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We are going to introduce today’s message with a creative skit. Not something we have done before … but if we can keep a straight face … should be effective for our topic for today …

We have borrowed this material from a funny YouTube video clip from MadTV that I have already shown to some of you … Bob Newhart plays the role of a psychologist; a distraught woman comes into his office for her initial counseling session … pay close attention to their interaction … If you heard this before, just bear with us …

Seems insensitive and way too simplistic … but there is a lot of truth to this approach …

Going to look at 3 simple commands today that could be used as the positive counterpart to any type of “Stop It” counseling message … sort of like a Put off … Put on approach to whatever your problem area is ..

Are you struggling with anxiety, with fear, with relationship difficulties, with financial hardship, with uncertainty about your health, with tension in your job situation, with pressure over life being too busy, with feelings of hatred or guilt or envy, with a lack of contentment ….

Look at the simple approach that Jesus took so often: “Fear Not!” … “Trust Me”

After we make a commitment to STOP whatever our wrong thought process is … here are 3 positive areas where we need to focus our energy:


We tend to think of these exhortations in the context of our own personal spiritual walk … like the counseling skit … but here they seem to fit within the corporate context of the public worship of the assembly – this is what should characterize us as we gather together

Stott: At first reading one might not think that this section relates to the nature and conduct of public worship. But there are clear indications that this is primarily what Paul has in mind. To begin with, all the verbs are plural, so that they seem to describe our collective and public, rather than individual and private, Christian duties. The prophesying of verse 20 is obviously public. The holy kiss of verse 26 presupposes a meeting (you cannot kiss people at a distance!). And verse 27 envisages the reading of the letter when “all the brothers” are present. It is this context, then, which suggests that the rejoicing, the praying and the thanksgiving of verses 16-18 (like Eph. 5:19-20 and Col. 3:15-17) are also meant to be expressed when the congregation assembles. Dr. Ralph Martin goes further and considers that these short, sharp commands read like the “headings” of a Church service.

Application: Take our corporate attitude and practice this same attitude in our individual piety

We will look at the example and teaching of the life of Christ and of the Apostle Paul in each of these 3 key areas


A. Explaining the Command

On the surface this command seems as absurd and impossible as the “Stop It” counsel we highlighted in our skit. Given all of life’s difficult circumstances and the complexity of what each person faces – How can believers be expected to obey this command? It is that little world “always” that gets us. Put first in the Greek for emphasis – the same for each of the three phrases we are studying. All-inclusive; no exceptions; not dependent on our feelings??

Stott: Paul is issuing not an order to be happy but an invitation to worship (“rejoice in the Lord always”), and to joyful worship at that. Yet many church services are unforgivably gloomy and boring. Although, to be sure, it is always appropriate to worship Almighty God with awe and humility, yet every service should also be a celebration, a joyful rehearsal of what God has done and given through Christ.

5 Principles we must understand about this command to Rejoice Always:

1. Understand that such Joy is supernatural

– it is a gift / fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Rom. 14:17)

MacArthur: biblical joy comes from God, not merely from a superficial emotional response to positive circumstances

Makes believers different; we stand out from the crowd; we have something that others don’t have; we have something that makes us attractive to others

2. Understand that such Joy is not dependent on our circumstances (which constantly change) – but on God’s character (which never changes)

– What do we know to be true about God? Love, goodness, power, providence, wisdom, righteousness, fairness, holiness

– What do we know to be secure about our salvation? Our relationship with this God?

– children of God; co-heirs with Christ

– What do we understand about the spiritual blessings we already possess?

– What do we believe about the future?

3. Understand that such Joy can be present at the same time as human emotions of sorrow and pressure – they are not mutually exclusive

2 Cor. 6:10 “sorrowful yet always rejoicing”

Paul understood that he had been called to a life of suffering for Christ; the Thessalonian believers had already experienced much persecution and pressure … but these experiences (fellowship in suffering) increased their appreciation of their sharing in the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ

It would be sinful for a Christian to be down in the mouth and miserable and gloomy – we are commanded to Rejoice in the Lord – Always

4. Understand the such Joy is associated with spiritual progress, spiritual service and ultimate glory = completed sanctification –

That is why James 1 instructs us to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials – God will use those trials to accomplish something positive in our character

Tied to our confidence and our hope

Stedman: (Neh. 8:10 “The joy of the Lord is your strength”) Joy takes the burden out of service

5. Understand that such Joy is the response of a heart that finds its sufficiency in Jesus Christ alone – nothing else is needed; He is our lot; our portion; we are complete in Him = secret of true contentment – not the next job, the next relationship, the next fun thing you plan to do …

Morris: It is natural for men to rejoice when things go well with them. But it is not this natural joy, dependent on circumstances, that is characteristic of the Christian. It is the joy that comes from being “in Christ.” Thus it is that the New Testament is full of exhortations to joyful living – startlingly so, if we fix our attention on the outward circumstances of the Christian community. Persecution was always threatening and often actual. The believers were usually in straitened circumstances and compelled to work hard for their living. Their lot can rarely have been other than hard. But if we fasten our attention on these things we put our emphasis in the wrong place. They thought more of their Lord than of their difficulties; more of their spiritual riches in Christ than of their poverty on earth; more of the glorious future when their Lord should come again than of their unhappy past.

Ask the Experts … like lifeline on So You Want to be a Millionaire – Call a Friend ..

B. Example and Teaching of Christ – Where should we find Joy??

1. Rejoice in salvation (of yourself and others): Makes salvation precious

a. Salvation of yourself

In your secure salvation (as opposed to rejoicing in your ministry successes – those may vary)

Luke 10:20 “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”

b. Salvation / Rescue / Deliverance of Others — Parable of the Lost Sheep

Luke 15:1-7 “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. . . there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (those Pharisees who think they are already righteous)

Followed by Parable of the Lost Coin and the Lost Son

2. Rejoice in future rewards — When you are persecuted: Makes suffering tolerable

Matthew 5:12 “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Same context in 1 Thess 5 of ministering to those who have hurt you and maligned you

3. Rejoice in Bringing Blessing to Others – Makes Sacrifice worthwhile

Heb. 12:2 “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

4. Key = Having Christ’s Joy Reproduced in His Disciples – Makes Sanctification easy

John 15:11 context of love and obedience; basis of Christ’s joy = His obedience to the Father

John 16:20-24 – believer’s joy related to privilege and promise of answered prayer

John 17:13 “But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves” – embracing the Word of God

C. Example and Teaching of the Apostle Paul

Sharing joy with the Philippians – concept of Rejoicing permeates this epistle:


Philippians 1:18 “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.” Joy that Christ is Proclaimed to Others (regardless of motives involved)

Philippians 2:18 “And you too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”


Need to be constantly reminded of this priority

Philippians 3:1 “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.”


Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”

Fundamental for maintaining Peace in our relationships with our fellow believers

What robs us of our JOY??

– looking at our circumstances instead of looking at Jesus Christ

TRANSITION: Phil. 4:4-8

Romans 12:12 “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,”

If by some small chance you thought you were doing well with this command … to Rejoice Always … Paul follows up with a second imperative that makes us all feel sheepish (embarrassed by consciousness of a fault) – Fortunately we are sheep of the Good Shepherd

Morris: Prayer and rejoicing are closely related, for often the believer finds in prayer the means of removing that which was the barrier to his joy. Prayer is not to be thought of only as the offering of petitions in set words. Prayer is fellowship with God. Prayer is the realization of the presence of our Father. Though it is quite impossible for us always to be uttering the words of prayer it is possible and necessary that we should always be living in the spirit of prayer. . . Prayer was as natural to Paul as breathing.


A. Explaining the Command

How can we possibly obey this command? Don’t we have other responsibilities in life … can’t be face down all day in our prayer closet ..

Hybels: Too Busy Not to Pray – [Quoting from beginning and end of this helpful book]

Prayer is an unnatural activity. From birth we have been learning the rules of self-reliance as we strain and struggle to achieve self-sufficiency. Prayer flies in the face of those deep-seated values. It is an assault on human autonomy, an indictment of independent living. To people in the fast lane, determined to make it on their own, prayer is an embarrassing interruption. . . Prayer is alien to our proud human nature . .

The purpose of prayer is not simply to draw up one’s requests and praises and present them in an acceptable fashion to God. It is not simply to become aware of God’s answers and guidance. . . The purpose of prayer goes deeper than that. Prayer is a way to maintain constant communion with God the Father and God the Son through God the Holy Spirit. It is the means of living out our intimate relationship with the Triune God

Describes his own journey to more effective prayer times …

Common acronym = ACTS– Adoration / Confession / Thanksgiving / Supplication

4 Keys to Praying Without Ceasing:

1. Position = Prostrate in Spirit — Spirit of Dependence and Humility

Not a function of where we are; or our posture

Little decisions, big decisions; we are powerless apart from our union with Christ and His power

2. Persistent Pattern — Unbroken and Consistent

Should not be uneven gaps where we drift away from communion with God; not just informal on-the-run casual exchanges … but concentrated times of prayer

Hiebert: In the Christian life the act of prayer is intermittent but the spirit of prayer should be incessant. It is not in the moving of the lips, but in the elevation of the heart to God, that the essence of prayer consists. But such a spirit of prayer will manifest itself in repeated utterances of prayer to God.

3. Perseverance – Don’t Give Up

Easy to lose focus; drift off into daydreaming; wonder what is the use … does prayer really matter?

4. Power — Confidence that Prayer Works

How often are we praying because we know we are supposed to … rather than because we are convinced that prayer makes a difference; that prayer works; that God responds and answers

James 5:16 “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much”

B. Example and Teaching of Christ

[Matt 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:46; Luke 9:18, 28-29; John 6:15; 17:1-26; Luke 21:37-38; John 8:1-2]

Often went off to a private place in the mountains to pray to His Heavenly Father – for extended periods of time – that was a regular pattern; then there were those special seasons of prayer – such as in preparation for His temptation in the wilderness – 40 day period of spiritual concentration and focus

Look at intensity when he sweated drops of blood in the Garden (Luke 22:41, 44)

1. Teaching us How to Pray

Luke 11:1-13 introduction of the Lord’s Prayer – teaching disciples how to pray; must understand much about the gracious character of God … who delights to give good gifts to His children

2. Teaching us How to Pray Without Ceasing

Luke 18:1 “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,”

Short parable – we are not like the poor widow with no status; and God is nothing like this unjust judge – this is a parable of contrasts – what an incentive to keep on praying to a God to whom we have direct access as our Heavenly Father and one who delights to do what is best for us

C. Example and Teaching of the Apostle Paul

– Solicited prayers for the effectiveness of his ministry; for boldness; etc.

5:25 “Brethren, pray for us”

– Constantly prayed for open doors for the gospel and for the spiritual growth of the believers

Rom. 1:9 “For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request ..”

1 Thess 1:2-3 “making mention of you in our prayers, constantly bearing in mind …”

3:10 “as we night and day keep praying most earnestly …”


Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving”


How is this different from the earlier command to Rejoice always??

Rejoice in the Lord = emphasis on our attitude of inner delight – more of a relationship focus

Thanksgiving to God = emphasis on response to specific acts of kindness and answers to prayer

A. Explaining the Command

4 Insights:

1. Thanksgiving distinguishes believers from pagans

Bruce: Ingratitude is one of the features of pagan depravity in Rom 1:21; the children of God are expected to “abound in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:7; cf. Col. 3:15, 17; 4:2 Eph 5:4, 20).

2. Thanksgiving is the one sacrifice we all can bring to God

Psalm 50:14-15

– Give Thanks — Offer to God a sacrifice of Thanksgiving

– Obey – And pay your vows to the Most High.

– Trust – And call upon Me in the day of trouble;

– God’s Part = I shall rescue you

– Our Response = and you will honor Me.

3. Thanksgiving brings specific focus to each of God’s many Blessings

Remember the distinctions in roles:

Creator vs Creature

Father vs Children

Redeemer vs Redeemed

Ps. 103:2 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits.”

The company that pays your salary is also very interested that you appreciate their total benefits package.

4. Thanksgiving solves a multitude of problems

Cf. Sports: Winning solves all kinds of problems – chemistry issues, discontent over various issues

Examine how things work in your home; when the children have a thankful spirit, it is like oil that causes all of the machinery to work in harmony – no groaning and complaining

B. Example and Teaching of Christ

Matthew 15:36 “and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples in turn, to the multitudes.”

Thanksgiving for provision of our daily needs for sustenance and health

Matthew 26:27 “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you;’” Reflect on significance of Christ giving thanks for the symbol of His broken body and spilled blood in His death poured out to accomplish the redemption of sinners; He was grateful for the opportunity to be a blessing for us; to be our Savior at His expense

John 11:41 “And so they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me.’” Thanksgiving for answered prayer; for communion with the Father

Luke 17:11-19 – Christ heals 10 lepers, but only 1 returns to give thanks for miracle of healing

Connection between giving thanks and glorifying God vs taking Him for granted

C. Example and Teaching of the Apostle Paul

(Ro 1:8; 1 Co 1:4; Eph 1:16; 5:20; Phil 1:3; Col 1:3, 12; 3:17; Phile 4)

Acts 16:25 – look at example of Paul in prison at Philippi

Liked to open his epistles with a word of thanksgiving for the believers – commending them where possible for their spiritual growth

1 Thessalonians 1:2 “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;”

2 Thessalonians 1:3 “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;”

Ephesians 5:4 “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”

Ephesians 5:20 “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;”


“for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”

This phrase applies to all 3 of the simple commands we have studied today –

Are we practicing these 3 commands as a local church when we gather together?

How will my life be different this week if I practice these 3 commands more consistently?

Start with the “Stop It” approach … and then follow through with these positive ways to focus and channel our spiritual energy – recognizing that it is our personal relationship with Christ that is crucial …

– We are rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ

– We are praying to God the Father because we have the Lord as our great High Priest

– We are giving thanks to God continually for His lovingkindness and His mercy and His goodness endures forever