts 16:25 declares that, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” In today’s materialistic society, we may not understand how good we have “it”.
I know that sometimes I personally have a problem if my cellular phone doesn’t turn on fast enough – “darn you AT&T….you made me miss the text message!” Sometimes, if we’re stuck in traffic, it may be our human instinct to declare, “Oh Lord, this is a nightmare” But look at Paul and Silas in Acts 16. Here they were confined to prison for doing absolutely nothing wrong. They had every reason to use bitterness as an excuse for their behavior. However, reading verse 16 again – “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Now, connecting back to 1 Thessalonians 5, it says “Be joyful always”. Wow! Can you imagine the humility and joy in one’s heart to be praising God at such a time and in such circumstances? Perhaps Paul came to Jesus privately on his own time to lament sorrow, yet in time of praising God he decided to be joyful always.
When we always are joyful IN JESUS – we may always receive his blessing as Mary did in Luke 1; her soul glorified in the Lord and her spirit rejoicing. We may also overcome all obstacles as Paul and Silas did. Finally, we may be a blessing unto others, for Acts 16:25 doesn’t end with Paul and Silas praising God – but adds that other prisoners began to listen as well. These are three attributes that go together in being a servant for God: to have his blessing, to be convicted joyfully in him, and to spread his word to others. This also connects to 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Be joyful always!” May we all be guided with such a spirit!
Part II: Pray Continually
Many gospel verses provide suitable answers which define prayer. Prayer can be identified as the Lord’s Prayer – first stated in Matthew 6. Later, as a reward for prayer, Matthew 7:7 states, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” In Luke 18:1, the action of “praying continually” is in conjunction with never giving up in the Lord. So, if we are to use mathematics, we can see that prayer + continual prayer = having the joy of Jesus in our heart always. What a spiritual formula! Why should we pray continually? Isn’t God already willing to look out for us? Well, yes!
However, the world is filled with temptations that seem gratifying. As it says in Luke 21:36, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Christian evangelist George Muller once said, “It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer.” We must always remember to pray so that we may have a healthy, thriving spirit.
There are two questions that I’d like to pose here: What happens to those who do not pray continually? What are the fruits of continual prayer? The first question – What happens to those who don’t pray continually – is always a bit tricky to answer. It’s tricky because when most people hear this they probably go, “Oh, boy. Here it comes. The speech that tells us we’re all destined to die and hell is a scary place…Oh no.” Look at Mark 14:38, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” Again, part B says, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
This is Jesus offering encouragement, saying “Hey, I know you’ve got it in you, I know there’s a willing spirit locked up behind that chest.” And yet he offers us a warning not an angry condemnation but a warning. Why? Is it because, when the time of our judgment comes, he wants to be the one who said, “Well, I tried to tell ya’”? No! It’s because he loves us and, knowing that our flesh is weak, wants to offer us salvation–“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” We must remember to pray continually so that we may stay in Jesus.
The second question: What are the fruits of continual prayer? How about the fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Look through the Gospel well enough and you’ll come across others like righteousness, devotion, and giving good gifts. Once, during Bible study, I had the blessing of hearing an answer to what prayer was that I’ll never forget. What the Bible teacher said was that prayer is “a conversation with God.” Think about it – is this not a blessing?
We don’t have to memorize the gospel “A” to “Z” to know of God’s greatness. We don’t have to have all the answers that we need. Sometimes as a student aide where I do some work at a local high school it’s easy to think, “Gosh, I have to have all the answers.” However, the wonderful thing about having a conversation with God is that we don’t have to have all of the answers that we feel we need. It’s okay. We aren’t meant too. That’s one reason why there is a dividing line between us and God. God will answer our prayer on God’s right time.
Part III: Give Thanks in All Circumstances
Finally we come to a very important part of the message: Thankfulness, or Thanksgiving, from verse 18. Let’s read verse 18 together: “give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Amen! Give thanks to God! Why? Is it because he is God the creator, God who sent his one and only Son to die on the cross for us, God the son who died for us and opened the gates of heaven, or the God who is good with all fruits given by the Holy Spirit? The answer is “yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes x infinity.” Thank God, for he is so good. What warning does God give to us of not thanking God?
Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” As Missionary David has often pointed out, the light of Jesus can’t enter through darkness; light entering into darkness is a contradiction. Okay, but what action can help us to give thanks to God in all circumstances? In particular, when we are stricken with something bad, how can we possibly give thanks to God? Isn’t that counterintuitive? Look at what Paul said to the people of Colossae in Colossians 1:9b -10, “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.”
God knows that we may be frustrated. But we may know him best by giving thanks in all circumstances – just seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you Jesus! How do we personally experience the love of the Holy Spirit? Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Love! Having the love of God in our hearts allows us to experience the Holy Spirit! It’s not easy because we often count on giving love as a reciprocal force of receiving love. Yet when we know the love of Jesus we may always display love, even if amongst people or circumstances unable to do so.
Lou Gehrig was a baseball player, one of the greatest to have ever played the game. Before having his record broken in 1995 by Cal Ripken Jr., Gehrig held the record for most consecutive games played in Major League Baseball -2,130 games over 15 seasons. He was the “Iron Horse” – like Superman, a man so tough that if you threw rocks at him his chest would deflect them back at you. But in 1938, life began to change for Gehrig. Always a competitor, he began to report physical changes taking place. He became noticeably weaker. Finally, in May of 1939 Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak was forced to come to a halt when Gehrig himself insisted that he could no longer help the team.
Two months later, he was forced into early retirement. What nobody understood at the time was that Gehrig was suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative and debilitating disease now commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. When he retired Yankee Stadium in New York – where Gehrig had played his entire professional career – held Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day. At the ceremony, when it came time to speak, Gehrig delivered these now famous words: “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” Later, he added, “So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”
I tell that story for this reason. Mr. Lou Gehrig, I believe, had to have the love of Jesus Christ with him at that moment. Think about it – here was a man who had dedicated his life, career, and body full heartedly to something he loved – and yet, for no fault of his own, it was being snatched away from him. Who wouldn’t have had the reaction of anger and disillusionment? Who wouldn’t struggle with feelings of a broken heart? And yet amidst all the personal pain that he was suffering – he being a man that people considered indestructible – I believe Lou Gehrig, whether he recognized it or not at that moment, had the courage and humility – built up in him through the love of Christ – to be thankful. That’s what the love and thankfulness to God can get us through.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I am somewhat scared. At Elmhurst College, where I’m a student, many administrative changes are being made that, I fear, could make getting to graduation much more difficult. But at these times, I must remember to hold on to God’s promise from 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” I must hold onto this faith because sometimes the temptation to doubt arrives. But there is everlasting hope and final victory in Jesus Christ! For this reason, I want to be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks to God. At the same time, it must be remembered that those who remain in Christ have faith to do so because of what they’ve heard from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Let’s read it together:
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
So give thanks and be thankful– knowing that in all things God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit will be there to educate you, guide you, and give you peace and victory. Amen! May Jesus friend of sinners be with us, protect us, and bless us to live a thankful life every day starting today and continuing beyond Thanksgiving season.