Sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Constant Joy, Prayer, Thanksgiving”

Sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Constant Joy, Prayer, Thanksgiving”

Sermon for Sunday, April 16th, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Psa 16:1-11 ESV] 1 A Miktam of David. Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. 4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

New Testament reading:

[1Th 5:12-28 ESV] 12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 25 Brothers, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. 27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Gospel reading:

[Mat 6:25-34 ESV] 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.


[1Th 5:16-22 ESV] 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Constant Joy, Prayer, Thanksgiving (REPEAT)

Case 1: When Things Don’t Go Your Way (REPEAT)

Three weeks ago Saturday we planned a hike on the Appalachian Trail. And it was nice all that week until that day which we planned to hike. Then came the cold and the rain. Drat! Fortunately some of us got out there anyways and enjoyed the hike. I was tempted through the week to despair as the forecast showed the coming weather. But, praise the Lord, that at one point He worked on my mind that rather than being upset with the circumstances, and having the weather ruining OUR PLAN, I came to the conclusion that we should rejoice in the Lord and ask the question “What will the Lord make of this?” What is the Lord doing here?

That question can turn around many a situation. Look to the Lord’s will and not your own. Look at His plan and not your own. Our plans are easily thwarted, but His plans always come to pass.

When things don’t go your way, still rejoice in the Lord. Still pray to Him. Still give him thanks.

Let us say “What will the Lord make of this?” And so find joy even when things don’t go as planned.

Constant Joy, Prayer, Thanksgiving

Case 2: Your Money (REPEAT)
You’ve worked hard and saved up some money. It’s YOUR money, isn’t it? And then a rock hits your windshield. And you’ve got to pay for a new one. And then you receive a letter saying that some error has been made in your taxes and you owe more money. What do you do? Do you get mad, and say “this is my money.” Do you say “It stinks that I have to pay for these things, but I’ll begrudgingly do it”?

Now, here, I suggest, is a better way. Something I’ve learned (at least in part) in recent times. Start here: God has blessed you with health and abilities for you to earn some money. It is a gift from him. It is not YOUR money, it is His. He asks that you steward it well. The issues that have come up must be dealt with. So thank the Lord for the money, pay your bills, and move on. No need to be upset, but rather be thankful. Have joy in the fact that you CAN pay your bills. Have joy in the fact that God has provided for you. Give thanks in all circumstances.

Constant Joy, Prayer, Thanksgiving

Case 3: Drudgery (REPEAT)

I’ve spoken a number of times here about having joy while doing the dishes.

But what if you have a job that is drudgery, day in and day out.

Maybe your job is doing the dishes.

Maybe it is delivering the mail.

Or, maybe, like my grandfather, you’re a bricklayer. Slop, stack, slop, stack. Over and over.

[1Th 5:16-22 ESV] 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The rejoicing, praying, thanksgiving is the will of God for you. This isn’t saying necessarily that the drudgery is God’s will for you, though it may be for a time or it indeed may be for a career.

But even in drudgery you are to be joyful, in prayer, and with thanksgiving.

How can you be joyful in drudgery?

Well, if you’ve done complex work; detailed, deep thinking, or managing people, well … be glad that your dishes, your mail, your bricks, don’t talk back to you and don’t give you trouble. There is work that is worse than drudgery!

In drudgery, let us be glad that the Lord has given us work that we may provide for ourselves, for our family, and to donate to the church and other ministries.

In drudgery, let us find joy in working for the Lord. Treating it as if the Lord himself were your customer, your patron, or your boss.

[Mat 25:34-40 ESV] 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Constant Joy, Prayer, Thanksgiving

Case 4: When Someone Else Succeeds (REPEAT)

Let us also rejoice when someone else succeeds or is blessed.

In school, your friend’s parents take them to Florida on Spring break, while you’re left in the frozen north.

Someone inherits a bunch of money without working for it.

What do you do…

When your neighbor’s grass is greener?

When their family is bigger?

When their wallet is fatter?

What do you do?

It can feel like you’re sitting still on the race track and another car is swiftly passing.

Even still, we are to rejoice in all things.

So rejoice when others are blessed. Do not envy, do not have jealousy, but thank the Lord that He gives graciously to all, bringing the rain on both the just and the unjust.

Ultimately, it does you no harm that another person is blessed. So let us praise God when others are blessed.

Constant Joy, Prayer, Thanksgiving

Case 5: Something Terrible (REPEAT)

Now, what about when something terrible happens? You lose your job, or someone dies? How should we rejoice IN THAT? How could we possibly rejoice in that?

Well, we don’t rejoice in the bad but in the good. Of course you don’t rejoice in the loss of the job or the death of a person. You rejoice in having that provision for a time, and for having that person for a time. That doesn’t mean you’re not also with sorrow. But we rejoice even in that sorrow. Even through that sorrow.

Job, that righteous man of God, said “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed by the name of the Lord.”

Paul says in Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Joy, prayer, thanksgiving. This is Paul’s message here in Thessalonians and also in Philippians.

Let us rejoice even through sorrow. Even through struggles. Even through persecution.

Constant Joy, Prayer, Thanksgiving

Case 6: The Thessalonians (REPEAT)

The Thessalonians are commanded to rejoice despite their persecution!

Paul writes to them, knowing their problems, and says rejoice!

Is he out of touch? Shouldn’t he be more sensitive?

No, indeed he has the answer they need.

To whom shall we go in our greatest trials and troubles, but to Jesus Christ.

Paul says this is the way we should live. All the time.

Even though Paul was beaten, thrown in jail, persecuted from place to place, he yet says “rejoice.” He even says “give thanks.”

Give thanks in all circumstances.

What a great way to live and to be.

Not as that disagreeable person who is always bringing others down, but having joy at all times that you may encourage one another.

Constant Joy, Prayer, Thanksgiving

Case 7: The Good Times (REPEAT)

Rejoice in good times too. Pray in good times too. Give thanks in good times too.

The downtrodden come to the Lord walking into his Church on Sunday mornings, asking for His forgiveness, thanking Him for what He has given, and praying to Him for the blessings of the Lord.

The successful but proud businessman is not seen at the church and spends his Sunday morning driving his sportscar through hills never considering his need for the Lord.

We are called to rejoice always.

Even in the good times.

Perhaps it seems that the good times are few and far in between.

But they are yet there. And when good things happen, we are to praise the Lord, not taking credit ourselves but recognizing his provision all things.

A wedding occurs. A child or grandchild is born. A project is completed. A financial gain comes our way. It is very easy to forget about God in these times.

Let us never treat God as the “last resort” reaching out to Him only in times of greatest need. But let us rejoice always. Pray always. Give thanks always.

Never forgetting the Lord.


All three – joy, prayer, and thanksgiving – are our responses to God.

In our joy, we pray to God.

In our joy we thank God.

In our prayer we thank God.

Let us always rejoice.

When you survey your life, where are you not rejoicing? When are you not praying? Where are you not giving thanks?

When you survey your life, where are you forgetting God’s unfailing goodness? Think on this. Where do you need to remember to rejoice? When you wake up? When you go to sleep? When you’re working? When you’re in traffic. In all circumstances, remember the Lord.

So why do we rejoice? It is easy to say “rejoice.” But we need reasons.

Why do we rejoice?: 1 – Our names are written in heaven.

[Luk 10:19-20 ESV] 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Why do we rejoice?: 2 – The Encouragement of the Gospel

This we’ve learned in 1st Thessalonians. We rejoice because we have hope in Jesus Christ. That because he died and rose again and promises to bring with him both those who have fallen asleep in the Lord and those who are alive at his return, and together be with him always.

Why do we rejoice?: 3 – For This is the Will of God for You.

From out text today. Verse 18 says “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What is the will of Christ Jesus for you? Is his will that you marry a certain person or have a certain lifestyle or career? No, His will is that WHATEVER you do, WHEREVER you are, and WHATEVER happens, you will rejoice always, praying without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances. Why do we rejoice? Because it is the will of God for us. Isn’t that incredible. God wants us to rejoice.

And He is the very cause of our rejoicing, for while struggles come and go, the Lord never leaves us. In this we can always rejoice.

So let us always be in prayer. For Paul says:

[Eph 6:16-18 ESV] 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

And let us have constant thanksgiving. For Paul says:

[Phl 4:6 ESV] 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

There is a hymn that reminds us to have ceaseless praise.

These are the words:

Take My Life and Let It Be, Consecrated Lord to Thee

Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.

This is my prayer for each one of us here. That we have ceaseless joy and give to the Lord ceaseless praise. For the chief of man is to glorify God and to enjoy forever. Let us pray.