Oceans of ink have been spilled on the subject of “finding God’s will.” Christian seminars and elective Sunday School classes on “Discovering God’s Will” are usually packed out. The theme of discovering God’s will is a hot topic indeed. Although the process of “finding God’s will” has often been described in six-steps (or ten, or twenty) and requires a lot of discussion, there is a simplicity to it all. God’s will is revealed in the Bible. One of the clearest statements of God’s will instructs us to do something that may, at first glance, be surprising.
In 1 Thessalonians, we read a letter that was written by Paul to a group of Christians. These Christians may have been servants, merchants, tradesmen, housewives, bricklayers, or had any variety of roles and occupations. What they had in common was a passion for Christ’s Kingdom and an anticipation of Christ’s return. What they needed was a perspective on the present that helped them understand how to live. In short, they needed to know God’s will for their lives. (Don’t we all?)
Towards the end of the letter, we read this sentence:
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)
There’s that phrase — “this is God’s will.” What, precisely, is God’s will? If we find out what God’s will was for the Thessalonians, maybe we can get a glimpse as to what God’s will is for our own life.
Let’s take it phrase, by phrase, starting with the last and working backwards.
- God’s will is for you to be thankful. The previous phrase says “give thanks in all circumstances.” Hold on. “Give thanks?!” That’s God’s will for my life. You were looking for something a bit bigger, better, or more refined, right? Maybe “be a missionary,” or “glorify God at all times.” Those things are great, but “give thanks?” Really, is that all? It’s pretty plain. God’s will is that you have gratitude in all circumstances, even when you don’t feel that your particular situation merits that much thankfulness. Gratitude is God’s will for you. But there’s more.
- God’s will is for you to pray continually. Christians know this verse well, probably because it is so short and because it is somewhat vexing. Pray continually? That’s kind of hard. I don’t know about you, but when I’m sleeping, I’m sleeping, not praying. What’s this all about? The statement means to be in a constant state of prayer. You may not consciously be asking God for things, or praising God, but you are in a prayer-ready condition. That’s God’s will. Prayer. To live in God’s will is to live in a state where you are praying regularly, frequently, and persistently. If you think about it, this is the only way to live in line with God’s will. If you are constantly communing with God, you are probably making fewer selfish and distracting decisions. You are living in line with God’s will.
- God’s will for you is to rejoice always. The Bible always commands joy. It seems a bit counterintuitive. In our experience, being joyful is something that happens, not something that we can turn on by command. Biblical joy, of course, isn’t just happiness predicated on experience. It’s a reality rooted in our nature as people redeemed by God. God wants us to be joyful. It’s his will. Living in God’s will is a life of joy.
To sum up, then, God’s will is that you be joyful, praying, and thankful. But what about your career move, your life direction, your choice of a marriage partner, your business venture, and your choice of a home? What is God’s will for these specific, important life decisions? It’s never simple. In fact, it’s often pretty tough. However, by clinging to the certainty of what we know to be God’s will, we can give greater clarity to other areas and decisions of life — things that may not be quite as clear.
God’s will is for you to live a life that is totally connected to him — praying, thanking, and rejoicing. We all long to have a life of fulfillment. Here in this passage is the way to accomplish that kind of life.