Have you ever been reading your bible and suddenly come to a halt because you’re stunned by what you’ve just read? ‘That is absolutely outrageous’; you say to yourself, as you shake your head in disbelief. Perhaps the translator misunderstood, or at least you hope they had. I read one of those verses today. ‘Be joyful ALWAYS, pray CONTINUALLY, give thanks IN ALL circumstances.’ If that’s not unsettling enough, Paul then adds ‘for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’
‘Surely that’s not what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote to the Thessalonians’, I argue. ‘Perhaps it should have been translated to read ‘be joyful when you FEEL LIKE IT, pray when it is CONVENIENT and to give thanks when the circumstances are FAVOURABLE’. That would make much more sense, and even be achievable. ‘We are human after all’, I muse. ‘Be reasonable, Paul, I continue to mutter under my breath, ‘We can’t all be super saints like you.’
The reason I think this verse is so outrageous to me is because I know simply can’t obey it in my own strength. The words ‘always’, ‘continually’ and ‘in all circumstances’ trip me up, and I find myself coming up short again and again and again. In desperation I cry out to God, ‘I can’t do this. It’s too hard!’ Gently He reminds me that the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10) so therefore I can ‘be joyful always.’ His joy is available if I want it. I can pray continually because the Holy Spirit is resident within me and helps me in my weaknesses (Romans 8:26). I can give thanks in ALL circumstances because God works all things together for my good (Romans 8:28) and absolutely nothing is beyond redemption in His hands. If I can say thank you for nothing else, I can surely be thankful for that fact.
Prayer: Father God, help us this day to be joyful always, to pray continually and to give thanks no matter what circumstances we face. We want Your will and purposes for our lives. Amen.
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