|Vol. 2, No. 3||Page 12||March 2000|
As Paul does so often, he closes the epistle to the Thessalonians with several short admonitions that served as a partial summary, part of a conclusion and part exhortation in order to help strengthen this young congregation at Thessalonica. Perhaps the simplest of these is the precept, “Rejoice evermore” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Although it seems straightforward and uncomplicated on the surface, this two-word verse should cause us to consider our whole attitude toward life.
The very fact that Paul had to command rejoicing should provoke us toward further study. Why was it so important and necessary to tell people to be happy? Obviously, the type of joy Paul had in mind had roots much deeper than external happiness found in the general circumstances of life. These do indeed give us reasons to rejoice, and may seem to occur quite naturally, but Paul’s approach extends far beyond the intermittent enjoyment of life’s circumstances.
All too often, we base how we feel and what we think upon the externals of life and how well our worldly concerns are doing. Many times our happiness may depend on whether or not we just got through paying the bills or we recently received a paycheck. Or, perhaps we allow how other people treat us or mistreat us to determine how we feel for that day (week, month, etc.). But the joy of which Paul spoke was not so fickle. That is why God commanded it.
Christians have more to rejoice about than any other people, but we often do not think about these things. This is why we need to heed Paul’s admonition so desperately today. It is important that we consider the blessings found in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3). Salvation, the hope of eternal life and being found in God’s favor should never be assumed or taken lightly. We need to reflect on these things daily, and what they should mean to our lives and us. Even in regard to physical blessings, we should give thanks to the Giver of all that is good (James 1:17). But as long as we buy into the idea that happiness and joy are commodities available through men and the world, we will grow more and more like them instead of drawing nigh unto our God (James 4:8).
Paul had just commended the Thessalonians for their decision to leave the world’s thinking behind, for trusting in God and loving one another. He then encouraged continuing this separation by the living of godly lives for the hope of being raised from the dead to enjoy an eternity with Christ in heaven. In other words, they had much to rejoice about, and so do we. But to experience this joy, we must first dedicate ourselves to a daily consideration of things eternal, to matters of virtue and praise (Philippians 4:8) and to our God and Savior who made it all possible.
When you get discouraged, depressed or down, listen to Paul’s inspired words and “rejoice evermore.” Lift your thoughts above your troubles to the blessings provided by a loving Father whose every action points toward making our eternal happiness possible.