Joy-Praise-Prayer: Devotional Commentary for September 5-11
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
17pray without ceasing;
18in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
As noted in the last three devotional meditations, Paul draws our attention to important Christian traits that are relevant to our relationship to God, fellow-believers, and others. In this week's Devotional, we hear Paul telling us how our own behavior should be transformed as the Holy Spirit cultivates our maturity with His fruit.
Paul exhorts us to rejoice in all circumstances. In saying this, Paul is not disregarding the significance of the difficult circumstances which make life nearly impossible. But he is simply encouraging us to deal with the business of life through a transformed Christian attitude. He is urging us to redirect our attention from the trouble-in-focus to the Fruit-of-the-Spirit borne by the Spirit from the temple within us.
Because of the work of the Holy Spirit in us, we will come to a point in time when we are less frequently distracted by the trying rigors of earthly life. This gradual yet steady process will progressively clear the path for the Fruit-of-the-Spirit to flourish in us, transforming our attitudes, words, and actions. So Paul urges us to rejoice, not as a command which we might perform, but as a matter of compliance to the Will and Work of the Holy Spirit.
Hence, we can rejoice because we are filled with the Joy of the Lord. We can rejoice because the Joy of our salvation prevails against the daily setbacks which inundate our daily experiences. We can rejoice because the Holy Spirit makes us sober, alert, encouraging, supportive, loving, patient, and kind. So we rejoice and be joyful in all things.
To most of us, prayer seems to be a thing to do when necessary. But the word from Paul is to never stop praying, not just to quickly turn to the Lord when a crisis hits and sound off a passionate plea merely as a quick fix. Pray without ceasing. That is, live a life of prayer.
God impels us to live in a dynamic and vibrant relationship to Him through a consistent and uninterrupted communion. That is, even as we interact with the world around us, we stay in fellowship with the Lord, acknowledging His presence with us at all times and in every situation. We rely on Him for everything. Our communion with God is anchored in a life of ceaseless prayer.
As it is an active and a living communion with our Father, our life of prayer must be characterized by an attitude of thanksgiving. Contrary to pleading only in time of crisis, Paul urges us to give thanks always regardless of what might be happening. By doing that, we acknowledge God's Will and sovereign Authority. We rely on Him for answers and guidance.
Our prayer is the only means by which we convey our petitions and praises to our Father. Through our prayers we thank God for everything that God has done for us through Jesus Christ, and for His providence in the smallest details of our daily experiences. So when we pray we make all our petitions and praises known to God with thanksgiving. A cheerful and thankful heart pleases God.
There are times when circumstances are so difficult that it may be hard to be honestly thankful from the heart. At those moments, it is absolutely necessary to remember that we belong to our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Father, and that His Will and Purpose determine the course for our lives. Therefore, enlightened by His Wisdom, we obediently and thankfully submit to our God and our Father believing in the hardest of times that the All-Knowing, All-Wise, and All-Powerful God is working-out His Will through the difficult and undesirable circumstances that we are facing. Being thankful to God at all times is having faith in the sufficiency of God. His Grace is sufficient.
Always rejoice. Pray without ceasing. Be thankful. Paul's exhortations to the Thessalonians seem insurmountable if viewed as command. One does not possess a spiritual switch to turn attitudes and reactions on and off. However, being God's inspired Word, we cannot deny that these precepts are indispensable to our Christian walk. But how and in what ways?
In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains that God is pleased with a transformed life and a renewed mind. But how do these qualities become the defining properties of a transformed and renewed Christian?
When a sinner is redeemed, the individual would be inundated with overwhelming emotions of relief and irresistible joy. Shortly thereafter however, the day-to-day business of life begins to moderate these emotions and the believer suddenly pauses to ask: "Now what?" Genuine repentance and regeneration constrain the believer to ask this question, because godly sobriety and righteous vigilance are not the natural attributes of the natural man.
Paul answers these questions by instructing believers to feed upon God's living Word so that the attributes of the New Life in Christ would begin to flourish in the growing life of the New Man. This is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Through the Power of God's living Word, the Holy Spirit works at replacing our natural inclinations with godly virtues. Therefore, Paul constrains us to behave in coherence with the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Our faith in God must reflect our responsive surrender to God's sovereign Grace. Our redemption is the gracious act of God. But the manner of our living reflects our response to God's redeeming Grace and His sustaining Providence.
We rejoice because God is faithful and His Word is true. His promises will come to pass. We are thankful Because God is gracious and His Mercy endures forever. We pray without fail because we live with God in a ceaseless communion. His Ears are inclined to our prayers at all times. We are joyful, thankful, and prayerful because God has not destined His blood-bought children to wrath but to salvation in Christ.