I hate assembling furniture. The process hurts. And since we just moved to Italy in July, the wounds are still fresh. Did you know that the average IKEA box contains approximately 3,427* parts? And one weird little tool. I usually get to about step 17 before I realize a piece is on backwards...and when something goes wrong, I usually blame the complicated instructions. (*number may not be exact)
Don’t you love it when instructions are clear? Simple instructions are easy to follow. And that’s what I love about our Bible reading this week. We can overcomplicate scripture. We sometimes think it’s always complicated or mysterious. But the passage I chose to reflect on this week - 1 Thessalonians 5 - is both profound and simple at the same time.
Scripture: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Observation: 1 Thessalonians 5 is dense. In the last 17 verses, Paul the Apostle gives 20 short instructions. They’re all good and wise, but I especially appreciate verses 16, 17, and 18.
Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.
Simple. Good. Easy to remember - and yet so vitally important to the Christian life. And Paul reminds us that it is God’s will for us to do these three things.
Paul shared a similar exhortation in Philippians 4, writing “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Application: I’ve really been thinking about these instructions lately, and there is one thing I’m more and more convinced of: the need to pray with thanksgiving. Paul underscores this in Thessalonians and in Philippians. Give thanks in all circumstances. Pray with thanksgiving. When I pray, I can often get too caught up in what I think God should do or what I need. I am rightfully concerned with a situation or I am very focused on an action or a solution. I seek God’s hand (action) instead of his face (presence). But how important it is for us to pause and worship God. To thank him for not just what He has done or will do - but who He is and what that means for us. I can be thankful that God has changed me. I can be thankful that God is over all things and is working in all things. I can be thankful that I’m alive and that God hears prayer. In difficult situations. In unfair events. In suffering. I’ve noticed that when I focus on praying with thanksgiving, something seems to change in my heart because it reminds me of who God is and who I am...and it removes some of the pressure I add to whatever I’m facing. And Paul says that when we pray in this way, we will have peace from God. In fact, It’s so important to Paul that he mentions it in more than one letter.
Prayer: God, thank you that you are good. Thank you for this simple reminder that we need to rejoice, we need to pray, and we need to give thanks. Thank you for your promise of peace. Help me to remember and apply these simple instructions. Teach me to be thankful in situations both good and bad...because I can trust you and because you are good. You work in all things. Thank you that you have changed me and have made me new. Thank you that you hear when I pray. And thank you for all that you have done, are doing, and will do. Amen.