“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (Thessalonians 5:16)
It is God’s will for us to pray, be joyful and give thanks. Our prayer must be never ceasing, our thanksgiving is in every circumstance, and our joy is frequently expressed. When Paul was in chains, he proclaimed to the believers to rejoice always. Though he himself was experiencing hardship, he was able to encourage others to great joy. He was truly living what he believed and experienced victories over the many difficulties he encountered. His life was a living testimony to others then.
Let’s look at Paul’s life in detail. He was thrown in prison and still promoted joy; when danger inundated him, he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8) This scholar of Gamaliel, leader of the Jewish Congress, most rigorous trained apprentice of the Pharisees, actually declared himself as a ‘lifelong slave of Christ.” During the Roman Empire, slaves are not able to return to freedom. Obedience was the only option. There was no chance for rebellion. The Roman Empire belittled the slaves. However Paul was willing to use this term to describe himself.
Paul was a man of joy, but not completely without sorrow. Though he had great sorrow, he was one to indulge in God’s joy. He was joyful in prison, in persecution or betrayal. When others rejected him, there was no certainly in the future or his prayers were unanswered, he was still full of joy.
In Romans 15, he described his wishes: “But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this contribution, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.” (Romans 15: 22-28) He wrote the book of Romans for them and summoned them “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” (Romans 15:30)
This is the only reference in the Bible where the Holy Spirit and its love were mentioned together.
The fruit of the spirit is love. It is how God’s love is funneled through to our heart. Paul urged his brothers and sisters, “by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed.” (Romans 15:30) Although he didn’t make it out of Rome by praying for peace, he was a joyful disciple despite the unanswered prayers and roadblocks in his ministry. This is indeed the true joy that should be manifested in every believers’ life.
[Article translated by Jennifer Shih]