A reflection on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 for Sunday, December 13, 2020.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NRSVA)
Joy can be elusive.
Our passage clearly promises ‘peace’ – even at the ‘coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’. We often read about this second ‘coming’ in apocalyptic terms. It conjours up images of darkness and judgment. It can paint a stressful picture.
Yet Paul is suggesting that we are able to find peace even as the world is turned upside down.
There is a grounded practicality that is offered here to the pursuit of peace. Notably, it starts with choosing joy: Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. Be open to the Spirit and prophecy. Hold to ‘good’.
Notably, there is no ‘if’ here. It does not say ‘rejoice if all is going well’ or ‘give thanks when circumstances are favourable’. We are not urged to pray intermittently – according to mood.
Read it again: ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’
God’s will – God’s vision for you – is that you would always live beyond circumstance – and focused on the Kingdom of God.
God desires that you choose the joy of God – and in doing so are led along the God-ordained path to peace.
How do you embrace the joy of God? What are your practical steps?
What do you see as the relationship between choosing joy and the resulting peace? How connected are these?
What is the most difficult aspect of choosing joy for you? What is the easiest? What is one step you can take to more consistently choose ‘joy’?