I was finishing up my current reading through 1 Thessalonians this morning. Every time I pick up God’s Word, He tends to reveal something new to me, or at least remind me of something I may have gotten away from. In chapter 5, there are, as always, so great teachings, from being prepared for the day of the return of Jesus and how He will come like a thief in the night to needing discernment in testing the spirit of everything in order to avoid evil.
One verse that stuck out to me was verse 16 where Paul says to “Always be joyful.” That seems like such a cliche statement nowadays. Be joyful, be happy, or as the song goes, “Don’t worry….Be happy.” I thought about this statement more and meditated on it a little deeper this morning. I believe there is a reason this is just a 3 word verse. There is so much power in that statement and where we stand in the faith as children of God through Jesus Christ.
Always be joyful. In the world we now live in, this seems like something that is just not realistic. We see pain and suffering unfold before us in the news and we see it in our own lives and with those we love around us. In the midst of all of this struggle, how can we be joyful? What is there to be joyful about?
The answer to this question is very simple….Jesus Christ. He is the reason we can stand in this world and be joyful. Why? Because of the victory that Jesus has already won over our lives. The Fall of mankind came just 3 chapters into Genesis. From that point, God did not abandon us. Through our fallen state, God had and has orchestrated a plan to restore man to the glory we were meant for as His image bearers. He has been orchestrating our rescue. The great invasion to execute this plan came when God took on a robe of flesh in Jesus setting aside deitic privileges in order to walk with man. Having given his life for us on the cross and being raised to life again and ascending to the right hand of God with all authority in heaven and earth, Jesus was and is victorious. He has won the battle for our restoration. We, however, have the free will to decide whether we accept this and follow Him or choose to live for our selves seeking this world and all it offers, which is very temporary.
We can also choose to walk in the victory that Christ has won. Now, because this world is still fallen and Jesus has yet to return to finally fully restore creation and man, we will continue to have pain and struggles in this life. We will have worries, doubts, and fears. We will lose loved ones, we will fall to addictions, we will turn to the less wild lovers of this world. It’s now etched in our nature because in the flesh we still hold the fallen nature that came from Adam. Christ is the second Adam and the new man. He is what we will be restored to when we reach our inheritance in the Kingdom and at the wedding feast..
Paul says in Romans 5:1 says that we have peace with God through Jesus Christ because we have been justified by our faith. As I have said before and I learned this from reading Larry Crabb, that we will never reach full happiness in this life, but we are justified because of faith in Christ to seek Christ and be sanctified in this life until we are glorified when we enter the Kingdom. We can be joyful because we are justified. We are victorious in Christ. We will continue to have battles through out our walk in this life and in the flesh, but if we keep a fix on Jesus, we can remember to be joyful.
Verse 17 in 1 Thessalonians 5 tells us to “Never stop praying.” This is a key to how we can keep our hearts fixed on Jesus. Getting in the practice of praying each day and meditating on the Word. Not just reading to read, but reading to get deeper understanding. This will help to keep a constant reminder of the victory Christ has won for us and we can be joyful each day in that and armor ourselves to be able to withstand the spiritual battles we will face in this life.
“Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” – C.S. Lewis
“Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God.” – Sam Storms