Saturday Sermon: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks
March 25, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 24, 2011 at 10:25 p.m.
By Dr. Kim Simmons
People often wonder what God's will is. The Bible is God's word and gives us God's will both with absolutes, such as positive commands and negative prohibitions ("Love the Lord your God." "Do not kill"). The Bible also gives principles for us to use in daily situations of life such as "love covers a multitude of sin." But many still struggle to know God's will.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us three areas where we can know God's will: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
So God's will for all His people in every circumstance is to rejoice, to pray and to give thanks. That may sound simplistic or idealistic, but it is still the word of God. You mean that when I go out and my car battery is dead, I should rejoice, pray and give thanks. Yes. What is God's will if I receive word that I have been laid off from my job? Rejoice, pray and give thanks. What if I get diagnosed with a terminal disease or lose a loved one? God's word and God's will does not change even though our circumstances certainly do.
These three brief commands in scripture are easy to understand, but they are incredibly difficult to put into practice in our lives. Or at least they are hard for me. That's why Mark Twain said, "It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."
The real question for God's people is to figure out how on earth can we "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks ..." I believe it hinges on our mind-set. If our mind-set is focused on all the difficult circumstances around us, then it is impossible to do God's will. If our mind-set is focused on the good things that God is doing, such as God's daily presence, provision and protection, then our present difficulties take on a new slant.
If life is really, really bad, then our mind-set should focus on the good things that God's will brings in the future. Things such as Jesus coming back to earth, God's kingdom and rule on earth will be good and right and true, believers will live forever in the new Jerusalem on the new earth. On the new earth, "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4)
In her book, "The Hiding Place," Corrie Ten Boom writes about being imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, were transferred to the worst prison camp they had seen yet, Ravensbruck. Upon entering the barracks, they found them extremely overcrowded and infested with fleas. Their scripture reading from their smuggled Bible that morning was our passage 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which said, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsy persisted. Corrie finally agreed to thank God even for the fleas.
During the months spent at that camp, Corrie and Betsy were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings in their barrack without the guards interfering, knowing that having a Bible could cost them their lives. Several months later, they learned that the guards would not enter the barracks because of the fleas. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
The Rev. Kim Simmons is pastor at Parkway Church in Victoria.