Daily Thought for: 24th October
1 Thessalonians 5. 16; 2. 19-20
When we read words like this we must remind ourselves of the circumstances the Thessalonians were in. It is clear from the early chapters they faced great persecution and trial. Added to this, chapter 4 shows us that they had experienced the sad loss of fellow believers who were now ‘asleep’. Yet they are now instructed to be in a continuous state of joy at all times. This must be something very distinct from the experiences of natural men. The ungodly often experience pleasure or even happiness, but these feelings are related to events and circumstances and one does not always lead to the other, neither do either necessarily result in joy. Real joy for the believer is based on a present and continuous state coupled to a future prospect.
The word ‘rejoice’ seems to have been a greeting or salutation among early Christians sometimes rendered ‘greeting’ or even ‘farewell’, 2 Cor. 13. 11. This, of course, is in keeping with the Lord’s final words with His own in the upper room where He mentions joy eight times and leaves it, along with peace, as His legacy to them, John 14. 27-28; 15. 11. It is also how He greeted them on the resurrection morning. How beautiful that the ‘man of sorrows’ should bestow upon us joy.
In our verses from chapter 2, Paul, who was in great trials himself, had reminded them that he also had great ‘joy’ especially in them. They were a present joy as he thought of them and a prospect of future joy when he would be reunited with them ‘in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming’. This, of course, is one of the proofs that there will be recognition of each other in glory. When writing to the Philippians, Paul was in great persecution. He was being caused anguish even by other believers and was feeling the effects of separation and loneliness, yet he refers no less that sixteen times to ‘joy’ and ‘rejoicing’. Having set such an example he has the right to instruct them, as well as us, to ‘rejoice evermore’.
No matter our circumstances we can remember a worse past when we were without Christ or hope. Also we can look forward to a better future of His eternal presence filled with glory and joy. Of all people, we should show joy at all times.