Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
—Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18 (ESV)
Student: So Paul says that I should always be glad and thank God.
Teacher: Yes, in short, that is what he says. And why should you do these things?
S: Because God deserves it.
T: Of course. But these verses reveal something else.
S: Well, it says that it’s “the will of God.”
T: That is what it says. Have you ever heard someone ask about the will of God? Have you ever heard someone ask what the will of God is for his or her life?
S: Yes. And usually they ask this to make an excuse for not doing something.
T: A sad observation, but an accurate one. Here, however, we see that the will of God is a prompt to do something. What is it prompting us to do?
S: To rejoice, to pray, to give thanks.
T: So you see, if there is ever a question about the will of God for your life, you have found it here in Paul’s exhortation.
S: I do see that. But that doesn’t seem very specific. That doesn’t tell me what job I’ll have or where I’ll live.
T: And those who use the will of God as an excuse are usually concerned with these things, then?
S: They are.
T: And they want to know the will of God because they want to be blessed by God in what they do?
T: Then if it is the will of God that we should rejoice, pray, and give thanks—do you not think we will be blessed by doing these things?
S: We will be blessed. And I do see what you’re getting at: we would be blessed in doing those things regardless of what job we have or where we live.
T: Exactly. When these others—I mean the ones who use the will of God as an excuse—when they seek it for their life, they are actually seeking their own will and hoping that it will be blessed by God. I dare say they will always be disappointed until they learn to rejoice and to pray and to give thanks.
S: So the command is specific even though it applies to every situation. That must be why Paul says “always” and “without ceasing” and “in all circumstances.”
T: This exhortation is unchangeably the will of God for you and me. Of temporal things we say that there is a season, a time for this and a time for that. But of the eternal there are no seasons; there is not a time but all time.
S: And in some sense, no time, for the eternal is pressing upon us.