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1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 contains three imperatives that we are commanded to do. We must rejoice, we must pray, and we must give thanks.
These are imperatives, just as the Ten Commandments are imperatives: they are divine commands. Deuteronomy 28:47-48 tells us just how seriously God takes this commandment: Israel went into exile because she ceased to rejoice in God.
They are always to be done. This is not only the force of the Greek grammar, but additional, redundant words are added in order to emphasize the point. We can never allow ourselves to get to the point where we stop doing these things.
No situation in life exempts us from these imperatives: not death, not sickness, not failure in our marriage, not financial loss or loss of reputation and freedom; even though we get down, we must not stay down.
We do these things by an act of our will, whether we feel like it or not. Indeed, many times we do these things in spite of our life circumstances and emotional grief.
We are not being hypocritical or acting "in denial" when we do these things and our hearts are not in them. On the contrary, we are honest, and we confess our coldness and unbelief and beg for God to revive us by his Holy Spirit. But we must not wait until we have some feeling or experience; we must act in faith that God has heard our prayers. So we confess with our mouths, faces and bodies, privately and publicly, that God is good and we are trusting him.
God always comes as we seek him and then act on the faith, not the feeling, that he has heard us. And we rejoice outwardly, looking to God to make what our mouths, faces and bodies proclaim to become the reality of our hearts.
Bob Vincent has been the pastor of the Grace Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Louisiana since 1975. He and his wife Sandy were married in 1968; they have five children and eleven grandchildren to date. ¬†In 1984, Grace established Grace Christian School, K-12. ¬†Bob is a native of South...