Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 32 - December 2009 / January 2010 > Pastor's Piece - Be Joyful, Pray and Give Thanks

Be Joyful, Pray and Give Thanks

Pastor's Piece

by Dr Barry Wright

Pastor's Piece - Be Joyful, Pray and Give Thanks

In his letter to the early Church in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul endeavours to give this congregation, who are young in the faith, some sound, lasting advice. He tells them in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 (NIV) to 'Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.'

It would seem that with these words Paul is outlining for the believers in the province of Macedonia three characteristics of a genuine church.

First, he is saying that it should be a happy church. There should be an atmosphere of joy that makes its members feel that they are bathed in the sunshine of God's love. He was trying to show these early members of the Church that Christianity is an exhilarating and not a depressing sphere of life (Barclay, 1975: 207).

Paul placed value on the ability to be happy. Whether it resulted from their present position or anticipation of their future happiness, he believed the Christian has abundant reason for rejoicing. His knows his sins are forgiven, his conscience is free, and peace fills his soul (Nichol, 1957: 255).

Secondly, he says that a genuine church should be a praying church. 

As suggested by William Barclay, the well-known New Testament scholar, our prayers may be more effective if we remember that 'they pray best together who also pray alone' (Barclay, 1975: 207). There should be a constant spirit of prayer filling the Christian's life, and that continuous connection with heaven should never be broken (Nichol: 1957: 255). Prayer brings Jesus to our side, and gives new strength and fresh grace to those who are perplexed and weary. In a world filled with spiritual and moral corruption we need more than ever to be surrounded by the atmosphere of heaven.

While Paul laboured night and day, he did not let his many activities crowd out his prayers and, as such, he was able to maintain that active connection with God (Ibid).

Men and women often cease to pray because sometimes God seems so far away. This can then lead to our prayers becoming monotonous and superficial. When 'the world has been too much with us' we can lose the sensitivity for the presence of God. Like the ancient mariner in William Coleridge's poem:

'I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gushed,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust'

When this happens it is not long before our hearts are full of doubt and we forsake the foundations of the Christian faith, and soon we have no one to whom we can pray (Pease, 1969: 323).

Paul makes it clear that the connection with heaven must never be broken.

Thirdly, the Apostle says that a genuine church is a thankful church.

There is always something for which we need to give thanks even on the darkest day. William Barclay suggests that if we face the sun the shadows will fall behind us but if we turn our backs on the sun all the shadows will be in front (Barclay, 1975: 207).

We are now told that a thankful heart will produce positive emotions and in turn, produce healthful chemical by-products that are recognised in medical circles today, as life giving.

Even when Paul was in prison, he radiated a thankful spirit because he knew that God would always give him the strength to cope. From his prison cell his words found in Philippians 4: 13 ring out across the ages where he says: 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.'

As a prisoner under house arrest and then in a Roman cell, he had lost his reputation, his freedom, and his health. Throughout his ministry he had been stoned, beaten and walked many miles without food. He had experienced shipwreck and was often near death. Yet in the face of all these obstacles, his faith was still strong and it seemed to grow stronger through those tough periods of his life. It is important to note from Paul's experiences that God's power is shown to be more than adequate to deal with all the tragedies that life can bring to us (Finley, 2003: 372).

We always need to remember that when we are strengthened by God's spirit, we can maintain a thankful heart even in the most difficult of times.

Let us never forget Paul's admonition to these early believers to 'Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.'



Barclay, W.   (1975)   The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and the Thessalonians - The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press

Finley, M.   (2003)   Solid Ground.  Warburton, Victoria: Signs Publishing Company.

Nichol, F. D. (Ed)   (1957)   The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol 7. Washington DC: Review & Herald Publishing Association

Pease, N.   (1969)   Think on these Things. Washington DC: Review & Herald Publishing Association.

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 32 - December 2009 / January 2010 > Pastor's Piece - Be Joyful, Pray and Give Thanks