The Power of Thanks, pt. 2

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


Through the power of God, the impossible becomes possible.


“What is God’s will for my life?”

It’s a question that I have been asked hundreds of times in my two decades as a pastor. “What is God’s will for my life?”  I believe, in most instances, that it is a genuine question. I believe that is a sincere question. The question seems to pop up at various life-stages. It’s time to go to college: what’s God’s will for my life? It’s time to choose a life-partner: What’s God’s will for my life? It’s time to get a job, engage in ministry, move to a new city, go to the mission field: “What’s God’s will for my life?” 

Very often, the person on the other side of my desk is leaning in, their eyes are wide open, and the brow pressed. There is a sense of expectation that, somehow, God will speak to me for them, and give them all the mysteries of life and happiness. Without a shadow of a doubt, God always leads me to the answer. And so, if you are here today wondering the same thing, let me answer the question for all of you. I will admit it is not a complete answer, but it will be a totally correct answer.

This is God’s will for your life:

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.   

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


Possible or Impossible?

In the original language, these three little phrases all come in the form of commands. Rejoice always, it’s a command. Pray without ceasing, it’s an order. Give thanks in all circumstances, it’s a directive. I think that most of us here today like the verbs in the commands, but we do not like the adverbs. If we are honest, most of us are comfortable with the “rejoice, pray, and give thanks” parts, we just don’t like the “always,” “without ceasing,” and “all circumstances” parts. Instead, we’d prefer to rejoice occasionally, pray sporadically, and give thanks intermittently. The verbs seem possible. The adverbs seem impossible.   

In your own strength, these commands are impossible. But with the help of God, they are possible! God does not give commands to confound His children. With His commands comes His companionship in carrying out the command!

Through the power of God, the impossible becomes possible.

  1. Rejoice Always
    • 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says, “Rejoice always.” Let me share with you a little secret. I was always told that John 11:35, which says, “Jesus wept,” was the shortest verse in the Bible. In the English that is true, but not in the Greek. In Greek, this is the shortest verse in the Bible. Just one word.
    • What irony. The shortest verse in English, “Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in Greek, “Rejoice always.” The brevity leads to a linkage, and perhaps causes you to question, “how can I rejoice always if I am weeping? Was Jesus rejoicing while He was weeping? After all, his loved one (Lazarus) had just died.” Hold your question for just a moment.
    • Let me first describe to you what rejoicing is not, and what it is, and then I will return to the question.”
      1. Rejoicing “always” is not permanent happiness. Happiness is based on the things that happen to you. Bad things do happen to good people! Despite what you desire, you will not always be happy!
      2. Rejoicing “always” is not superficial satisfaction. Bad mornings, bad days, bad weeks, and bad years are going to happen. The call of the Christian is not “fake it till you make it.” It’s not putting on a satisfied face even though your world is falling apart.
      3. Rejoicing “always” is not the absence of suffering and pain. Life hurts! And when it hurts, you are not called to elation, ecstasy, exuberance, or exhilaration. Sometimes you are going to be flat out on the floor weeping and wailing because life hurts!
    • So if rejoicing “always” is not permanent happiness, superficial satisfaction, or the absence of suffering and pain, what is it?
      1. It is an inner state of contentedness birthed by a total reliance on the sufficiency of God.
      2. It is a settled internal attitude that God is enough regardless of what you are enduring.
      3. It is a grace gift given to you by God.
      4. It is an internal disposition made possible through the power of God
    • The Book of James says, “Consider it (reckon it, count it, identify it) pure joy, my brethren, when you encounter trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
    • Elsewhere, Paul says, “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
    • How do you get hope out of hurt? By recognizing that strength comes through the struggle as God demonstrates His power in your pain!
    • Let me go back to the question: “Was Jesus rejoicing while He was weeping?” Yes. Yes! YES!!! How do I know? Because I know the rest of the story!
    • John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” But John 11:43 says, “Lazarus, come out. The man who had died came out.” The story begins with weeping but ends with wonder! But don’t miss the journey. Don’t skip over the meat.
    • John 11:41, Jesus turns His eyes toward heaven and says, “Father, I thank you…” Wait a minute! Jesus is rejoicing while Lazarus is still stinking and rotting! There’s the joy! There’s the inner state of contentment. There is the internal disposition. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around that they may believe that you sent me.”
    • “Thank you, Father! You heard my wails…now do a mighty work.” “Lazarus, come out.” Resurrection.
    • You will never understand the Christian faith until you realize that there can be no resurrection if there is no crucifixion. Something has to die before it can be made alive again. But I am rejoicing today in the God who brings life from death through the power of resurrection.
    • Resurrection is what makes the Christian faith distinct! All the great political leaders died and were buried. All the great philosophers died and were buried. All the great military leaders died and were buried. All the educators, humanitarians, leaders, businessmen died and were buried, but Jesus Christ died and rose again!
    • Sometimes your dreams have to die. Sometimes your hopes, plans, aspirations, desires need to die. Rejoice in their death, even when it hurts, because God specializes in making dead things live.
    • You can rejoice always because you have the confidence that the power of God makes impossible things possible.
  2. Pray without Ceasing
    • Verse 17 says, “pray without ceasing.” Pray continuously. Again, this seems impossible, but I believe it seems impossible because we have the wrong picture of prayer.
    • Perhaps this week your whole family gathered around a table to have a Thanksgiving feast. And perhaps someone said, “Let’s stop and pray.” And so everyone quieted down, bowed their heads, closed their eyes, and someone talked to God. Now listen, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, that is beautiful. But it is only part of the picture of prayer.
    • Prayer is not stopping life to talk to God; prayer is living life while talking with God! Prayer is practicing the presence of God. Prayer is cultivated communion and communication with God.
    • The word prayer is comprised of two words: to face in a direction and to call out loudly. Prayer is when you face in the direction of God, and you call out loudly, but let me add, you also listen closely. It is continuously practicing the presence of God.
    • Of course, there are times to stop and withdraw from life and talk with God. There are times to go into your prayer closet. There are times to fast. There are times to get away from the noise and listen carefully. There are times you withdraw from life to pray, but there should never be a time that you withdraw from prayer so that you can live life! Prayer is not to be a part of your life; your life is to be a life of prayer.
    • Pray without ceasing. In everything you do, keep your face turned toward God, keep talking to God, and keep listening to God. 
    • The power of God can make the impossible, possible.
  3. Give thanks in all circumstances
    • How is this possible? In a world where there is pain, suffering, destruction, and devastation, how can we give thanks in all circumstances? Bad things happen! Not everything that happens is good. Listen, not everything is good, but God is always good! Therefore, we must give thanks in all circumstances for the goodness of God.
    • You can give thanks because God is present. Even on the darkest, most difficult, terrible, horrible, rotten day, God is present. So, give thanks. Even in the storm, God is in the boat with you. Even in the darkness, His light is there. God is a very present help in the time of trouble, so give thanks.
    • You can give thanks because God is purposeful. God is “working all things (ALL things) together for the good of them who love Him and are called according to HIS PURPOSE.” He is making a purpose out of your pain. Give thanks!
    • You can give thanks because God is powerful. “Now to Him who is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine, to Him be glory and power and dominion forever and ever.” God is powerful, give thanks!
    • Give thanks in your pain, knowing God has a purpose.
    • Give thanks in your suffering, knowing God is sufficient.
    • Give thanks in your shortage, knowing God is your supply.
    • Give thanks in your hardship, knowing God is your helper.


  1. The impact of the Gospel will be seen in you when you don’t feel joyful, don’t want to pray, and have no reason to give thanks, and yet you rejoice, pray, and give thanks regardless. This is the power of Christ in you.
  2. God molds you through your mess to make your mess into His message. This is the purpose of Christ in you.  
  3. Light is seen most clearly in times of darkness. When days are dark, if you still rejoice, pray, and give thanks, those who do not know Jesus will see Jesus in you. This is the presence of Christ in you.
  4. What is God’s will for your life? “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”


I am sure you are still left with many questions regarding God’s will for your life today. There are simply blanks that I cannot fill in for you. What is next for me? What will become of me? What am I supposed to do? But I am certain of this, it is God’s will for you to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.

I’ve thought about the order of these three commands a great deal today. The order matters. Listen, if you are rejoicing always, it will lead to you praying without ceasing, which will cause you to give thanks in all circumstances. If you have an inner state of contentedness, no matter what is going on around you, you will be lead into a constant conversation with God. When God moves, when you see His power and provision, you will be filled with thanksgiving.

But notice please, pray is at the center. Prayer is the hinge upon which the God-empowered life hangs. Prayer connects you to the power of God. Prayer releases the power of God.

So pray! Oh, how we need praying men. Emmanuel has practical men, and principled men, but oh how we need praying men. Men of prayer. Men tapped into the presence of God and the power of God. Men defined by what they do on their knees. Men who spend more time on their knees then in tree stands, ball games, and in front of the TV.

So pray! Oh, how we need praying women. Emmanuel has invested women, and interested women, but oh how we need interceding women. Women of prayer. Women tapped into the presence of God and the power of God. Women defined by what they do on their knees. Women who spend more time on their knees then in the kitchen, in the classroom, or at their kid’s activities.

In my quiet time today, God laid a verse from Jeremiah 33 on my heart. “Call to me, and I will answer you. Call to me, and I will answer you, and I will show you great and mighty things that you have not known.” Pray. Pray without ceasing. There is a proposition: call to me! There is a promise: I will answer you. There is a provision: I will show you great and mighty things. 

At the risk of offending you, I must share what was laid upon my heart today. In the quiet hours of the morning, I was struck by the thought that the greatest barrier Emmanuel has to seeing a mighty movement of God is that we are more interested in being served then we are at being surrendered. We come to church hoping to reserve our seat instead of running to the altar to surrender. At the close of our services, the seats are filled and few are at the altar because we have gotten all we came to get but unwilling to give all that we have.

The seats are filled, but the altar is nearly empty, and we leave here and live lives that are nearly empty off the power of God. We stand silently when songs of celebration are song, listen passively as the word of God is passionately preached, give timidly when the tithes are taken, and are not interested when the invitation is given. And we wonder: why is my life so empty? The answer is, your life is not empty, it is full of you, and until you empty yourself of all of you, there will be no room for God to do what He wills to do!

  • Some of you are one prayer away from a wayward child coming home
  • Some of you are one prayer away from having your marriage restored
  • Some of you are one prayer away from healing in your body
  • Some of you are one prayer away from having your addiction broken
  • Some of you are one prayer away from seeing your loved one saved
  • Some of you are one prayer away from receiving the miracle you need
  • And maybe, just maybe, we are one prayer away from seeing revival break out at Emmanuel Baptist Church. Maybe, just maybe, we are one prayer away from seeing revival sweep out the doors of our church and into our community. Maybe, just maybe, we are one prayer away from seeing revival pour from our community into the hills of Eastern Kentucky and across the Bluegrass.

Rejoice always. Stop complaining and be content. 

Pray without ceasing. Start calling upon God.

Give thanks in all circumstances. Stay grateful for all God is doing.

For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.


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