Monday, April 08, 2019

Giving Thanks in All Circumstances

Paul's final exhortations to the church in Thessalonica poses yet another difficulty. He said, '... Give thanks in all circumstances....' (1 Thess 5:18). However, all circumstances are not really good to be thankful. So, how can we be thankful irrespective of what befalls us?
Ratna and her husband were thrilled when she came to know that she is going to have a baby. It was a long wait since they got married. They are indeed thankful to God and to their little prayer-group who upheld them in their prayers.
However, the scenario changed in a few weeks time. She had visited her doctor to discuss the recent scan report. To her shock, the doctor told her that the baby to be born may have Down's Syndrome. He added that it is better to abort now before it is too late. However, they decided to keep the baby. Joy now turned into weeping. They both roll in their bed sleepless and imagining the challenges of caring for a baby with Down's Syndrome for the rest of their life.
Ratna and her husband are not alone nor their circumstance unique. You may know many such circumstances where adversities hit without warning. It might have happened to you as well.
Can they be still be thankful to God. However, the Word of God says, 'be thankful in all circumstances.' It is a command, not a suggestion. It also says it is God's will that we remain thankful to him in spite of all that bad happens to us.
To be thankful, we need to trust God's wisdom. He knows everything, he knows everything better than us. His wisdom is faultless. He decides what is good and bad. Whatever adversity that befalls us has happened with his knowledge and purpose. All that we need to do is to accept now what he has given with thankfulness and wait for the good he has planned to unfold in its own time, in his own way.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Praying without Ceasing


‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’ (1 Thess 5:16-18).
During my last medical check-up, the cardiologist put me through a treadmill test. He asked me to keep moving until he stopped the machine. For some reason, I pressed the stop button after a while since I felt uncomfortable. Probably, I was wearing the wrong shoe on that day.
The exhortation to pray without ceasing is to keep praying for something until we receive the signal to stop. This is important because most of us give up before our prayers reach their proper end.
Why do people give up prayers? There could be various reasons. Discouragement is the main reason. We keep praying and there seems to be no result for a long time so we drop praying. This is tied to a person's level of patience because discouragement sets in for different people at different periods. Some, with longer patience may go on for longer periods because they surrender to discouragement slower than others. 
Praying for the wrong thing also bring discouragement. God will answer our prayers according to his will. Prayers for wrong things are not going to be answered. Since such lives are dotted with unanswered prayers, they lose the steam to advance in their prayer-life further. Thus ceasing such prayers are not bad but will do immense good to our spiritual life.
When is the right time to stop? The simple answer is to stop when the prayer is answered. But what about prayers that will never have an immediate answer or could be open-ended. For example, praying for the welfare and peace in my country is an ongoing prayer. It doesn't seem to happen in the near future though I would like to see it happen in my life-time.
Prayers without end in sight are prayers that shape us spiritually. Such prayers draw us regularly to the bossom of the father. Such prayers keep us prayerful. Finding such things to pray helps us to pray without ceasing.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Rejoicing always

At least some part of Paul's final exhortations to the church in Thessalonica is quite challenging; especially the one in 1 Thess 5:16-18. 'Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.' Though challenging, we cannot run away from it, because we are bound by it. It is the will of God for us, or what God demands from us.
Is it possible to 'rejoice always'? There are circumstances in life, actually most of the time, which drives us to sadness and sorrow. Everyone goes through disappointments, sorrow, and sadness even though for brief periods. Though the good Lord may spare us for long and deep valleys of depression, rejoicing always includes those brief periods as well. 
Rejoicing always, in spite of long and short spells of sadness is possible only if we take it as the command of God. It is not a suggestion but imperative on us. We are under order to rejoice! We have no choice other than being joyful in spite of all the adverse circumstances. 
Rejoicing always is a major theme of Paul's life. His life was full of tragic and challenging experiences: hardships of life, imprisonments, ailments, opposition. However, he kept his life in Christ upbeat.
Paul penned the advice 'rejoice, rejoice and again I say rejoice' (Phil 4:4). This often-quoted Bible verse was written in prison as most scholars agree. However, we have much more concrete evidence in the Book of Acts (Acts 16:25-33). When Paul and Silas were shut behind the bars in the city of Philippi they did not spend the night planning a jail-break. But they were praying and singing. What kind of songs were they singing? Luke, the writer of Acts is clear that they were not singing a song for deliverance but they were singing hymns to God. Hymns are songs that adore God. In the midst of their suffering, physical and emotional hurt, humiliation and imprisonment they were not thinking of freedom and justice but of the glory of God. 
For a godly man like Paul, rejoicing always came very naturally. Thus he has the right to write that it is the will of God for us to do the same. But from my experience, I can only say that that is still an art that I am yet to master.

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