1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
All ingredients are important if you want to prepare a tasty and healthy recipe. Recently I have gotten more into cooking. In the past few years our busy schedules and complicated lives have pushed me to rely more on packaged food and restaurant runs then real home cooked meals. (Please don’t remind me of the time sweet Abigail told our neighbor that our family’s main staple was Hungry Man) But as things have slowed down this summer, I have focused on buying healthy ingredients and following healthful recipes. I’ve noticed that leaving out an important ingredient can change the taste and/or ruin the whole thing.
Forgetting the spices in a vegetable dish may leave you with a bland version of an otherwise flavorful side, and leaving the fruit out of a smoothie just doesn’t create the same pizzazz. There are certain things that just go together.
At the end of his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul gave some important directives to the believers. Though they were experiencing some very difficult times, he wanted them to experience joy, so he gave them a recipe to follow.
Paul’s first ingredient was to always rejoice no matter the circumstances. He wasn’t telling the Thessalonians to always be happy about their difficulties or to run around with a fake smile pasted on their faces. He wanted them to focus their attention on the relationship they had with God through Christ Jesus. This relationship brought joy because they would not be alone in their hard times. Christ would be a friend to them Who sticks closer than a brother. Not only that, but their relationship with God through Christ brought the sure expectation of a blessed future forever in heaven, a place of no suffering or tears.
The second ingredient for living a joyful life amidst difficult times was to pray without ceasing. In order to fix their eyes on Jesus, they needed to live a life of constant communication with their heavenly Father. That is how they would develop complete reliance on His strength. Through prayer they could experience His constant companionship in a very real way and tune their hearts to obey His commands. Robert Cook, a radio Bible teacher from my childhood, used to say, “Pray your way through the day!”
The third ingredient for a joyful life was to give thanks in everything. It is hard to be thankful for everything, but we can be thankful in everything. Difficulties and trials will come to each of us – that is a sure thing – but God’s will for us as believers is to thank Him for His blessings amidst the distress. Though our enemy would like to destroy us and use the bad things for evil, God can turn the circumstances around for our good. He will never leave us during these times. He uses them to build our character and faith. Even when we don’t understand what is going on, we have an all-wise and all-powerful God who never loses control. He sees the end result that pain can produce in our lives if we put our complete trust in Him.
All ingredients are important if you want to prepare a tasty and healthy recipe. If you want a delicious smoothie make sure to add the fruit. And if you want a joyful life make sure you follow Paul’s recipe for success. Mix the three important ingredients together: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks for everything – and the result will be a delicious and healthy dish of JOY!