Sometimes things are vague in Scripture. Sometimes we can read a passage where we aren't sure exactly what Jesus was getting at, or where Paul might confuse us with his repetitive theology. There are Old Testament passages that make us scratch our heads and say, "What???"
But this verse from I Thessalonians is not at all confusing. In the Message it says:
Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.
Pretty clear huh?
It is very interesting that Paul put cheerfulness, prayer and gratitude all in the same verse and concludes that those things are elements of the way that God wants us to live.
These things go together: with gratitude, or thankfulness, and prayer, comes cheerfulness. But what order do they come in? Sometimes they come in this order:
Something happens that makes me happy so I'm cheerful... so I pray and feel gratitude as I thank God.
But what if sometimes it goes in this order: We choose to thank God no matter what happens, we then feel grateful, and because of that we can be cheerful no matter what?
We cannot control those around us. We cannot control what happens to us BUT we can control our response to what happens to us. Here are three great quotes from Victor Frankl that some up this concept.
(In case you don't know who he was, Victor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. He chronicled his experiences as a concentration camp inmate, which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most brutal ones, and thus, a reason to continue living.
Here are three of his most famous quotes:
Our greatest human freedom is that, despite whatever our physical situation is in life, WE ARE ALWAYS FREE TO CHOOSE OUR THOUGHTS!
When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves.
The one thing you can't take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me.
Whatever you are facing today, choose to be grateful. Pray and give thanks to God and it just may be that you arrive at cheerfulness (or the ability to rejoice).
If Victor Frankl could choose his thoughts in a concentration camp prison, we can choose to be grateful today... and it will lead to joy!