We are all living a life in the wilderness. Who doesn’t feel stressed, whether you’re a student, a mother raising a child, or an office worker? What would you think if God gave the following command to us who are living in various difficulties and suffering?
“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Be thankful in all circumstances.”
Most would say:
“God, I want to live like that, but living it is difficult”. Do you think God commanded you to do something impossible? Because it is possible, God gave us this command.
God gave the Israelites three thanksgiving seasons a year. The Israelites were required to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), which remembered gratitude for the salvation of the Exodus, the Feast of Weeks, a late summer Thanksgiving, and the Feast of Ingathering, which remembered the thanksgiving and salvation from Egypt in late fall. God wanted the Israelites to give thanks to God for providing rain and sunlight for the harvest, and to remember and be thankful for the work of salvation in the Exodus.
How can we always rejoice, pray without ceasing, and be thankful for everything in our life in the wilderness?
At that time, the believers of the Thessalonian church were experiencing great persecution.
However, God is telling them in this situation to be thankful in everything.
This means to be thankful for being persecuted, thankful for being beaten, thankful for having your property taken away, thankful for dying, and thankful for starving.
Also, the Thessalonian believers were living with zeal as they waited for the second coming of the Lord. Thessalonians is believed to have been written around AD51 among Paul’s letters. It was a time when not only the saints but also the apostles believed that the second coming of Jesus was imminent within their generation. In 2 Thessalonians, written about six months after the first letter, there was even a trend within the church that Jesus would come soon and there was no need to work. In this way, the Epistle to Thessalonians contains a necessary message for believers who live in strong anticipation of the Second Coming. Paul is talking about how the community waiting for the Second Coming should live.
He gives advice on how to live before Jesus comes, starting from chapter 5, verse 12.
Dear believers, do you believe that Jesus will come again? What kind of life do we need in order to meet the Lord who will come again as a judge?
We must stay awake because we do not know when Jesus our Bridegroom will come again. In order to welcome the Lord, we must avoid sin, stop loving the world, and prepare with holiness. With the coming of the Lord, our Bridegroom, we will soon be with Jesus forever. Those who believe in the second coming of Jesus should prepare, wake up, and live in purity and light. Please understand the background of today’s text.
While Paul is talking about how to live in preparation for the second coming of Jesus, he tells us to always rejoice, pray without ceasing, and live a life of gratitude in all things.
As verse 15 says, those who wait for Jesus should not repay evil with evil but always pursue good. They may be in darkness and not have met the Lord. What is final word of advice?
1Th 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, those who eagerly await the Lord’s return must abandon darkness and remain awake in the light.
Therefore, he must abstain from evil and wait on the Lord with gratitude, not resentment.
Remembering that the words of today’s text were given in the midst of severe persecution and a situation of earnest anticipation for the Lord’s return, the Lord is telling us what attitude we should live with today while waiting for the Lord’s return.
Please listen again to the words of advice given to the community waiting for the Second Coming.
Let’s read it together.
1Th 5:16 Rejoice always
1Th 5:17 Pray without ceasing
1Th 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1Th 5:19 Do not quench the Holy Spirit.
1Th 5:20 Do not despise prophecy;
We must always rejoice, pray without ceasing, and wait for the Lord’s return with an attitude of giving thanks in all things. It is said that this attitude of life is the will of God in Christ.
This attitude of always rejoicing, praying, and being thankful is the attitude of life that God truly wants for his children, and the attitude that allows them to be blessed and happy. In particular, believers waiting for the Second Coming need to rejoice in the light and have an attitude of gratitude in all things. God commands us to live this life of gratitude for our happiness.
Various experts in American psychology and medicine have conducted clinical experiments to determine how gratitude affects the human mind and body. These experts used a variety of methods, including having subjects write daily gratitude journals, write down things they were grateful for, or say a prayer of gratitude before each meal. The experimental results on ‘gratitude’ studied by these experts were surprisingly consistent. A grateful heart has excellent health benefits, not only mentally but also physically. This is because the participants not only became mentally stable as the experiment progressed, but also actually showed changes in their physical reactions. Participants were said to have less stress and improved cardiovascular and digestive functions. The fact that their mental and physical health improved just by consciously practicing ‘thankfulness’ for a short period of time is proof of how amazing the power of gratitude is. Looking at these research results, how much of a change would occur if we practiced ‘gratitude’ as a lifestyle habit and attitude toward life, rather than as a clinical experiment?
Gratitude is a way to open the door to God’s grace, and complaining is a way to close the door to God’s blessings. Be thankful for the past, be thankful for the present, and believe in and be thankful for the grace that will be given in the future. I hope you can have a daily gratitude journal. Even in the midst of painful circumstances, I hope you will look at life with gratitude and say words of thanksgiving. As you live a life that’s full of pain and sadness, I hope that you will experience and enjoy the power of gratitude and the abundant life that the Lord gives you every day through the habit of gratitude. It is God’s will for us to be thankful in all things.
Dear believers, the era in which we live in is as imminent as the era of the church in Thessalonica. The Lord can come at any time, and looking at today’s situation, we can see that the Lord’s coming is very close. How should we prepare for the Lord’s second coming? How can we always rejoice, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all things?
So how can we obey these words?
These words are words that we must live by in preparation for the second coming of the Lord.
With what attitude should we prepare for the second coming of Jesus?
Verse 19. Do not quench the Holy Spirit. This means not to extinguish the fire of the Holy Spirit. When will the Holy Spirit within me be sad? When does the Holy Spirit not work in me? In times when I sin. When I am in darkness. To not extinguish the fire of the Holy Spirit means to walk with the Holy Spirit and not remain in sin. In other words, rather than being in darkness, we must live filled with the Holy Spirit, governed by the passion and energy of the Holy Spirit.
1Th 5:20 Do not despise prophecy;
The meaning of this verse is to not take lightly or ignore the word of God, but to treasure it.
The secret to always rejoicing, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in all things is that it is possible to live a life under the complete control of the Holy Spirit and the Word.
Therefore, as we long for the Lord’s return and live in unusual times, please keep in mind the precious words that He gives us.
Do not extinguish the Holy Spirit. Do not extinguish the fire of the Holy Spirit by staying in darkness, but be completely controlled by the Holy Spirit so that the Holy Spirit guides your thoughts, heart, and life.
Also, please always fill your thoughts and hearts with the words of truth. I hope you will value eating the Word of God more than regular meals. Please read God’s Word regularly. Let the Word of God guide your thoughts and life. Then we will be able to live a life of joy always and gratitude for everything.
Then, let’s look at the specific commands we must obey.
Be joyful always.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. There is no joy within me. Joy is poured out from within by the Holy Spirit, and springs forth from within by the Holy Spirit.
The joy of the LORD is your strength.
Joy gives us the strength to overcome circumstances and persevere.
Rom 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit rules our hearts as king, we enjoy heavenly peace and joy. Therefore, now(at this time), give your heart completely to the Lord.
Declare that Jesus is the Lord and King of your life. Please do not worry about anything and entrust the heavy burden of life to the Lord at this time.
When you do this, you will enjoy the heavenly joy welling up within you.
Pray without ceasing. This does not mean that you should stop studying and working and pray without ceasing in your closet. It means to fellowship with God without ceasing. When we work and study, we can walk and converse with the Lord without stopping. When we are in the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can continue to fellowship with the Lord and pray, regardless of our circumstances. How were Paul and Silas able to praise and pray in the middle of the night even though they were beaten for preaching? It was possible to pray and praise regardless of the environment with the help of the Holy Spirit through faith when they kept the fire of the Holy Spirit from being extinguished. Because of their praise and prayer, the jailer’s family was eventually saved and the first church in Europe was born.
Dear believers, please continue to pray and praise God no matter what situation you are in. God wants us not to be discouraged in any situation, but to call on our Father and have fellowship with Him.
Be thankful in all things.
It is not difficult to be grateful when life conditions and circumstances are good. However, God wants us to be thankful, especially when we encounter storms and rain clouds in a life in the wilderness.
Who can be thankful?
1. Those who believe that God is sovereign can be thankful for everything.
Psalm 103:19, “The Lord has set his throne in the heavens, and his government rules over all.”
God is in complete control of every situation. If you do not believe this truth, you will not be grateful in every situation. Not even a sparrow falls without God’s permission.
Without God’s permission, no pain, sorrow, or joy can happen. I hope that you can be thankful for everything with faith that God is sovereign over your life.
2. People who believe that God causes all things to work together for good can be thankful for everything.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.
Job lost his children, all his possessions, and his health in one day. Job experienced the despair of losing everything in one day.
However, he was able to acknowledge Jehovah’s sovereignty and give thanks to God by saying, “I came out naked from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return. The Lord gave and the Lord took away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
We know very well that after going through hardships, Job received double the blessings he received before.
Furthermore, we must be thankful to God for giving us salvation. By faith we are saved and become children of God. However, God made me realize that I was a sinner, made me realize the love of the cross, and worked to open my heart and accept Jesus. This is grace. God gave me the grace to believe. Some people cannot understand or realize the love of the cross even if it is explained dozens of times. However, we realized God’s love and that we were sinners, and we turned from that sin and came to the Lord. Since I realized that I was saved by God’s grace and not by my good deeds, I have nothing to boast about and can only thank God.
This is the story of Choi Bok-i, the CEO of Bonjuk, a leading Korean food franchise company in the market. This company is a company of faith that provides missionary accommodation and serves missionaries, and is passionate about mission work. However, when Korea’s economy was in difficult times (during the IMF), her husband’s business went bankrupt, they went into debt, and she was even hospitalized in a mental hospital due to the shock. She prayed, “God, if you bless me, I will live my life sharing and serving others.” During her prayers she realized why she was not receiving God’s material blessings.
That is, her own words, that is, her language, were always negative, resentful, complaining, and harsh. She said that she received words from the Lord when praying.
Numbers 14:28 And say unto them, As I live, saith the LORD, even as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do unto you.
Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue; those who love it will eat its fruit.
So she reflected on her own words and realized that she had no language of God, no language of blessing, no language of the Holy Spirit, no language of life, no language of affirmation, no language of gratitude. Because her husband’s business failed and she was sick, she spoke even more negatively and crookedly. So from that day on, she began to change her prayers to gratitude. “I believe and am thankful that this suffering will turn into a blessing for me. I believe and am thankful that this misfortune will turn into a blessing.” Although she prayed this prayer of thanks and wrote down the prayers in numerous notebooks, there was no significant change in her life or business.
Then, as she was praying, there was a word that God made her realize.
Luke 6:45 A good man brings forth good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and an evil man brings evil out of the evil treasure of his heart, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
‘There is bitter water inside me, and I cannot produce sweet water.’ Although she repented, she realized that she did not have the words of the Bible in her. So from then on, she began to read the Bible diligently, write, meditate, and memorize the words given by God as Rhema.
As she believed these words, memorized them, and confessed them with her lips, without realizing it, she began to heal from the mental illness that had been plaguing her for so long. Not only that, but as she continued to memorize and confess her words, her own heart began to change little by little and become positively revived.
As the Word of God filled her heart, her thoughts changed, and as her thoughts changed to thoughts of gratitude and faith, her words changed, and as her words changed, God began to pour out His blessings on her from then on. So she testified that today she is blessed to be able to build such a large company of faith and she is used as a tool of blessings. As her words and life changed with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, God blessed CEO Bok-Yi Choi with a company that serves the nations.
We are all living politically and economically difficult lives. We live in an age where we can hear the footsteps of the Lord coming. How does the Lord want us to live in times like these? Be joyful always. Pray without ceasing and fellowship with the Lord. Please be thankful in all things. This is God’s will for us in Jesus. How can we do this? Please do not extinguish the fire of the Holy Spirit by dwelling in darkness. Do not take God’s word lightly. Only when the Holy Spirit and the Word rule over your heart, thoughts, and character, and when you live filled with the Holy Spirit, will joy overflow within you. The Holy Spirit will help you stay awake and pray with the Lord without ceasing. The Holy Spirit will help you see everything with the eyes of faith and give thanks with faith. Be thankful with eyes of gratitude, not negative eyes of complaints.
I bless you in the name of the Lord that you will live awake, always rejoicing, praying without ceasing, giving thanks for everything, and preparing to welcome the Lord’s return.