Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you
A man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Thanksgiving and says,"I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.
"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams. We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the father says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her."
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this,"
She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "they're coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way."
Paul made similar demands in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
John Adams, the first Vice President of the US and the second President of the US after a lifetime of public service at home and abroad said:
“This phrase rejoice ever more shall never be out of my heart, memory, or mouth again as long as I live, if I can help it.”
The Bible is not oblivious to suffering and hardship. As you look around the world, you will see that many believers live in hardship, suffering, mistreatment and persecution. How can the Apostle write to us to always rejoice?
In chapter 1 of this very book, Paul said of the Thessalonians that they "received the word in much affliction" (verse 6). In 2:14 Paul commends them for suffering mistreatment by their own countrymen because of the Gospel. These Thessalonians suffered "afflictions" as Paul wrote in 3:3 and he sent Timothy to be an encourager to them. In that same passage Paul tells them that they are destined to face this suffering and affliction because of their faith in Christ.
And of course Paul himself was no stranger to hard times and suffering as he wrote to the Corinthians:
24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 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; 26 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; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (2 Co 11:24–27). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
Paul wrote the book of Philippians, a book whose core theme is joy, while he was in a Roman prison.None of us today would want to spend anytime in a modern prison but imagine how poor the conditions were in Paul's day. And he was imprisoned and beaten on many occasions but he is the one who writes these words: "rejoice always."
How could Paul and other first century believers "rejoice always" and how can we do the same?
The difference between happiness and joy.
Happiness is based on circumstances. If our fortunes are going well and we are in good health and all is right in our world than we say that we are happy.
Joy in the other hand can be ours in spite of our circumstances. Things can be going poorly for us and we can still have joy. The news that comes into our lives can be bad but we can still have joy.
How can we have joy?
Paul wrote the Philippians to “Rejoice in the Lord always”. (4:4)
The phrase “in the Lord” is the key. Our circumstances are changeable the Lord is not. We can put our hope in the Lord even in difficult times and know that He is in control and that He is good. So when bad times come and we are tempted to complain rather than rejoice, we need to remind ourselves of God’s sovereignty and of His character. As Spurgeon said, “If we can’t trace God’s hand in our difficulty, we should trust His heart”. We need to remind ourselves of what He has promised us in His Word.
Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us?” That passage goes on to say that nothing can separate us from the love of God. We are also told that we are more than conquerers through Christ. These are promises that we can rejoice in.
Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. To have peace with God is far more important than any other peace we could seek for. Paul later in this passage tells us that we can rejoice in the fact that through Christ we have been reconciled to God. We can also “Rejoice in the hope of the glory of God because we have been redeemed.” Paul goes on to remind us that we can even rejoice in our sufferings because God is at work through them producing in us the character that He wants.
We need to feed our minds on God’s word so that when suffering and hardships come, we will respond in faith and rejoice rather than complaining and unbelief. Our joy comes from knowing Who God is (His character) and looking to Him rather than looking to our circumstances to give us happiness.
When we encounter difficulty and we respond with joy we bring glory to the Father. When we praise Jesus in the midst of hardship or lose we show the world that we value Him above all things and that brings glory to God.
Paul’s joy from John Piper
Where did this come from? First of all it was taught by Jesus: “Blessed are you when men hate you ... Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:22-23). Troubles for Jesus compound your interest in heaven—which last a lot longer than earth.
Second, it comes from the Holy Spirit, not our own efforts or imagination or family upbringing. “The fruit of the Spirit is ... joy” (Galatians 5:22). “You received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1Thessalonians 1:6).
Third, it comes from belonging to the kingdom of God. “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
Fourth, it comes through faith, that is, from believing God. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). “I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith” (Philippians 1:25).
Fifth, it comes from seeing and knowing Jesus as Lord. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).
Sixth, it comes from fellow believers who work hard to help us focus on these sources of joy, rather than deceitful circumstances. “We are workers with you for your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24).
Seventh, it comes from the sanctifying effects of tribulations. “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).
Pray without ceasing
Survey on prayer life most people are unsatisfied
There are about 650 recorded prayers in the Bible.
When we look at the great saints of the past and we see their commitment to prayer are we encouraged or discouraged by their example?
George Muller began each day with several hours of prayer asking God to meet the practical needs of his orphanage.
Bishop Lancelot Andrews allotted 5 hours to prayer each day.
Charles Simeon rose at 4am to begin his 4 hour prayer regimen.
Martin Luther devoted 2 to 3 hours each day to prayer and said that we should it as naturally as a shoemaker makes a shoe or a tailor makes a suit of clothes.
When Yancey interviewed what he called “normal” people, most admitted the importance of prayer but acknowledged that they only spent about 5-7 minutes per day actually praying. They also reported that they didn’t find prayer satisfying and often felt guilty about their lack of prayer.
The second thing that Paul wants his readers to do is to live a life of prayer. Let’s talk first about what Paul doesn’t mean when he says “pray without ceasing”. He does not mean that we are to walk around with our heads bowed and our eyes closed. Obviously all of us have God-given responsibilities to accomplish and we would not be able to do them if we are living our lives with closed eyes and a bowed head. Not to mention the problems that we would have navigating Ankara traffic!
Paul also does not mean that we get up and pray for a few minutes a day and then go about our business as if God didn’t exist. Prayer is not something that we should view as an item to be checked off our to do list and then forgotten about. Even if we are like those in the past who spent many long hours in prayer at the beginning of our day, we should still seek to involve God in our whole day.
In this passage, I believe that what Paul means is that we should live in an attitude of prayer throughout our days and throughout our lives. We should cultivate a lifestyle of prayer. We should have times of concentrated and undistracted alone time with the Father but our time in His presence does not end when we end our devotional time. God goes with us throughout our day whether we are teaching a Bible study or paying our bills. Whether we are changing a dirty diaper or preparing a sermon. We should be mindful of His presence and involve Him in our lives throughout the day. Certainly we will have a need for His wisdom and direction. We will need Him to guard our steps and our tongues. We can ask that He open our eyes to the needs of the people around us and we can ask Him to give us “divine appointments” in addition to the appointments that we schedule for ourselves.
We can in the midst of our days activities send up “arrow prayers” that direct our thoughts to involving God in what we are going through.
“Lord give me wisdom”
“Lord help me to share your truth with this person”
“Lord I need your grace to make it through today”
“Lord guard my words and my thoughts”
“Father help me respond appropriately to this criticism”
“Give me patience”
“Help” Peter walking on the water
These quick prayers do several things for us:
They remind us of our need for God’s help rather than relying on our own wisdom
They orient our minds on “things above” (Col 3) rather than on our circumstances
They remind us of God’s presence (He is with us)
If our joy comes from God and not our circumstances and we are living a daily life filled with prayer, the natural outflow is the giving of thanks.
Give thanks in all circumstances
Have you ever noticed how many times Paul was thanking God for various things in his letters? Have you ever examined your own prayers to see how much thankfulness there is as opposed to requests?
In this very letter, Paul expressed his thanksgiving to God for the church in each of the first three chapters:
1:2 We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.
2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers
3:9 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 
Truly we have much to be thankful for even in the midst of our most trying circumstances.
Giving thanks in all circumstances requires faith and perspective.
Faith means that we will trust that God is in control and that we can thank Him for whatever He is allowing into our lives.
When He allows good things it is easy to thank Him but when difficulties come it is not quite as easy.
From S Wibberley on the Essence of Worship
“At its core, worship is giving glory to God. Great worship happens when I give Him glory, especially when there is no discernible reason to do so! Why is this great worship? Because then we must offer such praise strictly by faith and faith is very important to God. He declares that faith is “of greater worth than gold” (1Peter 1:7) and that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
Later in the book Wibberley goes on to explain how praising God in the midst of difficulties is “Taking up the shield of faith” as expressed in Ephesians 6. He states:
“Raising the shield is relatively simple: we lift it up by praising God, which is a clear expression of our faith. When we praise God no matter what comes, we are declaring our trust in Him.”
The second thing that we need to have in order to thank God in all circumstances is perspective.
A hardship that we are suffering may seem unfair initially but after we think about it and pray about it we can see the “good” and even the “wisdom” in why God allowed it.
None of us would want to be the victim of a crime but probably many of us here have been or will be.
Lets look at how perspective can help in a bad situation. Matthew Henry the great theologian, preacher and Bible commentator was robbed. Here is how he viewed it after the fact and note his response:
|“I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.”|
|Matthew Henry quote|
In concluding the Apostle Paul reminds us that what he is saying is not just his own opinion or good advice but what he is presenting is God’s will for the Thessalonians and for us as well.
It is God’s will that we rejoice . . . Always.
It is God’s will that we pray. . .without ceasing.
It is God’s will that we give thanks. . . In all circumstances.
Submitted by Wilma J Stirl
For those of us who are experiencing "bad days" as of late,
here is something to re-direct our woe's.
Even though I clutch my blanket and growl
when the alarm rings, thank you, Lord, that I can
hear. There are many who are deaf.
Even though I keep my eyes closed against
the morning light as long as possible, thank you,
Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.
Even though I huddle in my bed and put off
rising, thank you Lord, that I have the strength to
rise. There are many who are bedridden.
Even though the first hour of my day is
hectic, when socks are lost, toast is burned and
tempers are short, my children are so loud
thank you, Lord, for my family.
There are many who are lonely.
Even though our breakfast table never looks
like the pictures in magazines and the menu is at
times unbalanced, thank you, Lord, for the food
we have. There are many who are hungry.
Even though the routine of my job is often
monotonous, thank you, Lord, for the opportunity
to work. There are many who have no job.
Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate
from day to day and wish my circumstances were
not so modest, thank you, Lord, for life.
Our Daily Bread, February 20th 1994
 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Th 2:13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (1 Th 3:9). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.