Be Thankful

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 — Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (NLT).

Today concludes the 3-part series on God’s will for our lives. If you question His purpose for your life, or you’ve got off track altogether, these three verses in 1 Thessalonians are a great starting point. First, always be joyful. Second, never stop praying. And third, be thankful in all circumstances.

There are two key words I want to point out in the third step. (I’ve italicized them below for your convenience.)

Be thankful in all circumstances.

The word be leaves nothing up for debate. To be thankful is a command, not a suggestion, and you and I determine whether or not we will be thankful. Giving thanks is a choice. Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (NKJV). King David wrote here that he would bless the Lord. He dictated whether he would express gratitude to God, not his circumstances.

The second word I want to point out came as no surprise I’m sure: all. Did you know you can choose to be thankful no matter how awesome or awful the circumstances are surrounding your life? Sure you can. Before you utter a complaint, or develop a woe-is-me mentality, stop and take inventory of the many blessings you have received. Then praise God for them. If you don’t know where to begin, start by thanking Him for another day of life. After all, you just read this devotion, didn’t you?

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Never Stop Praying

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 — Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (NLT).

Knowing God’s will for your life doesn’t have to be difficult. If you feel like you’ve lost your purpose, or you’re confused on what the next step is, God’s word will never lead you astray. The above passage reminds us of three different actions we can take to assure we’re on track. The first is always be joyful, and the second is never stop praying.

Another version says to pray all the time (MSG). This doesn’t mean you have to be some kind of spiritual weirdo, always mumbling to yourself or blurting out things no one else understands. It simply means God is always available to talk; the line is always open. He wants to hear from you, and He usually has something to say as well. Unfortunately, we don’t always pick up the phone and call Him, and He often gets a busy signal when He calls us.

I encourage and challenge you today to never stop praying. Make prayer your first response, not your last resort. He desires to hear your voice, and He longs for you to hear His. The beautiful thing is you can talk to Him anywhere and at any time. You can speak to Him out loud, under your breath, or from your heart. He never turns a deaf ear toward your prayers. Make the call today!

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Always Be Joyful

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 — Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (NLT).

I think at some point every believer struggles with his or her purpose, or what God’s will is specifically. I’ve certainly been there before, and there are still times when I feel disconnected from Him or don’t really understand the season of life I’m in. If you can relate, my hope is for the next three days to be extremely helpful to you.

First, always be joyful. Contrary to what you might think or feel, you can be full of joy at all times. The Apostle Paul wrote the following from prison:

Philippians 4:4 — Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (NIV)

From his prison cell, Paul reminded himself that he still had something, or Someone, to rejoice about. Notice he chose to rejoice in the Lord. He didn’t sing because he was in prison. He wasn’t excited because his chains matched the garment he was wearing. He made up his heart and mind to praise God because He is good even when circumstances are not. You and I must make the same decision.

Perhaps you feel imprisoned or lost today. Maybe a cloud of uncertainty looms overhead. Even so, I encourage and challenge you to find something to rejoice in the Lord about. God has been so good to you. He’s seen you through so much. You have a testimony of His faithfulness and love toward you. Focus your heart and mind on those things, and praise and gratitude will come spilling out!

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Listen and Follow

Matthew 7:24 — “Anyone who listens to My teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock” (NLT).

Many people, Christians included, have a shaky existence. They are very unpredictable, and their demeanor is up, down, and all around. Their levels of joy, peace, and patience are variable and based on circumstances. This should not be for a believer.

Perhaps today you are one of those I just described. You wake up as a different person every day. You’re fragile and on edge. If so, Jesus gave two steps we need to take in order to live our lives on a solid foundation.

First, you must listen to His teaching. The original Greek defines the word listen as to hear God’s voice in such a way that it births faith within. It’s one thing to casually read or hear God’s word, and an entirely different thing to hear, grab ahold of, and feed your faith with it. You need to accept His words as the final authority on everything.

Next, you must follow His teaching in order to be wise. Many people know Scripture and have a general idea of God’s will for their lives, but they still live foolishly. A wise person openly receives what He says and then obeys. You will inevitably have to step out in faith as you listen to His voice, but you can do so confidently knowing your life is built on a safe and secure foundation. Hallelujah!

*My new book, Religiously Incorrect, is available at http://www.amazon.com/author/mikejonker.

No Shame

Romans 10:11 — For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (NIV).

When I was a teenager, and through my college years, our family had a beagle named Bailey. My parents rescued her from somewhere in the Dallas area. I never thought Dad would buy another dog because we had a rough experience with our previous one, but he caved.

One of the beautiful things about Bailey was she was potty-trained when we got her. The only thing we really had to do was teach her where to go when she needed to go—the backyard. My dad showed her the door and led her into the backyard just a few times before she had it down. Bailey was a brilliant dog.

She was also stubborn as a mule; and as she got older, she became increasingly lazy. This added up to her not always going to the bathroom in the backyard. It wasn’t often, but every once in a while she would do her business on the carpet somewhere. And when she did, Bailey would always tell on herself. She couldn’t help it. She’d slump into whatever room we were in, cower at our feet, hang her head, and look up at us with her shame-filled, puppy dog eyes. She would get in trouble and depression would set in for several hours.

I think a lot of people live their lives the same way. You might be one of them. You know the difference between right and wrong, but sometimes you mess up. And when you do, you go into mourning, fearing God is going to throw the proverbial book at you. Nothing could be further from the truth! He has already forgiven you and will never put you to shame. Sure, He wants you to repent and learn from your mistakes, but He doesn’t want you to live in fear of making a mistake or with guilt when you do.

Be encouraged today. God is not waiting for you to mess up; He’s waiting to restore you when you do.

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Misfits Welcome

Consider the Parable of the Great Supper. In Luke 14:15-24, a certain man gave a great dinner and invited many. When everything was prepared, he sent his servant out to inform the invited guests the meal was ready. One by one they gave him reasons as to why they should be excused. The servant returned to his master and reported their excuses, which made him very angry.

The Message Bible says the master then told the servant to go out into the city streets and alleys and collect all of the wretched, homeless, hungry, and misfits he could get his hands on. Once he had done so, there was still room, so the master commanded him to go to the country roads and drag in whomever he could find. One version says to go out and compel them to come in. The word compel in this form means to necessitate, drive to, or constrain by your example.

You and I are the servants being sent out by our Master. There should be such a sense of urgency in our hearts that we are driven to go to the rough parts of town and be an example of God’s love and power to those who have been disregarded. We need to act like the God we serve is more than enough to cleanse what is dirty and make whole what is broken. Because He is.

Believers should be the least-polarizing group of people on the planet. The love of God is not exclusive; it’s all-inclusive. I like how the servant did not question his master, nor did he make excuses. He simply went and compelled because he trusted his master and was confident in what he had to offer. Do not be afraid to go to the loners, oddballs, and cranks. The Lord is with you.

Isaiah 41:10 — “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (NKJV).

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Judge Yourself Worthy

Acts 13:46 — “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles” (NLT).

I have to think many people feel the same way as the Jews being addressed here by Paul and Barnabas. They reject the love of God and are unable to receive from Him because they don’t think very highly of themselves. Many have been sinned against, told they’re no good, or made mistakes.

If you’re one of them, listen to me. You are worthy of God’s best because Jesus made you worthy. It’s not what you think about you that matters most; it’s what He thinks about you. And He thinks so highly of you that He traded His Son’s life for yours, even though He knew your life would turn out the way it has. Nothing you have done, or had done to you, has caught Him by surprise. God’s desire for you is unchanging. If He had it to do all over again, He would still send Jesus to the cross.

He has a great purpose for your life—one you can only achieve by receiving His grace and through a relationship with Him. Refuse to live under the pressure of condemnation. Judge yourself worthy.

You are loved.

You are chosen.

You are His.

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