God's Will for You Today, Part One Be Happy!
1Thesselonians 5: 16 - Be joyful always
We often lament our seeming inability to discern the will of God for our lives. We can find ourselves facing life changing decisions and seeking the will of God only to hear nothing. Too often, we have decided and then seek "confirmation" as opposed to seeking the will of God before making decisions. The bible is filled with direction on the will of God but nowhere does it seem clearer then in Paul's closing remarks to the Church at Thessalonica (1st Epistle). As the Apostle Paul is signing off his letter, he provides seven instructions which he refers to as, "God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Seven of course is God's number of perfection and each of these imperatives are given their own separate verse, even though they are contained within only two sentences. No matter what circumstance you may face in your life, you can match it up with these seven imperatives to discover the will of God for you in Christ Jesus!
The first imperative is found in verse 16 and it is fairly clear; it is God's will for you to be happy! Depression currently is diagnosed in over 17 million Americans. The prevalence is one in every 18 Americans will face a diagnosis of depression. Four percent of adolescents will face major depression in their teen years. We see stories every day of people bound and shackled by depression for decades of their lives. This is not just in the world as it can and does affect Christians as well. This is not God's will for our lives! Depression can be hard master though and we often can end up as slaves to it but the word of God tells us:
Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:35-36
It is sad that too often we can not walk in the freedom God intended for us. You may reflect on this and not relate to depression but "be joyful always" goes so far beyond that. We can go through life not being depressed but allowing our circumstances to determine our happiness. When our job is going well we are happy. When the kids are behaving and our favorite football team is winning we are happy. When all is right on the mountaintop we can go to church and lift our hands in praise but when things come against us, we become different people. Notice, Paul does not say be joyful on payday. He doesn't say be joyful when you feel like it. When is it God's will for you to be joyful? Always! How can we be joyful in the midst of the storm? We need to hang on to the promises from God:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
We must remember that in "all things", God works for our good. The valley experience may not be pleasant when we are going through it but remember that we are only going through and that God is working in us for our good. Paul not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk. The book of acts tells us a story of Paul and Silas being imprisoned after being stripped, beaten and severely flogged. They were then imprisoned in the inner cell with their feet in stocks. Certainly this is a difficult position to be joyful in! Here is what Acts tells us:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25
Praying and singing hymns to God! This verse also reveals why it is important to be joyful always. The world will be watching our behavior beloved. It is easy to be happy when everything is going well, but to have true peace in a storm; that is what the world will want to see. In this verse, the other prisoners were listening to them; probably in pure shock!
Now, God does not expect that we will be joyful always. He understands that we will react emotionally and He promises to heal the brokenhearted. That does not change what God's will for you is in Christ Jesus. His will is for you to sleep in the storm. The Gospel of Mark relates a story about having God in your storm:
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" Mark 4:35-38
Jesus of course woke up and rebuked the storm but the point should not be lost. We all have Christ in our boat with us. He is alive in us through the Holy Spirit. Yet when the storms of life come against us, we act as if we are alone! We act as if Jesus is not already with us in the boat. We allow our circumstances to dictate our joy instead of allowing our joy to dictate to our circumstances! It is not God's will that there will be no storms in your life. It is His will that you be joyful always though, regardless of your circumstances.
Where do you find yourself today? Do you allow the circumstances of your life to dictate your joy? Are you basing your joy on things of this world? Where do you place your value? Is it in things of this earth? The bible says that is not where we are supposed to assign value:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21