At the end of the Book of First Thessalonians, Paul gives a list of instructions for attitudes and behaviors to be developed by Christians. What makes these verses more meaningful is the circumstances of the people who were the initial recipients of this book.
The Thessalonians were experiencing lots of problems, and Acts 17 explains how the church started there and how Paul’s life had been in danger:
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas. 5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things. 9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea.” – Acts 17:1-10
Knowing the situation, Paul nevertheless gives these three pieces of instruction for enduring trying times:
“Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
The first command, in verse 16, is ALWAYS BE JOYFUL:
The text is easy to interpret, but perhaps not so easy to implement:
Rejoice: “chairō; a primary verb; to be “cheer”ful, i.e. calmly happy or well-off; impersonally, especially as salutation (on meeting or parting), be well: — farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hall, joy(- fully), rejoice.” (Strong’s Dictionary)
evermore: “pantote… every when, i.e. at all times: — alway(-s), ever(-more).” (Strong’s Dictionary)
[Trivia that’s not so trivial – “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) is the shortest in the English NT; but “Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16) is the shortest verse in the Greek NT (the original language)).
Christians should be people of joy:
- We are full of joy for our Savior: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33.
- Our Salvation brings us joy: “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” – Romans 5:2.
The book of Psalms has some great passages about being joyful:
- “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.” – Psalm 34:1-2 KJV
- “I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever. 2 Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.” – Psalm 145:1-2 KJV
- “While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.” – Psalm 146:2 KJV
This passage (1 Thess 5:16) teaches us how this joy makes a difference for us.
Following this command to be joyful will have its challenges. Because we are commanded to be joyful (and this is one of about six dozen commands in the New Testament to express joyfulness), it means this is a choice we make. We are to adjust our attitude to be joyful at all times, no matter what the circumstances are.
Paul also wrote this about being joyful:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” – Philippians 4:4 NKJV
Our joy does not come from our situation, but from our Savior and His salvation – “Rejoice in the Lord.” Our relationship with God equips us for any circumstance.
Make a daily commitment to being reshaped by God’s word about this.
Remember: “The happiest people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.”
These resources supplement our video at Always…Be Joyful at YouTube