1 Thess. 5:16-18 - "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ for you" (ESV).
We first noticed it one morning when I tried to take a shower. It was as if frigid, fresh water newly melted off some glacial ice-pack was flowing through my shower-head! So I checked the water heater and sure enough, the pilot light was out. After letting it heat 40 gallons of cold water for a while, it went out again! Since I'm cheap and thought I understood how a water heater worked, over the next several days I swapped out parts and flushed and flushed the tank. A week later and with an almost rebuilt water heater I still have to manually relight the pilot light every time we need hot water. It heats faster and the hot water lasts longer, but we can't keep the pilot light lit.
As Paul concluded the very first New Testament letter to a group of young Christians who were undergoing persecution he made the curious statements you read above in 1 Thess. 5:16-18. "Rejoice...pray...and give thanks." If you didn't know the Thessalonian's situation these commands might make sense. They're redeemed people now, they have a lot to rejoice and be grateful for! But then you see when they are to do these things, "always...without ceasing...in all circumstances." Really? Even when things look bad and aren't going the way you expect at all? To that question the inspired apostle would say, "yes, especially then!"
Think about what these commands teach us about life, including hard and disappointing moments. I ought to pray without ceasing because a sovereign God is in control. I ought to give thanks in all circumstances because a sovereign God is using even painful moments to mold my character to be more like Jesus (Rom. 8:28-29). I ought to rejoice always because of what my sovereign God is doing for me, because this is His will for me.
As I struggled with my water heater, I had to swallow my pride to ask for help. One of the brothers here at Avon helped me purchase the parts I needed. One of our deacons came at the drop of the hat on a Friday night to spend almost three hours cleaning out the tank. Even though we're not done fixing it yet, God is using this circumstance to make me more like Jesus, for which I ought to be grateful. So when I pray, I ought to be thanking God for my broken hot-water heater.
What circumstances are you in the middle of that you can rejoice in, pray about and be thankful for in your life?
(Originally posted 6/29/09)