“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (KJV, 1 Th. 5:16-20).
In the above verse, we can see a threefold cord that is not easily broken. We see that Paul tells us that there are three elements within the life of the Christian that must take place at all times. In essence, Paul tells us that rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks should be done at all times. While Paul uses the words, “…evermore… without ceasing… in everything…,” it must be recognized that Paul is not telling us different times in which the Christian should be rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks. Rather, rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks should permeate the life of the Christian.
The fist cord of the threefold cord is that of rejoicing. When Paul uses the word rejoice, he has a joyful Christian in mind. Paul speaks of a glad Christian, one who has his heart set upon heavenly matters and realities. But to simply tell someone to rejoice evermore will not bring about a true rejoicing.
The Bible has much to say about rejoicing, and looking into the matter further will benefit us at this point. The Christian must be given reasons to rejoice, for rejoicing is not created out of thin air. There must be a foundation for the Christian’s rejoicing, or the rejoicing will only be superficial and the rejoicing will be blown and tossed about like the waves of the sea.
Paul tells us much about the topic of rejoicing in the book of Philippians. When Paul wrote Philippians, Paul was in jail, and death was a possible outcome for him. The prisoners in his jail were often killed and discarded to make room for more prisoners.
However, one of the primary themes that shines through the epistle to the Philippians is that of joy and rejoicing. Thus, the circumstances which a Christian will face should not stifle true joy.
In Philippians 3:1, Paul tells us where his joy is rooted. He tells us that his joy is in Christ. Here, we see that Paul was keenly aware of his union with Christ despite his circumstances. In this awareness, Paul could have much joy.
In Philippians 4:4, Paul tells us that we must rejoice in the Lord always. Yet again, we can see the root and foundation of Paul’s joy. Paul’s joy did not come from this world; instead, Paul’s joy came from his union with Christ. Thus, we see that Christ was the source of Paul’s joy.
In Luke 13:17, a large group of people can be seen rejoicing in the glorious work of Christ. Here, we see another reason to rejoice. Jesus has done many mighty works, and in them, the Christian must rejoice.
Prior to Christ’s dying on the cross, He gave a farewell discourse to His disciples. Christ discussed many different matters, one of which was that when Christ would die, the disciples would be sorrowful, for Christ would be taken from them. Thus, Christ’s presence would be removed. However, Christ went on to tell His disciples that their sorrow would turn into joy. The reason for this is that Christ would return, and the disciples would once again be in the presence of Christ.
The Christian is one who has the abiding presence of Christ in his life. Therefore, the Christian is one who should live a life of rejoicing.
“Pray without ceasing”
The second cord is that of praying. Paul tells us that we must pray without ceasing. But what does this mean? Surely, the Christian cannot multitask in each and every situation of his life – experiencing deep and intimate prayer while also giving proper attention to vital matters of the day.
The Christian must seek clarity on the passage and attempt to understand the mind of God. The Greek word that is used to depict praying in the verse at hand is a common Greek word for prayer that also carries the meaning of worship.
When Paul tells us to pray without ceasing, it cannot mean that we must never take a break from prayer. If this were so, the Christian could not sleep, nor could he ever give someone the biblical attention that he should in the midst of a conversation.
If we look at the instruction given concerning rejoicing, we see that Paul desired for Christians to rejoice always. This is more of an internal disposition than anything else. If we look at the command to give thanks in everything, we can see that this is more of a thankful attitude than it is telling God thanks every second of every day. Paul is after the heart, and thus is concerned with a heart of rejoicing and thankfulness.
When we approach the topic of prayer, we can likewise see that the Christian is called to have a prayerful mindset about his life. He is to go throughout life in a state of God-consciousness, talking with his Father throughout the day.
We can see in another portion of Scripture that the Christian is to continue to ask, seek, and knock. We also see that the Christian is to pray regularly and in everything give prayer to God.
“In every thing give thanks”
The third cord is that of thanksgiving. A Christian would benefit greatly from growing in the area of thanksgiving. Much is accomplished through a thankful heart. A thankful heart rids the Christian of pride, entitlement, and discontentment.
Paul tells us that in everything, the Christian is to give thanks. But how does the Christian do this? Are there truly reasons as to why the Christian should always be thankful? An ungrateful person is someone who thinks he deserves more than what he has. This person is not looking upon reality properly.
When someone looks upon Christ, he will see the God of heaven coming and taking on flesh. He will see a companion of animals, for Christ came to the earth and lay in a manger. He will see Christ, not seated upon a throne, but seated upon hay. He will see the One Who was labeled the carpenter’s son rather than the Son of God. He will see the One Who deserved much praise, but Who instead was blasphemed and made out to be possessed by demons. He will see One Who was absolutely righteous but was made out to be a lawbreaker.
Looking upon Christ must bring about a grateful heart in the Christian. Christ gave up the glories of heaven to be treated as an imposter and an outcast of society. Christ came to take upon Himself the guilt of humanity.
When someone looks upon his own sin, he should also see what his sin deserves. Thus, in every situation, he should be able to see that what he has is much better than what he deserves. However, not only that, the Bible tells the Christian that God is working all the situations of life to promote good in the life of the believer.
“for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”
A threefold cord is not easily broken, and here we see that Paul gives three clear practices in which the Christian must engage. If a Christian rejoices always, prays without ceasing, and gives thanks at all times, he will find that he will grow in Christ and mature as a Christian. The enemy will not be able to get a foothold on the one who walks in the way that Paul tells us here.
It is the will of God that the Christian rejoice. The Christian has many reasons to rejoice, and he must think upon these reasons. The Christian must be constant in prayer, for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Finally, the Christian must have an attitude of thankfulness. It is the will of God that the believer’s life should be filled with rejoicing, praying, and thanksgiving.
Father, I thank You for the instruction that Paul has given me. I pray that You would help me to be a thankful Christian who rejoices at all times and prays throughout my day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.