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We Are Called to Be Joyful, Thankful, & Prayerful in all Circumstances


Sky Jones - Guest Preacher

Opening Remarks:

  • I am joyful to have the opportunity to be up here today.

  • I am thankful for this chance to share

  • I have prayed a LOT about being up here today.

When we started having the conversation about me coming up here to speak, I was humbled, flattered, and terrified to do this. Normally I don’t have much trouble speaking to a group of people, but this seemed very different. It seemed as though I was out of place, and I am now standing in a place I never imagined that I’d be, speaking to you all today. This is a little different than speaking to a Council, a Commission, or a Judge and Jury. When I am in THOSE situations I feel confident in what I am speaking about, that I can convey the message that I want to convey, and that God is with me, as though he is standing right next to me, encouraging me to speak from my heart, like a coach, or cheerleader. In this situation, it seems like the pressure is a little higher. Although I know God is with me right now, I also feel like He is FILLING this church, not just beside me, but no matter where I look, or to whom I am speaking, he’s saying, “Well, what have you got to say?” and/or “Don’t mess up…” It has taken me a considerable amount of time to convince myself THAT is not the case, and part of this realization came from studying the scripture that we are looking at today, and more specifically, verses 16-18: “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Now, these three things are not always easy to do. When the Thessalonians received this message from Paul, they were going through a pretty tough time. They were being persecuted, their faith and patience was being tested, and I can only imagine that at the time, they had opportunities to think that perhaps God wasn’t right next to them. Paul wrote to remind them that God was right next to them, like a coach or cheerleader, and to encourage them to be joyful, prayerful, and thankful.


Those themes for today, joyfulness, prayerfulness, thankfulness, are mixed up and woven throughout these words today, but that is certainly by design! Joy leads to prayer, that leads to gratitude which leads to prayer and joy… Instead of this message having three distinct parts, they’ve been placed into a blender and turned into a smoothie.

These are the three things that I’d like to talk about today, standing here with my coach right next to me.

I was initially scheduled to be up here last Sunday. As I prepared I had a meeting scheduled with Daniel to go over my notes. Half an hour before we were to meet, I got a call that my daughter Endee was on her way to the emergency room with difficulty breathing. I dropped everything I was doing and headed straight to the hospital. I was VERY prayerful at that time. One of the prayers I uttered was to not get in a wreck as I drove through town (breaking the speed limit). I was not joyful, and I was not thankful.  I got to the ER before Endee and went in and let the staff know the situation, and that Endee was on her way. I was still praying. At that time, nobody was wheeling a gurney out to the waiting room, there were no oxygen bottles flying around, and all the alarms and sirens inside the building were not going off. My initial thought was “WHY ARENT YOU DOING SOMETHING?!” I was no longer prayerful, or thankful, or joyful. What could they have done? That negative thought soon passed. Somehow, through the grace of God, I was overcome with the thought that perhaps they WERE doing something, I just couldn’t see it through the tiny window I was standing in front of. I was still a mess, but as our dear friend pulled up to the doors with Endee, I was thankful that she made it, that Endee was there, that we HAD a hospital to go to. The prayers resumed as we were ushered back to a room, and an entire team of doctors and nurses went to work. I was overjoyed when she started to improve almost immediately.  Later, I reflected on how I felt and it has reshaped what I’m talking about today.

My “Life Application Bible” of the New International Version says about the verse on thankfulness “Paul wasn’t teaching that we should thank God for everything that happens to us, but IN everything. Evil does not come from God, so we shouldn’t thank Him for it. But when evil strikes we can still be thankful for God’s presence and for the good that he will accomplish through the distress.”  I am not thankful for RSV, for a sickness that scared me to death, but I am thankful that God was with her.  

It also says “Our joy, prayers, and thankfulness should not fluctuate with our circumstances or feelings. Obeying these three commands… be joyful, pray continuously, and give thanks… often goes against our natural inclinations. When we make a conscious decision to do what God says, however, we will begin to see people in a new perspective. When we do God’s will, we will find it easier to be joyful and thankful. 

When it comes to prayer, we cannot spend all our time on our knees with our heads bowed, but it is possible to always have a prayerful attitude. This attitude is built upon acknowledging our dependence on God, realizing his presence within us, and determining to follow his lead. Then we will find it natural to pray frequent, spontaneous, short prayers.  One group of people who are often continually prayerful are fishing guides… Having been one myself, I can say that there were days when I was praying, hard, despite the tough conditions (sunny day, windy conditions, fly fisherman who could barely cast a fly outside of the boat), that a fish would bite. Every cast brought a series of prayers… please don’t hook me, please don’t let them hook themselves, please let a fish be desperate enough to eat the fly that I chose… PLEASE!

And when it happened, I was more joyful than even my clients, and thankful that, at least on that day, it looked like I knew what I was doing.

Those prayers were short and sweet, but here is another example that might be a little more applicable: “Lord, I am grumpy this morning because I stayed up late and now I am in a hurry. Please help me not to be short with Doc when I ask him to get his shoes on and instead he comes back, shoeless, and asks me to play football.”

When it comes to realizing his presence within us, and around us, and beside us, sometimes this slaps me in the face. I’ll be going along, living life as normal, and perhaps not being continually prayerful, not particularly joyful, and void of any direct thoughts about what I am thankful for, and then it’ll hit me. A beautiful Montana sunset, a willow banked stream full of rising trout, or the laugh of a child who no longer has a respiratory infection. It’s as though an alarm clock from God goes off saying “Remember? Remember me? Remember how beautiful I’ve made things?”

A friend of mine made a great point yesterday while I was mentioning the topic of what I was trying to talk about today. She said that being joyful, prayerful, and thankful will draw people in… Those three things bring people together, and when we faced with adversity in life, with work, with relationships, with sickness, and loneliness, isn’t that something that we all need? To be surrounded by people that love us and support us? That can help coach us? Or be our cheerleaders?

Personally, I think that the thankfulness element is the most difficult of all.  Someone tells a sincere story at a funeral, and we are joyful for that moment, or that memory. We pray to God if we are willing and able to recognize his presence in our lives. I know a few people that set daily alarms to remind them to check in, and many people pray along with daily routines, before a meal, or at bedtime… so the habit of prayer, and the odds of being continually prayerful, is heightened. But to be thankful when times are tough, is hard to do. Paul’s message it a call to embrace gratitude as a way of life, regardless of our circumstances. When it is hard, there is a challenge. Within the challenge lies a profound opportunity for spiritual growth and transformation. It requires a perspective shift, from seeing difficulties as obstacles, to seeing them as opportunities for that growth. It’s NOT about denying the reality of pain and struggles… it’s about embracing it with an open heart, seeing the beauty in broken things, hope in despair, joy in the midst of sorrow, and the security of having a God that stands with us, looking over us, with his arm around us.

Paul asks the Thessalonians to do a lot of things in his letters, but “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…” are grouped together because of their importance and their relationship to one another. And then, notice how Paul ties it all together, he says, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This is God’s will, this is God’s desire, this is God’s hope for you, to be joyful, prayerful, thankful. While we want God to change our circumstances, God’s will for us is that we would be changed, regardless of the circumstances, that we would be transformed in midst of our circumstances, using it to grow, by being joyful, prayerful, thankful, becoming more like Jesus whatever the circumstances.” 

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