God’s Will for Your New Year: Three Impossible Commands?

A challenging call! In our sermon this week, we explored how what He has done leads to the three themes of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and how Philippians 4:4-8 offers practical insight into living it. The challenge of the "always," "continually", and "all" is very real. But it also reminds us of what God is calling us. Below are some further ideas on living out, as Pastor Brian put it, not obligations of religion but opportunities of God's grace in the life of a Christian. And a video of the song we closed with, For All That You Have Done, is below too. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." He also provides some help on how to grow in obeying these three commands.

As we sang yesterday, it is from all that He has done that we can fulfill these calls and invitations.

Below is a brief excerpt from his article, "Lesson 20: Three Impossible Commands (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)" by Steven J. Cole.

God commands us to rejoice always.

What does this command mean?

“Rejoicing always” is a conscious attitude of contentment, hope, and happiness that comes from deliberately focusing on Christ and the eternal treasures that we have received freely from Him. Sometimes, as John Piper puts it (When I Don’t Desire God (Crossway)), "we have to “fight for joy” in the Lord."

How Can We Develop a Habit of Rejoicing Always?

  1. Daily focus on the riches that God has freely given you in Christ.
    • In Him, you have redemption and forgiveness of all your sins, lavished upon you by His grace.
  2. Walk in the Spirit, not the flesh
    • Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22) Yield daily to Him and rely on Him to control your life in every situation.
  3. Sing!
    • Focusing on the riches that God has freely given to you in Christ. A frequent command in the Bible is, “Sing!” The longest book in the Bible is a songbook, use it often to set your mind on the things above.

God commands us to pray without ceasing.

What does this command mean?

Our prayers should be frequent and persistent. Rejoicing always and praying without ceasing are related, because it is through prayer that we lay hold of the riches that we have in Christ, which are the source of true joy.

How Can We Develop a Habit of Praying without Ceasing?

  1. Recognize your need to depend on the Lord in every situation
    • Prayer is the language of trusting in the Lord
  2. Send up short prayers whenever you can
    • When someone asks you to pray for them, do it right away
  3. Spend time in God’s word and prayer every morning
    • Pray the word back to God
  4. Read  some good books on prayer
    • Paul Miller’s A Praying Life and Bill Thrasher’s A Journey to Victorious Praying

God commands us to give thanks in everything.

What does this command mean?

Giving thanks in every situation does not mean that we must be happy with every situation or resigned to accept matters without praying and working for change. So, like rejoicing always, giving thanks in everything is often a choice to believe God in difficult circumstances.

How Can We Develop a Habit of Giving Thanks in Everything?

  1. Depend your understanding of God’s sovereignty and goodness.
    • Submitting to the sovereign goodness of God in every situation is the key to a thankful heart
  2. Thankfulness will be our habit when trust in God is our habit.
    • Develop a habit of trusting God, especially in trials, and you will thank Him both for His great salvation and for the opportunity to see Him work in your time of need

John Piper, of www.desiringgod.com, wrote an article in reflection to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Focusing on the latter part of verse 18, "...for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Mr. Piper wrote, "Being in Christ is a stupendous reality. It is breathtaking what it means to be in Christ. United to Christ. Bound to Christ. This is the phrase in the text that changes everything."


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