Be Joyful Always?

"Always be joyful....No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:16, 18).

How could Paul make such a sweeping statement? Even as a prisoner, he had said, "Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again--rejoice!" Why was Paul so intent on our continually having a joyful thankful spirit?

Paul had caught hold of a secret and he longed for them to glimpse it also: For those trusting in Christ "everything serves [God's] plan" (Ps. 119:91). Paul had grasped that truth so firmly and with so much joy that he was eager for them to see it, too.

Paul was not saying, "All that comes is good," but those whose trust in Jesus Christ rest secure in Him. Using His marvelous unlimited resources, God will take those shameful and disappointing things and turn them into a cause for praise. Paul was so confident of this truth that he couldn't stop saying, "Be joyful! Give thanks!" To him praise was more than a discipline. It was an obvious response to all things of those who are living in the shelter of God's protective love.

This truth gripped Paul: What Satan intends for evil, God is going to turn into good. God is not stymied in His good plans for us. All things serve Him--even the schemes of Satan and the sins of others--because those who belong to Christ He "surrounds with [His] favor as with a shield" (Ps. 5:12).

From Paul's viewpoint, then, giving thanks is our worship--our expression of love, faith and a true surrender to the plans of our Father. Praise may begin as a discipline for us, but the more we exercise this discipline, the more we will understand praise and thankfulness to be our expression of a glorious truth: God is causing everything to work together for our good!

Help us, Lord, to express our faith through praise.

"We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance...And hope does not disappoint us" (Rom. 5:2,3,5).