Reading: 1 Thessalonians
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
I've always wondered how it is possible to “be joyful always”. If I'm feeling grumpy or stressed or irritable, I sometimes say to myself, “Right, I'm going to hum a tune about joy.” And I do. “Break forth into joy, O my soul, dee dee, de de dee, de de dee…” Somehow it helps!
I also remind myself of Philippians 4:6 “Don't worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for his answers.” So I do that, and it too certainly makes a big difference.
But what else? What can I do that will reliably turn on the flow of joy in my life?
There's an interesting turn of phrase in the verses above — “Give thanks”. Thanks are something I give — like a gift or an offering. A sacrifice, perhaps.
Sometimes, thankfulness just wells up all by itself in response to the good things that are happening. In my “lesser” moments, when the emotions that well up are rather less constructive, thanks are only given if I make a deliberate choice to do so.
Fortunately, there is always something to give thanks for, and always the capacity to do this. I can never “run out” of thanks. I can give thanks at will, and never exhaust my supply.
I don't think it is coincidence that “Give thanks” sits right beside “Be joyful always” and “Pray continually”. These three habits are not only complementary, but each one makes the other ones possible:
- Giving thanks in all circumstances helps me to be joyful always.
- Giving thanks in all circumstances means that in good times and in bad, I will find myself praying continually.
- Praying continually makes it much easier to give thanks and be joyful, because the goodness of God is always set before me.
- Being joyful makes it natural to give thanks.
I am sure that God appreciates my thanks. I'm also sure that he himself doesn't actually need them. But for me, giving thanks in all circumstances is a key to unlocking joy. When I give thanks, I receive joy!
So here is a paradox. When I give thanks, I am the one that benefits! The more I give thanks, the more I benefit!
Here then is the answer to my question. How can I be joyful always? By giving thanks in all circumstances. Yes! I can do that.
Thank you Father for this truth. I feel like I have just found an essential piece of the jigsaw puzzle of life. Please help me to make thankfulness my constant habit, and may joy always follow in its wake.
See also, And the Antidote to Stress is…
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth… Joshua 1:8a NIV
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NIV
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17 NIV
God's Word is made up of words! The Holy Spirit wields those words as I read and invite him to speak into my life.
But I too can wield those words, by speaking them out. They are a sword in my mouth, to attack and defend. They have power to counter the discouragement and lies of the evil one, and to action things in the spiritual realm. Along with my other armour, they allow me to stand firm.
One thing is certain: For the Word of God to become my sword, its words need to get out of the Book and into my mouth! I need to speak them! Out loud! Which means I have to know them. Or at least know of them and be able to find them.
New Christians need a few key Bible verses from Day 1 to establish their faith and deal with the inevitable attack of the enemy.
Those who receive healing, whether emotional or physical, need to be given scriptures they can speak out in order to keep what they have received. The enemy is all too happy to steal our healing back. Let's fend him off!
We all need Scripture in our mouths as we pray, so that we truly pray in the authority God has given us. Let's not be ineffectual in our prayers.
And whenever we read the Word, speaking it out helps us to action it. In good times and in hard times.
I recall a friend telling me of a dark time in her life, when all her foundations seemed to be falling away. During that time, God gave her the 23rd Psalm. It became her lifeline. She read it over and over. It was in her heart and in her mouth, and in time she passed through that dark valley to once again enjoy the light.
God's word can't stay in the Book. It needs to get into our hearts, and out through our mouths. Only then can it truly change our lives, and those of others.
Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:12-16 NIV
For some great ideas about how to get the best from your time in the Bible, you might like to check out The Bible: Where Do I Start? and What is SOAP? Or perhaps you have some great tips yourself you'd like to share. Why not share them on one of these pages!
Reading: Lamentations 1 – 5
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:19-24 NIV
It is often said that talking to yourself is the first sign of madness! But here in Lamentations, in the midst of difficulty and affliction, Jeremiah is doing just that – talking to himself.
It's as if the part of him that speaks and directs is able somehow to separate itself from the circumstances of his physical body and then, from that removed position, encourage and direct the rest of his being.
Like “time out” in a sports match, Jeremiah gathers himself to recall, to remind, to refocus, and ultimately to rekindle his faith in God's unchanging love. He knows what is true so he speaks it out, to himself.
That voice that God has given me – the one I use to talk to myself – it has power! Just as Jeremiah and the psalmists and numerous other Bible characters talked themselves through doubt and difficulty, so I can keep myself on track by speaking to myself truth and self-encouragement.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death…” So when it comes to speaking to myself, I need to speak life!
I can make declarations based on Scripture, and statements born from faith. I can instruct myself according to what I know from the Bible.
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” It hasn't occurred to me before, but this principle applies just as much to the way I talk to myself as it does to the way I talk to others!
Negative self-talk should never cross my lips. It only gives the devil a foothold to accuse and discourage me. Nor should feelings or circumstances determine how I talk to myself, since they so easily change. Truth, on the other hand, is solid and unchanging. What do I know about God? What does God say about me? These things I can declare.
All this serves to remind me how vital it is that I read my Bible and declare it with my mouth, and keep on declaring it. As I speak and declare to myself the truths in God's Word, my faith will grow, my confidence will rise, and with God's help I will achieve all the plans and purposes that he has for my life.
Lord God, you are so good. Everything you do is perfect. Thank you for your written Word, and for the voice of your ever-present Holy Spirit. I offer to you now my own voice, and pray that just as you purified Isaiah's lips with a coal from your alter, you will purify mine. May they always only ever speak life, both to me and to others.
“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” Psalm 103:1 NIV