The following two passages of Scripture communicate much the same thing; Choose joy. Engage God. Be grateful.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7)
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. (1 Thess 5:16-18)
It is a pretty simple strategy for how to live our lives isn’t it? Choose joy. Engage God. Be grateful.
Both passages begin exhorting us to be joyful. If you are a follower of Christ, you can choose joy because joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace…” (Gal 5:22-23). Joy is the evidence of the Holy Spirit, not the result of our circumstances. Happiness is the result of our circumstances. But joy is a fruit of the Spirit that we either allow to flow or we grieve (Eph 4;30) and quench (1 Thess 5:19) it.
Both passages follow the of exhortation of choosing joy with telling us to pray and bring our requests to God. Prayer is simply two-way communication with God. The phasing in 1 Thess 5:18 is to “pray continually” or “pray without ceasing”. How is that possible? How can we be continually engaged with God? We have to sleep, work, etc., right? Well, remember prayer is simply communication with God. Prayer does not require speaking, closing your eyes, etc. “Pray continually” is a challenge to maintain a constant, open line of communication with God. A prayer can be launched in a thought. Prayer is also listening, waiting, and processing something God is stirring in you.
Finally, both passages exhort us to come to God with a grateful heart. Having a grateful heart is different than just saying “thank you” to someone. Having a grateful heart allows us to see life through a lens of gratitude. 1 Thess 5:18 says we are to “give thanks in every circumstance”. Being grateful is gateway to the provision and protection of God. Choosing to have a grateful heart refocuses us on the things that matter, and takes our focus off the petty, trivial things that rob us of our joy.
Life is far too short, and God is way too good for us to waste one more minute caught up in the negativity, unkindness around us, and being ungrateful. Is that really how you want to spend your next breath? Even Mr. Grumpypants, Negative Nancy, and Debbie Downer, don’t like themselves. Don’t be like them. Choose gratitude, overwhelming, relentless, gratitude.
Don’t over-complicate life, especially during this holiday season. Instead, let me encourage you to embrace a simple strategy for your life; Choose joy. Engage God. Be grateful.