Peninsula Community Church
A Joyful Heart and the Will of God
November 19, 2017
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
For those who are passionate followers of Christ, one of the issues that concerns us is knowing God’s will. What is His will for me personally? What does He want me to do? Here in this passage, Paul presents an argument for one aspect for understanding God’s will. Specifically, this passage focuses on three primary aspects of our attitude and mindset toward life and the issues we encounter. We see here that he commands us to rejoice always. We must pray continually. We must give thanks in every circumstance. In so doing, we fulfill the will of God. Today and next week, we will review these three principles to understand how they apply to our life.
For today, let us look at the command to rejoice always. Rejoice! Always! When you hear that what is your initial response? If you are like me, you might ask a few questions. First, Paul, do you really mean that? Do you know what I am going through? Do you know what I have experienced? Paul, if you knew all that I am going through, you would understand that I cannot rejoice with all that is going on in my life right now. You must know that my situation is different! But that is the paradox of this command. Rejoice always! Rejoice when things are going great. Rejoice when things are turned upside down. Rejoice when things are normal. Rejoice and keep on rejoicing. In our natural self, this seems impossible and may seem like a contradiction but through Christ we are empowered to rejoice in every circumstance.
Because of Paul’s command to rejoice always, you might look at Paul with a bit of disdain. You might think that he is disconnected from reality. But listen to Paul’s own words in regard to what he experienced in his ministry. Paul stated Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).
Did you get that? Paul had been beaten five times. He had been beaten with rods three times. He was shipwrecked three times. He faced all kinds of dangers where ever he went. He had experienced hunger and thirst. He had gone without food. He experienced extreme heat and coldness. Every day he carried with him the anxiety of leading the churches he was given. I think we could agree that Paul had suffered his share of difficulties. And yet, this was the same Paul who commanded us to rejoice always. For us, while we may not have experienced anything to this degree, when we do have difficulties, and it can feel like a beating and an attack.
So with all that Paul experienced, how could he rejoice? How could he call us to rejoice? What was his rational for such a command? As you study Paul’s life, you will find that he issued this command because he understood that his joy was a not response to his experience or his circumstance, but was a response to the One whom he served. The fact is, he could rejoice because he knew who he served and all that Christ had accomplished on his behalf. He recognized that his strengthen came from God. The truth is the work of God within us allows us to face difficult times with a heart of rejoicing.
With that in mind let us make a couple of observations about rejoicing. First of all, joy is a matter of the heart. It is based in the truth that I can trust God in every area of my life. Therefore, an attitude of rejoicing is an outcome of trust. When we trust, it is much easier to rejoice in all things. Trust is the confidence that all things will work out for God’s pleasure. That is why Paul could state And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). When we trust God with our life, we will be less likely to complain and to grumble about the issues we encounter. When we trust God, we will be more faithful to His purposes.
Listen to the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:8-12. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. It is through this passage that Paul details the reason we can rejoice in Christ.
Paul was convinced, no matter what came his way, he could endure and he could do so with a joyful heart, because he was convinced that God would keep what had been entrusted to him. The word convinced carries the idea having been settled in one’s mind of a truth or an outcome. You see rejoicing is not just a feeling, it is a truth that supports our reaction to life’s difficulties. Paul could rejoice and could encourage others to rejoice because he had settled in his mind that God would come through for him. To understand this, we must look at the meaning of the word in the original Greek. The basis of the word convinced means “to trust” or “to be worthy of trust.” The word also means “reliability” or “certainty.” It is the root of the word “faith” or “to have faith in.” You see when we trust God and we have a certainty that He has our best interest in mind, we will be convinced Christ will complete His work in us.
How do we develop our trust in God? We read the Bible and allow the bible to change our hearts and our outlook on the future. In Scripture, we find so many who we were in deep trouble but each time God made a way for them to escape. We pray. That is why Paul also commanded the church to continuously pray because it is through prayer that we focus our attention upon the one who can help us navigate whatever we are facing. Lastly, we share testimonies with one another because it is through our testimonies that we overcome and therefore that gives us hope. The result is that we have the power to rejoice in every circumstance not as a feeling but as a truth.
Secondly, this is not some sadistic or head in the sand view of God but rather it is seeing our circumstances through the eyes of God. Rejoicing is not just an act of positive thinking nor is it the denial of the truth. Real faith begins at the point of truth and reality. So we do not rejoice just to rejoice but we do so because we are confident of the power of Christ to see us through every circumstance of our life. Too often, we develop a stoic approach to life where we will not allow ourselves to be effected by the issues of life.
This does not not mean that we dance through life proclaiming that I am rejoicing! We do not communicate that I am happy when the world is falling apart around us. That mindset does not help us but in fact most often causes us to complain and gripe rather than rejoice. To deny the issues of life does nothing to move us forward in faith. In fact, it harms us and keeps us from experiencing the healing of God. So this is not a command to negate emotions and refuse to acknowledge those emotions, but rather is it to envelop those negative situations with a mindset of joy that is based in a unswerving trust in God.
Thirdly, Paul realized that it is easier to rejoice when we have an eternal perspective about life. Again, listen to Paul’s words. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Why is an eternal perspective important? It is important because the trials we experience now are limited in their impact when we compare our total existence to eternity and the glory that is to come. It is important because the things we seen and experience are transient. They are in flux and cannot be trusted but God can be trusted in every circumstance. What is a problem today will cease to be a problem tomorrow. The difficulty we face today will be the answered prayers of tomorrow. Th absence of hope will the intervention of the Holy Spirit in days to come.
John Piper had this to say about joy. Our joy is based in the knowledge and acceptance of knowing that our sins are forgiven now and that we can experience the kingdom of God now. That knowledge sustains our ability to strive toward a future entrance into His eternal kingdom. Our joy is a result of not what we experience but what we hope for. It is anchored in a life and a way of existence that has been promised to us.
Fourthly, our joy becomes a testimony to God’s grace in difficult times. In effect, our joy becomes a tool for evangelism and a witness to the power of God. we do not deny the existence of difficulty, but we embrace the power of God to help us endure every difficulty. You see too many Christian’s today want people to believe they do not have any issues. Somehow, they believe that it detracts from who they are. Somehow they believe that it diminishes who God is. But the opposite is true. People are looking to know that the God we serve is real. People want to know that this stuff works. Having a realistic view of God, and the joy that comes from knowing Him, we become witnesses of how to negotiate life to the fullest.
As we close, we must know that joy is not manufactured. It is a result of who we know. It is a result of His work in us that is being worked out through us. In knowing Him, we are strengthen and we are filled with a joy which is an attitude of being convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. That is worth rejoicing.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom