Summary: Why and how can and should we rejoice and give thanks in whatever circumstances.
Why and how de we rejoice and give thanks?
As I share the word of God with you, I pray that you and I may experience ¡°being Spirit- filled.¡± Actually I am very confident that we would experience that as we pay all our attention to the word of God which I am going to share. The bible says,¡± Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God¡¯s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1Th 5:16-18)
As we reflect on these verses, we have to notice at least three things here. First, we are not simply to rejoice, pray and give thanks, but do it always, without ceasing, and in everything. In other words, we are commanded to rejoice, pray and give thanks regardless of our circumstances and situations. Apostle Paul is describing here our life style as Christian which involves every aspect of our lives
Secondly, we also have to remember that this command was given to every Christian. It didn¡¯t say ¡°this is God¡¯s will for some of you. Just as God commanded every Christian to be spirit-filled, so did God with this command. Living Spirit-filled life should be norm for every Christian. By the same token, according to Paul, rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks in whatever circumstances should characterize the life of every Christian.
Thirdly, this command wasn¡¯t given to an individual, but to church. This command should characterize not only our individual life style as Christian, but also our church. Such being the case, is our church known for such life? Is our church rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks to God in everything?
Before we answer the question, let me define what is to rejoice always and give thanks in everything. Does God suggest here that we live a life with positive perspective? We know even nonbelievers say such things: live a life focused on positive things enjoying your life, rejoicing and giving thanks, etc. Many of those nonbelievers actually seem to live such life more so than even the believers. They say you can maintain positive attitude about your lives in spite of the difficult circumstances you may be in. They may suggest, for example, that you compare yourself with those who are in worse circumstances. They may suggest that you give thanks remembering when things used to be worse and harder or you comfort yourself thinking what might have been worse.
I acknowledge it¡¯s generally commendable to maintain positive perspective in diff. But, at the same time, this isn¡¯t what Paul meant by giving thanks in whatever circumstances and rejoicing always. You might say Paul had a positive perspective for all circumstances, but he never suggested that we compare our circumstances with those of others or other times, to come up with reasons to be thankful or rejoice. He never taught the people to be thankful for always changing circumstances themselves. Rather, he taught the people to be thankful and rejoice in all circumstances without having to compare with others or other times.
If Paul was not talking about positive perspective, then what did he talk about? Was he then simply saying,¡± rejoice and give thanks¡± unconditionally and without thinking or reasoning? I don¡¯t think this neither is what he meant. Whether you are Christian or not, in order for you to rejoice and give thanks, you have to have a reason or condition for rejoicing and giving thanks. It doesn¡¯t matter who you are, but when you rejoice and give thanks, I repeat, there must be a reason or condition for that.
This being the case, Paul was saying there is reason to be thankful in everything and rejoice always. For relatively good things and conditions, we can give thanks and rejoice time to time, but not always nor in every thing. One shouldn¡¯t expect you to rejoice always and give thanks in every circumstance unless you have an unusual condition and reasons to do that. I would call these unusual condition or reason as absolute ones.
Can you think of what I am referring to when I say this unusual or absolute condition or reason? I think this unusual condition or reason has to have at least three characteristics.
First, this unusual reason has to be something unchanging or constant. If you give thanks and rejoice over something changing, then you may not be able to do so another time. For example, you can¡¯t rejoice over your health forever because it is changing eventually. Secondly, this should be not only unchanging, but also good. Like hell, though unchanging, it can¡¯t be reason for rejoicing and giving thanks.
Thirdly, this should be also more important than anything else. I mean it has to have an absolute value. Suppose you inherited billion dollars. Probably, you would live and die as rich, which means you have something unchanging and good. However, if you lost your health or your loved one, your money wouldn¡¯t be no more important that your health or loved ones.