Scripture Memorization 3 of 52: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

What a challenging text! Not to memorize, but to live by!

Rejoice always…REALLY?

Pray without ceasing…REALLY?


To read this text without pausing to think about what it means is daunting. And even when we do have an understanding of the meaning it can still be difficult, but it is a great scripture to put to heart because the words of Jesus are true, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) And if we learn in the midst of the trouble of this world to rejoice, to pray, to give thanks we will find a way through those trials and tribulations.

So let us break this down:

Verse 16: “Rejoice always”

If we were to read and examine all the instances in which the Apostle Paul writes about “joy” or “rejoicing” we would quickly discover that Paul is not speaking of an external emotion, but rather an internal confidence. In fact just in the first chapter of the first epistle to the Thessalonian Church Paul wrote,

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” -1:6

The joy came from the Holy Spirit which lives in us, in our hearts. There was external affliction, but internal joy through the power of the Holy Spirit. So when Paul writes “rejoice always” he is not speaking of a constant state of giddiness, and thank goodness for that I’d rather see a frown now and then than always have giddy people around me…but I digress…

“To rejoice always is to see the hand of God in whatever is happening and to remain certain of God’s future salvation. Without such conviction joy would not be possible in the face of affliction, suffering, and death.” Wanamaker, C. A. (1990). The Epistles to the Thessalonians: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 200). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

Verse 17: “pray without ceasing”

“If Paul had had formal, audible prayer in mind, this imperative would have been impossible to carry out. Rather, to pray constantly means that the entire life of the believer is lived in dependence on God.” Elwell, W. A. (1995). Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, 1 Th 5:16–17). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

We may actually find that the first thing, “rejoicing always” is made easier as we learn to live more and more in a mindset or a preparedness to pray. In my life there have been people to state it bluntly that I did not like, something years ago I started to do was every time I began to think about how much I disliked a particular person, or if such a person was around and they started to bother me I made a conscious choice to begin to pray for that person. Having practiced this discipline for years in my life, where once I could rattle off the top of my head name after name of persons that bothered me or that I truly dislike as I sit here I am having a difficult time recalling even one. I am not a better person, but prayer makes the harder thing easier. Liking difficult people is made easier through prayer. I believe in like manner, rejoicing always is made easier through prayer.

Verse 18: “in everything give thanks”

This third piece of the standing orders found here in our memory verse of the week seems to be a combination of the first two. Thanksgiving is of course a form of joyful prayer. Now thanksgiving is at times easy. We are all familiar with easy moments of thanksgiving, when life is going as we planned or as we desired. When the kids are healthy. When finances are secure. When we are at 100% health emotionally, mentally, & physically (though in this sinful world is that ever truly ones state?) thanksgiving then comes with ease, maybe such ease we forget in those moments truly to say thanks to God, but that is another conversation. What makes this part of the text challenging is that the thanksgiving Paul writes of here is to be all inclusive, “IN EVERYTHING.” And Paul writes to a people both in his day and in the generations beyond that have been visited by suffering and death. Even tonight as I write I am reminded that earlier this evening I was thinking of a friend that passed away. How can I give thanks in everything? How is this possible?

Maybe the final clause of our memory verse, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” is meant to be applied to this entire section of scripture or maybe the clause only applies to the last stipulation recognizing that giving thanks in everything is only possible through the will of God. In other words through the power and the strength and the fortitude of God. 

Maybe I learn to rejoice always through prayer and my connection to Jesus. And maybe I learn to give thanks in everything by surrendering my will to Jesus and allowing His will to direct even my thoughts and heart.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As you memorize this week I pray you will also apply the text to your heart and when you’re struggling with joy or thanksgiving may God bring this scripture to mind that you may walk in His ways even in the most difficult of times!


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This