Sunday October 2, 2011 | Jeff Lexvold
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Being joyful can be difficult during hard times. In this sermon, Jeff Lexvold shows us an inspirational tale of finding God in the darkest places. He also talks to us about how to pray continuously during these times. Finally, he shows us how to give thanks no matter the circumstances.
Be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. This command is much easier said than done. Which makes it very difficult to preach on, yet, Jeff was shown a picture of a young woman who had a sign that said “I choose joy!” Jeff knew this woman to be Karly who suffers from Rett syndrome. Karly has a deep faith and a joyful attitude in life. Her joy comes not from this world, but from God. Karly has accepted her numerous disabilities and has chosen to be joyful rather than angry at life. Even with all the challenges, part of her joy is having the faith that she is being a mighty blessing to others for the sake of the Kingdom. Through all the frustrations, she has chosen to rest in the joy that only the Lord Jesus can provide. Karly provides an example of how to follow 1st Thessalonians.
Being joyful is not about being happy. A person can have a miserable day yet can still have a heart filled with the joy of Christ. When this joy is chosen, nothing and nobody can take it away. God knows that life is not meant to be an easy street, especially for those who choose to follow Jesus as their Lord. Karly sees her pains and struggles as blessings from God, meant to make her stronger. Sure, she longs for the new body promised to her from God, but she still finds God in the here and now. When she finds God in this way, she finds joy in the midst of suffering and perseverance to endure.
It surprises Jeff how few people who claim to be followers of Christ actually spend time, outside of meals and bedtime, conversing with the Lord. One of the most important times in a person’s life to learn this important aspect is as a child. Parents should teach their children to pray continuously, because faith is caught not taught. When a parent prays continuously and includes their children in it, they sow the rhythm of praying continuously.
Imagine your daily relationships. Imagine how often you talk with the people that are around you, whether it’s coworkers, spouses, or friends. Imagine a day that you interact with them, but you only speak to them during mealtimes. Or perhaps you only speak to them once or twice a day—and just to ask them for something. How meaningful of a relationship is this? In the same way, we can’t have a relationship with God where we only speak once or twice a day to Him. It can be tough to remember to pray, but use small steps and begin the journey. Start your day out with prayer—perhaps it is while the coffee pot is brewing or on the way to work. Karly has been known to spend two hours in prayer in the morning, and while this may sound like too much, starting with small steps may lead you to desiring two hours of prayer each morning.
Finally, Karly provides an example of to give thanks in all circumstances. In spite of a debilitating disease, Karly gives thanks to God. This, of the three commands in this verse, is the hardest to grasp and act upon. It’s easy to be thankful when things are going good, but it is very difficult when things go poorly.
Notice that the verse says to give God thanks in all circumstances, and notice it does not say give God thanks for every circumstance. No matter the situation, our God is on our side and working for good in the situation. Even when her anxiety troubles her or she has troubling expressing herself, Karly expresses gratitude to God for the way He is using her in this world.
While this passage in 1st Thessalonians is difficult to live out, it can be life-changing to try. Trying on your own won’t work. Realizing that God is by your side no matter the situation is the only way to persevere through life and give joy for it. Be joyful always, pray continuously, and give thanks in all circumstances.