The passage we will be looking at today is 1 Thessalonians 5:16 and the verse simply says
“Rejoice Always”1 Thessalonians 5:16
Always Rejoice – meaning to feel or show great joy or delight…. Always
At this point you must be thinking, that’s absolutely impossible.
How can someone rejoice always?
I can rejoice sometimes, but definitely not always.
You might say…
“Because life is tough.”
“You don’t know what I’ve gone through in the past, I’m still dealing with it”
“You don’t know what I am going through right now, its unbearable sometimes”
“My job is the worst job in the world, during this lockdown they make me work like a donkey”
“My company is least caring, they asked me to sit at home without paying a penny.”
“My marriage is breaking apart, we are struggling”
“My education is at a standstill, I don’t know when I will finish my course and get a job, I don’t even know if I will get a job”
” In such a circumstance, if God is expecting me to Rejoice, that too not sometimes but always, how is that even possible? “
“It’s easy for Paul to write that, and it’s easy for Saju to say that, but they don’t know what I’m going through. My present circumstances are so tough that even thinking about Rejoicing in any manner is absolutely impossible.”
Brothers & sisters, if those are the thoughts running through your mind when you read today’s passage, or maybe I brought it out and reminded you of your hard life.
In this sermon, I want to leave you with a couple of thoughts to ponder upon which I believe will help you see the possibility of choosing to Rejoice Always.
I believe it is possible, I’ve met people in real life who I’ve seen rejoicing in the Lord at all times.
I’ve read stories of missionaries and martyrs who’ve endured suffering, sickness, pain and even death with everlasting joy in their heart. I’ve heard of men lying on their death beds and yet rejoicing in their heart.
This morning, instead of giving you long statements as pointers to remember, I want to give you three words to ponder upon.
1. The first word is PERSPECTIVE
Perspective means to have a point of view, to have a particular attitude towards or way of thinking regarding our present hard circumstances, since most of the time it is our present suffering and pain that is the greatest hurdle for us to rejoice always.
Here’s the perspective we need to cultivate regarding the context of the passage we just read. If we think our situation is the worst then I want us to look and ponder what’s going on with Paul and the Thessalonian church.
Paul is not writing to a church located in a city like us where the Christians have the freedom to practise their beliefs, where they are allowed to worship in open spaces and have the liberty to openly speak about Christ on an online public platform like Facebook or YouTube, where life is tough but not to the extent where believers are dragged out of their houses and killed and murdered for their faith in Jesus.
Instead, he is writing to a group of Christians who are being tortured, persecuted & killed by the worst punishment they could think of.
On the other hand, Paul is not writing this letter sitting on a beautiful balcony or a beachside hotel with a nice cool breeze hitting his face, but he is writing the letter from Corinth where he is labouring for the Gospel alongside Aquila and Pricilla, as was his ministry in other places.
I suppose he was making and repairing tents to protect the people from the hot Mediterranean sun and also preaching the Gospel, discipling the people and building the church, risking his life by putting himself in a dangerous position with Romans.
Even after Paul writing them to “Rejoice Always”, their circumstances are not going to get better, history tells us that some of them are going to be brutally killed and murdered for their faith in Jesus.
And yet he is writing to the church “Rejoice Always”.
Brothers & sisters, if we are waiting and hoping for our circumstances to look better so that we can rejoice always then that is not going to happen. The two reasons it won’t happen is firstly because as long as we are living on this earth we are living in a world that is broken and tarred by Sin.
When God created the world he did not mean to create it this way. The Bible tells us that he made it beautiful and meant it for good.
When he made the first man and woman, he wanted them to enjoy and be fruitful under the authority & dominion of His Majesty, primarily by walking in obedience to God’s instructions in humility and in complete surrender. But instead of walking in obedience, Adam & Eve disobeyed God and sinned in their hearts.
Romans 5:12 says
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”.Romans 5:12
Because of our sins, the Bible says God’s righteous judgement is upon this earth. Here’s how Isaiah describes the effects of Sin on the earth in Isaiah 24:5
5 The earth is polluted by its inhabitants, because they have transgressed laws, violated statutes, and broken the everlasting covenant. 6 Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and those who live on it suffer the punishment of their guilt. Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned [under the curse of God’s wrath]Isaiah 24:5-6
Brothers & sisters, as long as we live on this earth we are living under the curse that is upon this earth, and even though our spirit and soul is liberated in Christ.
Our body here on earth will continue to experience the pain of this broken world. We will always be walking on broken glasses under our feet as long as we live on this earth.
Even Jesus, being the perfect man who ever lived on the earth had to suffer and experience the effect of this broken world in a much more brutal way than any of us will ever suffer.
The second perspective I want us to have about our present circumstances is that God uses our sufferings to perfect us and make us mature in Him.
Do you know that our saviour Jesus was made perfect through sufferings. In Hebrews 5:8-9 it says
“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him”Hebrews 5:8-9
Brothers & Sisters, I urge you to look at your present pain & sufferings as a means by which God is perfecting you in Christ.
And if you can develop a right perspective towards your present circumstances then ‘rejoicing always’ can definitely look like a possibility.
2. The second word is BELIEVE
As we just learnt that it is not our present circumstances that enables us to Rejoice always, but what should rather enable us to rejoice always is the prospects of the eternal life we have in heaven because of what Jesus did for us.
Even though we sinned and rebelled against God, instead of pouring His wrath on us and destroying our existence forever, our loving, gracious and merciful Father sent Jesus to bear our punishment and die for our sake and declare justice over us.
Isaiah 53:6 says,
“The Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him,”
Hebrews 9:26 says,
“He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
Hebrews 2:17 says that Christ made “propitiation for the sins of the people” and 1 John 4:10 says “in this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Brothers & sisters, we rejoice in the fact that Jesus died for our sins and has reunited our broken hearts with our Heavenly Father once and forever.
And we receive this gift and stand justified when we repent of our sins and put our faith in Christ our saviour.
Therefore friends, if we are failing today to rejoice always in the Lord, it is not because of our circumstances but because of UNBELIEF in our heart.
Unbelief is the root cause of all our habitual sins, troubles and lack of joy. We are failing to believe that God’s grace, mercy and love expressed through the sacrifice of his Son is enough.
In Isaiah 45:22 the Lord says,
“Look to me and be saved”Isaiah 53:6
Instead of looking at the Son, Jesus, we are all the time looking at ourselves and our circumstances, we are trying to make our life look better on our strength and ability so that we can someday arrive at the destination we have planned where we will find fulfilment and our joy will be complete.
We work hard, put in extra hours in office, slog and break our bones.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that its wrong to work hard. In fact, God’s word clearly says that we should and that work is a gift. But our attitude is what matters.
Thinking that our efforts is what will sustain us and looking for joy apart from Christ is what is harmful.
We do good works, sometimes beyond our capacities and hope & expect that God will return the favour someday in hundredfold and then we will be happy.
Instead, what we ought to be doing is looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our Faith, trust in him and not in our strength and ability to make this imperfect life on earth perfect.
In Christ, we are totally 100% perfect for heaven, and that is what should make us rejoice always.
Brothers & sisters, as long as we nurture UNBELIEF in our hearts with regards to struggles, trials & temptations we go through in life, we will never be able to truly Rejoice always.
Allow your heart to be filled with that Joy.
3. The last and the final word I want to leave with you is REST.
Now, that we have the right PERSPECTIVE and BELIEF, I want us to think of the word REST.
Rest, not just as a state of mind, where we are resting in God’s sovereignty over our lives, his provision of abundant and sufficient grace for us to live joyfully in his presence. But I want to talk about REST which is also a command from the Lord – The Sabbath Rest.
Sabbath rest is not just a suggestion from God, its a Holy command from Him.
It is as important as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and soul”, It is one of the 10 commandments God gave to Moses, Exodus 20:8-11 God said
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
To obey the Sabbath literally means to cease from all our human efforts and to look to God in prayer and devotion. As I understand the Sabbath, I’ve come to believe that Sabbath rest is the providence from God, not just for the sake of physical rest, but also to help us realign our perspectives and refocus our belief on Him.
When we take rest from our human efforts we are reaffirming the fact that in God we trust, as our ultimate source of provision, peace and joy.
If you are struggling to Rejoice at the moment, I want to ask when was the last time you rested in God from all your strivings and efforts and hard work.
I know it is difficult and there are many excuses we can think of, our work responsibilities, our family commitments, etc.
But if working on our perspectives and dealing with our unbelief is important for us so that we can Rejoice always, we will have to give importance to the Sabbath rest, for some of you, it might require you to take drastic steps to say NO to extra work, maybe close yourself up in a room, maybe disconnect the phone for the day, say to NO to entertainment, etc.
A Restful heart will always be a joy-full heart.
Even in our busy schedules if we can find ways to soak ourself in scripture, devote ourself in prayer, sing songs of hope and thanksgiving, remembering the Gospel, looking at Jesus, resting in Him, then, brothers and sisters, the joy of the Lord will surely fill our hearts and keep us going.
We can become just like a small child who runs along the riverside with a stick in his hand and laughter in his mouth.
Though there is so much more I want to say but time is limited, I hope I have stirred something in your heart this morning and given you enough reasons to Rejoice always.
Please do remember the three words .. PERSPECTIVE, BELIEVE & REST.