Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”1

Over the last several months I have been praying for a number of my friends who are either battling life-threatening illnesses themselves or have close family members who are undergoing great suffering. It is often in times of such trial that we actively seek spiritual wisdom and direction that can hopefully help us to rely more upon God and rest in his immeasurable grace and comfort. From a Christian perspective, suffering can often be a mysterious experience. As much as we dislike it and truly hate to see our loved ones go through it, suffering also appears to be a severe mercy because for so many of us it uniquely causes us to reach out for and cling to God.

Life Verses

As people of faith who love God’s Word, we often gravitate toward biblical passages that can serve to give our lives spiritual guidance and discipline. The Pauline passage cited above from the First Thessalonians epistle is an amazingly simple threefold command that we can shape our inner lives around. The apostle Paul reveals that it is categorically God’s will that we incorporate into our lives the virtues and spiritual disciplines of joyfulness, prayerfulness, and thankfulness. And while these spiritual states of mind are necessary in everyday life, they become absolutely vital anchors during times of trial.

Let me discuss each of these three spiritual attitudes and practices that the apostle Paul mentions.

God’s Will #1: Be Joyful

In a spiritual context there can be a profound difference between being joyful and being happy. Happiness is often dependent upon circumstances. But Christians can be joyful in their forgiven position in Christ even though their present circumstances have left them rather unhappy. Life’s circumstances can change drastically from being up to being down, but one’s relationship with Christ remains steady because of what Jesus Christ has permanently accomplished on the believer’s behalf. It was said of the early Christians that they could be joyful during persecution, and amazingly even during martyrdom.

God’s Will #2: Be Prayerful

The apostle Paul exhorts believers to “pray continually.” This doesn’t mean spending 24/7 on one’s knees, though praying a lot and praying on one’s knees is always a good thing. To pray continually undoubtedly means developing an ongoing attitude and awareness of prayer. Prayer should become as natural as breathing. Thus, the Christian’s entire life is to be lived with the conscious awareness of God being present in one’s life and, in turn, God’s people communing with their Lord. In other words, prayer should punctuate the believer’s entire life. This prayerful approach offers proper perspective in life and allows one to balance the temporal with the eternal and thus, to justify joy even in times of trial.

God’s Will #3: Be Thankful

Like joy and prayer, thankfulness to God is a foundation of the Christian life. God the Father’s provision for his children in and through the work of the Son and the Spirit runs through this mortal life and beyond. What is amazing is that many psychological studies now indicate that authentic happiness in life is deeply influenced by one’s ability to express gratefulness.1 The Christian can always be thankful for the Lord’s sovereign promise that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”2

God’s threefold will for one’s life of being joyful, prayerful, and thankful can serve to transform the entire life of the believer. And during times of great pain and suffering the apostle Paul gives us this precious statement:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”3

Now that may be the ultimate life verse for all of God’s people.

Reflections: Your Turn
Do you have a life verse from Scripture? Do you agree that suffering is a severe mercy? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources
God Makes You Glad: Positive Christian Attitude Linked to Happiness” by James C. Patterson II (article)

Endnotes
1. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18.
2. Romans 8:28.
3. Romans 8:38–39.

Subjects: Christian Life

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.



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