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Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

My eyes and my heart tend to skip right past the first three phrases of this passage.

The final section, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, instead pulls my focus like a magnet. I can feel the butterflies in my stomach rise as these 10 words jump off the page. This is it. This is the source of my wrestling and wondering. Tucked in one of his letters to the early churches, the author and apostle Paul is going to uncover what God wants me to do with my life. With expectation, I let my gaze backtrack and settle on verses 16 & 17.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. 

I skim the previous verses convinced that the matter of God’s will for my life must be more complex, more spiritual, than that. But Paul’s final instructions to the Thessalonians says nothing more to satisfy my curiosity. The moments pass, and I finally return to the simple and clear command of verses 16 & 17. I read the passage once again, aloud and in its entirety.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Perhaps like me, you’ve read these verses before and hoped to find the answer to the ever elusive question many Christians ask – what is God’s will for my life? Perhaps we’d rather not admit it, but in reading Paul’s words, we just want God to tell us where to go or what to do for the rest of our lives. We feel paralyzed in our faith, unsure of our steps, until we “figure out God’s will.”

Could it be that while we’re looking for a sign in the sky, the Lord’s answer is right before us?

Paul is not trying to sidestep a weighty reality; rather he is reaching to the heart of the matter. With directness and simple language, he shows us that God’s will cannot be reduced to a “one and done” answer to life’s biggest questions. Who should I marry? Should I pursue this career? Where should I live? Which charities should I support? These are all important decisions, ones we should carefully consider, but they are not the beginning and end of God’s will for our lives. Paul is telling the church at Thessalonica that God’s will needs to cover the landscape of their lives and not just characterize a defining moment in their lives.

Joy. Prayer. Thanksgiving.

This is God’s will for His people, friends. These are the characteristics that are to shape our lives as His children. If we step back in honest reflection, could we say that our lives reflect the will of God in this way? Or does joy only well up when we notice God’s blessings or the beautiful gifts around us? Does prayer only come to our lips when we feel overwhelmed with life’s demands? Is thanksgiving only spoken on special occasions?

As a dear friend shared with me recently, these three acts Paul gives are woven together, and as a whole, they bring God’s will to fruition in our lives. Our joy in Christ naturally moves us to give thanks, and our communion with the Lord in prayer rests on His constant presence even in the midst of difficulty or uncertainty. When we are ready to resign God’s will to godly decision making, may we remember that our joy, prayer, and thanksgiving are made possible because of Christ and His work in our lives.

Being centered in Christ calms our anxious efforts to please God and places us in a position of trust, leading us to respond with joyprayer, and thanksgiving. 


Christina’s Corner

As a volunteer with Moody Publishers, I read and write reviews for various books and hope a title will spark your interest. (There is certainly no obligation to purchase the book; I simply want to pass along ideas for your reading pleasure.) 

This month’s title is Becoming Whole by Brian Fikkert & Kelly Kapic.

Click to read my review!


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