"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

When Paul wrote those encouragements to the Christians at Thessalonica, the situation in that Christian community was not wonderful with a rosy physical outlook. Though Paul, as he often did, opened his letter with words of encouragement and appreciation, it is obvious in chapter 2 that some in the Christian community attacked Paul’s original motives for planting the church there. In chapter 3 Paul even explained why he sent Timothy back to them when his company had to leave hastily (Acts 17:1-10). In chapter 4 Paul warned them against sexual immorality and challenged them to continue growth in love. He also urged them not to grieve as godless people grieved. There actually were some Christians who thought death prevented a Christian from receiving God’s blessings in Christ. In chapter 5 there was serious confusion about the end of time, about proper attitudes toward leaders, and about treatment of Christians who made mistakes.

2 Thessalonians revealed the situation continued to be bad. There was suffering (1:5) with the encouragement to leave retribution in God’s hands. There was continuing confusion about Jesus’ return (2:1-5), Christians deliberately living ungodly lives (3:6-9), Christians refusing to provide for themselves (3:10-15), and gossips among them (the same reference).

To these Christians in these circumstances, Paul encouraged rejoicing. To me, that suggests two insights into Christian rejoicing. (1) Our rejoicing results from being in Christ, (2) not from wonderful physical things happening in our lives.

Three weeks ago a couple asked me why I was so happy. My first internal reaction was that I was not aware of being happy—I was just being me. After time to reflect, I wondered, “Why shouldn’t I be happy?” I have a wonderful wife who loves me. I have children who care about me. I have an extended family who is supportive. I have more caring friends than I deserve. I am part of a congregation that tirelessly encourages me. I have a spiritual leadership who provides me opportunity. I have an understanding God who forgives me. I have a Savior who strengthens me. I likely know as much about my future as anyone knows. Would I be happier if I did not have and enjoy that?

Would that every Christian (man; woman; teen) would say seriously, “My desire is for you to be a better person because you know me.” Husbands would be better husbands; wives would be better wives; children would be better children; friends would be better friends; neighbors would be better neighbors; communities would be better communities; Christians would be better Christians; congregations would be better congregations.

The results? God would be glorified. Christ would be served. We would grow.

Be happy in Christ! May people be encouraged because they know you!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 9 November 2006

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