Be joyful always
Is it possible to live one’s daily life the way Paul encouraged the church to live in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (see title)? Certainly not
without God’s help. Speaking from experience, it is human nature to complain, blame and worry during times of uncertainty and
hardships in our lives.
Trials and disappointments are a part of life. So how do we as followers of Jesus react to hardship? Can hardship bring opportunities
and breakthrough into a better future?
Some of you may currently be experiencing financial hardship, struggling with temptations, grieving a loss or even enduring some
persecution for standing up for your faith. Recently, I have talked to many people worrying about their future and their children’s future.
They are worried about the uncertainties of world events and America’s future—the economy, the approaching fiscal cliff, declining
morality in our society, weak leadership. Since the elections, many people I talk with are distraught because their candidate(s) did not
get elected, and they have given up hope for America.
In Matthew 6:33-34, Jesus gives us these guidelines when we are inclined to worry about our present needs or our future: “But seek
first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for
tomorrow will worry about itself.”
Paul said in Acts 14:22 while encouraging the disciples in the early church, “We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom.”
This was after he was just stoned and left for dead a few days prior (see Acts 14:19). What does it mean that we “enter the Kingdom
through hardship”? A few thoughts:
1). James 1:2 tells us to “Consider it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith develops
perseverance.” Perseverance leads to maturity (vs 4). Maturing in our faith is surrendering more of our life to Christ to become more like Him,
thereby building His Kingdom rule into our lives.
2). “Jesus endured the suffering on the cross for the joy that awaited him—the right to sit at the right hand of the throne of God.” This gives
us encouragement to overcome temptation without sinning and hardship with joy in order to inherit the promises of the Kingdom, both in
eternity, and all the promises of God stated in scripture for this side of eternity. We endure hardship as discipline from a loving Father wanting
to produce a “harvest of righteousness and peace” in us, his children. See Hebrews 12:1-12.
3). According to Hebrews 12:26-29, the troubles on this earth are “for the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that
what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken let us be thankful, and so worship
God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’”
If we have built our lives on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom (His rule in our lives), then we cannot be shaken regardless
of what happens to: us personally, in our families, at our jobs, with our finances, in our ministry or with our nation. Building our lives on the
• A relationship with Jesus Christ, then putting God’s word into practice by right and holy living
• Sharing the gospel with others, loving others like yourself, resisting evil
• Fully trusting the Lord in “everything”. Setting our hearts and minds on heavenly things.
If we are being shaken by the worries of this world, let it be a wake-up call to surrender ourselves more fully to living for King Jesus.
God is a consuming fire! He will shake everything that hinders wholehearted worship, so that all that remains is the rock that will never
be shaken – Christ and His Kingdom, our “solid foundation” (see Luke 6:46-49). When we look at the early church and today’s persecuted
church (China, India, the Muslim world) we see tremendous increase in the Kingdom despite tremendous adversity. In contrast, we see
the church declining in the West as we live in relative comfort. That should make us wonder?
As we seek God for his Kingdom to advance (revival) in our families, our church, our neighborhoods and our nation, we can expect
hardship to increase! Scripture and church history reveals that hardship is a doorway to Kingdom breakthrough. As we anticipate times
of uncertainty and hardship to continue, it will be important to cultivate an unshakable trust in the Lord to not only persevere through what
is coming, but also to prosper. We cultivate trust in the Lord by learning to know Him and His voice better. To know someone, you need to
spend time with him – daily reading and meditating on the word of God and continuously communicating with him in prayer learning to
hear his voice. As we draw near to him, he draws near to us. If we seek him, we will find him in the midst of anything we are going through.
Then being joyful always, continuous prayer and giving thanks in all things will become second nature to us while at the same time
being a powerful testimony to unbelievers.
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with
confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit”.
Romans 15:13 NLT