"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Many times in my life I've felt desperate to know God's will for me. That's common; a lot of us want to know what the will of God is for us. Usually it's a question we ask while agonizing over a decision we're facing – Should I go to this college, or that one? Should I accept or decline this offer? Should I move or stay put?
At times I've even felt paralyzed wondering what God wanted me to do. There aren't any verses in the Bible that answer those specific questions. Scripture is clear about God's will when facing a temptation to sin, but not so much in the "neutral" decisions in life – like choosing between two equally good schools or jobs.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes, "When you go to the Scripture for insight on the will of God, you don't find a lot about things to do, places to go, or people to meet. That's because God's will is not so much a place, a job, or a specific mate, as it is a heart and a lifestyle." She is correct. And I've found some verses nestled in 1 Thessalonians that plainly reveal what those heart and lifestyle choices look like -it's our key verse for today.
It's easy to read a passage like this one – glossing through it quickly with a general feeling of positive agreement – and not really digest the truth of what it says. So let's break it down.
Three things are commanded by Paul here: joy, prayer and thanksgiving. Of these, joy seems the hardest to produce. But praying and giving thanks are specific actions we can do right now to position ourselves inside of God's will.
Praying our way through our day keeps us continually in touch with God. When our heart and mind is in synch with God's, we're more open to His leading. The Holy Spirit has access to our thoughts to correct, encourage and guide us. So prayer is necessary for the woman wanting to operate in God's will. It doesn't take hour-long prayer sessions four times a day. Rather, keep God at the forefront of your mind and keep talking to Him as your day unfolds. This practice alone will increase your joy!
Hum, why is it important that we also give thanks in all circumstances? Surely, God doesn't need to hear "thank you" to feel appreciated or validated. Giving thanks helps us notice what we have to be joyful about. It also forces us to recognize our God: His goodness. His faithfulness. His provision. His sacrifice. Giving thanks for our gifts includes the Giver in our thoughts. And it affords us a right view of Him - one that acknowledges He delights in caring for us, guiding us, and providing for us. That calms our oh-Lord-what-am-I-supposed-to-do worries. We need a right view of God in order to walk in His will.
So praying throughout our day and giving thanks in each situation goes a long way in developing a heart capable of joy in all circumstances. But I must point out that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. That means it is something produced by the Spirit of God in us. We can't totally produce or sustain it on our own apart from Him. So when we pray, we should pray for joy. And thank Him for supplying it.
The Bible states that it is God's will for you to pray, give Him thanks, and cultivate joy. So no matter which college you go to, no matter which offer you accept, and whether you live here or there, be joyful, pray daily, and give thanks regularly. Could it be that if we focus on these things, the path will unfold before us? Or that He will work all out for good, no matter which choice we make?
That means the pressure of making the exact right decision, or else missing God's will entirely, is off. And that's one thing we can give God thanks for today!
Dear Lord, thank You for your faithfulness and for the loving kindness You've shown me year after year. Please develop in me a heart of joy. I choose to trust You with my life, and to rejoice amidst my circumstances today. Guide me in my decisions today, to Your glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Do You Know Him?
To read more about this verse, and perhaps share a praise or blessing, stop by Rachel’s blog today.
The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life by Louie Giglio
You are My Hiding Place, Lord: Finding Peace in God's Presence by Emilie Barnes
Stop now and talk with God. Praise Him. Give Him thanks. Write out a list of your blessings. Lay any confusion, requests or decisions you are facing at His feet. Then ask Him for joy and peace in Jesus' Name.
Move forward into your day with the supernatural joy and peace of God, and a commitment to pray and praise Him again later in the day.
How often am I in God's will in terms of being joyful, praying and giving thanks?
Have I asked God for a joyful heart lately?
Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (NIV)
© 2010 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.