Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil 4:4)
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1Th 5:16-18)
If there is one command in Scripture that seems significantly challenging at best, and downright impossible at worst, it is this command to ‘rejoice always’ and ‘give thanks in all circumstances’. The terms ‘always’ and ‘all’ are unequivocal. I could buy into this command if it had just said ‘most of the time’ and ‘often’. I believe I rejoice in God’s goodness and love as a general rule. I am a generally thankful person who is known to repeat the phrase ‘all good things come from God’ with great frequency. So the ‘most of the time’ and ‘often’ translation would fit my overall approach to life quite well.
But what am I suppose to do with ‘always’ and ‘in all circumstances’? For there are clearly times, usually daily, where I most certainly do not feel like rejoicing, and where the circumstances do not in any way call for a response of thankfulness. Are these verses then just examples of exuberant hyperbole which we can choose to set aside when the occasion does not fit the command, or do the writers really mean what they say?
I have found in my own life that there is an inestimable power in praise, far beyond what I would have believed if I had not experienced it for myself. Praise is perhaps the greatest weapon we have against the enemy. Right when he is at the threshold of victory in our lives, brought about by some anxiety, crisis, or despairing attitude, we have the power to crush his schemes and declare our freedom and loyalty, all through the simplest act of praise to God.
Praise resets our priorities and allegiances. Genuinely praising God in the midst of life’s greatest difficulties is like rebooting a computer that has frozen. It puts everything back in its proper place and lets us start afresh with the right perspective and the tools we need to meet every challenge.
Praise declares who our God is and where our trust lies. It is the proclamation of our worldview that is wholly centered on Christ. Praise and thanksgiving have this incredible power.
This week will you allow God to refresh your spirit by practicing an attitude of rejoicing and a spirit of constant praise in all things? If you do, I believe you will be overwhelmed by the results. The thankful heart is a heart set free, it is a heart transformed, and it is a heart refreshed.
Gracious God, I come to you today with a heart filled with gratitude and praise. I praise you not just for your acts and works of kindness, abundance and provision in my life, but I praise you for who you are. I thank you for the gift of your Son, that through him I might be your child. I thank you for loving me from the foundation of the world. I thank you for not giving up on me when you have had so many reasons so many times to do so. I thank and praise you for the love I know from you, and as a result, the love I have through family and friends around me. They are all reflections of you. Finally, I praise and thank you for the good work in me that you seek to do through the challenges and difficulties I am facing. I know that you are sovereign over all things, and that everything I am facing will ultimately be used for my good. Help me to trust in that promise, so that I might truly rejoice always and thank you in all circumstances. And as I learn to do so, refresh my spirit, that this may be for me a week of Praise and Thanksgiving. In your Son’s precious name I pray, Amen.