Sometimes mashups (mixing together of 2 ideas that normally don’t fit) can lead to important insights. The other day, I was reading one of my favorite passages, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, which says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NIV). At the same time, I was thinking about a quote from Danny Silk’s book “Keep Your Love On.” In it, he was discussing how to maintain and build relationships without being controlling in those relationships.
Then the light came on for me. What if this short passage from 1 Thessalonians wasn’t written because God likes it when we acknowledge his greatness? What if the real purpose of this passage is to give us the secret of establishing and maintaining an intimate walk with God?!
In John 15, Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. And he charges us to abide in him, for he will abide in us. Then he reminds us that apart from him (not being connected) we can do nothing, yet if we do abide in him, not only will we bear good fruit, but in such a state, we can ask for anything, and he will do it, so that the Father is glorified.
I don’t know about you, but my greatest challenge in abiding is distraction, and one of my greatest challenges in relationship with God is managing my heart. These three exhortations given to us by the Apostle Paul seem to me to be like three powerful tools for staying connected to God and growing deeper in love with God.
Consider this: what better way to appreciate someone and to stir our heart towards deeper love than to be thankful for them and for all they give us? So our first power tool is thankfulness. Yet even practicing thankfulness can become drudgery if we see it as a chore rather than letting it bear the fruit it was meant to bear: joyfulness! Joy springs from gratitude. And it is through both thankfulness and joy that it becomes possible to be in continual awareness and fellowship with God. This is what I consider to be praying continually, and what it means to abide in Jesus.
Simple, yet powerful. Thankfulness. Rejoicing. Awareness of God. Apply these three tools to your life, and see if you don’t find that your faith grows by leaps and bounds — and that the love, joy, and kindness — along with power — that come with Christlikeness don’t characterize your life.