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Rejoice, pray and give thanks!

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I am much more fond of spending time contemplating the beauty of God’s Word than actually putting it into action. Perhaps not the type of statement you would expect from a missionary and pastor, but a true one nonetheless. Putting God’s Word into action is far from an easy task. It requires obedience, sacrifice, determination, faith… the list goes on and on. To put it simply, following God is hard. Living a life of faith means living in direct conflict with the ways of the world. Living in direct conflict with the world means living life in constant battle with Satan, whom scripture says is the ruler of this world (John 12:31 NLT). And herein lies the reason for my opening statement: when I live as directed to live by scripture, I become an adversary of Satan and a battle of the spirit begins. Temptation becomes rampant, distractions are abundant, and life seems to explode all around you. The battle is ugly, but it's one worth fighting.

In their book, Spiritual Warfare and Missions, Ed Stetzer and Jerry Rankin write, “Satan does not have to tempt us to embrace sinful living; all he has to do is divert our focus.” Take a moment and think about that statement. When I first read these words I had to stop reading for a while. No, my focus was not diverted; in fact it was the exact opposite. My focus was amplified. I began to evaluate the past week, days, and hours. I began searching for those times where I set out intent on doing something for God’s glory when all of the sudden, boom, “it” happened, whatever “it” may have been for that day, hour, or moment. I began to see all of the moments where my God-centered focus was distracted by things that were either self centered, world centered, or quite honestly just pure old laziness. My good intentions were redirected because that was the battle plan the enemy used to gain control of the battle.

     In John 8:39-44, Jesus was talking with the Jewish people about their sinful lives and inability to live like their father Abraham, as devoted followers of God. Because of their lack of devotion to God, these men could not understand Jesus’ teachings; their thoughts were being misdirected and because of this Jesus says in verse 44:

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

The very key to the diversions presented by Satan is found in his speaking of his native tongue: lies. To distract us from God-centered decisions, thoughts, or actions, Satan speaks whispers of lies into our everyday lives. Don’t believe me? Here are a few you may have said or heard:

I’m too busy to_______!

            I deserve to rest!

I’m not good enough to_______!

            That is below me!

I’m not smart enough to_______!

If I do that I will look stupid!

Maybe your list looks different then mine does, but I believe if we all stop and think about it for a few minutes we will realize that none of these statements are from God, the One who created us in His likeness as His workmanship, fearfully and wonderfully made (Gen. 1:27, Eph. 2:10, Ps 139:14)!

So how do we defend ourselves in this battle against the prince of the world? Paul teaches us in his letter to the Thessalonians that we are to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5:16-18) In these three short verses we find the key to winning the battle: Rejoice, pray, and give thanks!  Where Satan distracts us by getting us to focus on what we can or cannot do, Paul redirects our focus to who God is and what He has done and will do in the future! Now let's not pretend that this is an easy task. If we look only upon the key words we over simplify what Paul is teaching. Paul is not just saying we are to rejoice when it fits our agenda; we are to do it always. Paul doesn’t tell us to only pray when times get tough; we are to pray continually. And the last one is probably the most difficult to adhere to, we are to give thanks in all circumstances; that means both good and bad.

To be fully prepared to battle against Satan we must rejoice in Whom we serve, we must seek Him continually in prayer, and we must live our lives constantly thanking Him for all He does.

How do we do this? In regards to these verses Warren Wiersbe writes, “The Christian who walks with the Lord and keeps in constant communion with Him will see many reasons for rejoicing and thanksgiving all day long.” To shield yourself from the lies of Satan you must fill you life with the sound of prayer, for it is in those silent moments that we become distracted and divert from the path laid in front of us that leads to a life of glorifying God!

So back to my original statement: “I am much more fond of spending time contemplating the beauty of God’s Word than actually putting it into action.” The “I” statement is the lie that must be removed to live for “I AM.” For, it is through a life lived for God, as His instrument (2 Tim 2:20-21), with God, as His son (Gal 3:26), under God, as His servant (2 Cor. 6:4), that God is glorified as the King of Kings and I fulfill the purpose that I was created for (Is 43:1-7).

As children of God our lives are not our own (1 Cor 6:19). However true that statement may be, we are to rejoice that although we are not our own, we are His, and by living our life for Him we not only fulfill our purpose, we live a life worth of living.