It was a dangerous time in the city of Thessalonica when the Apostle Paul and Silas travelled there. They first went to the Jewish Synagogue. Then they went out into the market places. Their reason? To tell others the truth of Jesus Christ who had been killed by crucifixion and then rose up from the dead. Paul and Silas were passionate about the message of who Jesus is, why He came, and how He could radically change a life.
They had only been there for three weeks when a bunch of thugs got together and stirred up a riot against them. It was known they had been staying in the home of someone named Jason. The thugs went there demanding to have Paul and Silas given to them, but Paul and Silas weren’t there. The people who had believed their message of love and hope had hidden them away; then in the night they helped them to escape to safety.
Naturally Paul and Silas were very concerned at the danger the new believers were in for pledging their allegiance to Jesus. Therefore, with great desire to encourage these baby Christians, Paul wrote a letter to them. Today we call the letter I Thessalonians. In chapter 5 and verses 16-18, Paul writes something that is rather strange, given the difficult and dangerous situation in which the believers found themselves. Paul encouraged them with the following words: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Does that piece of advice not sound just a bit flippant to you? I could not understand this for years. I believed it was right, but I could make no sense as to the value of it. I tried to put myself in the shoes of the people of Thessalonica. I told myself that if I were having a great problem in my life, and some well meaning person said to me what Paul said to them, that would not be a great help to me. In fact, it might just irritate me. It’s like that song of some years ago, “Don’t worry; be happy.” How is that advice supposed to help?
Such an irritation would have come to me because I greatly lacked in my understanding. You see, Paul wasn’t being flippant. He was revealing to them an important truth. I’m sure the Holy Spirit within them guided the people into understanding just as He guides and teaches you and me today.
Paul was, in fact, doing something amazing. He was teaching them to address a natural problem with a supernatural solution. How radical! He was encouraging them with the truth that whatever happens to us in our natural world, we have access to supernatural power. We can be overcome with great sadness and discouragement due to natural circumstances in our lives. Paul was telling them that they now have hope like never before. They now have supernatural access to their Heavenly Father who has everything they need to get through anything at all.
That wonderful message is the same today. We can be downtrodden, grief stricken, crushed with feelings of fear and worry, but we need never be defeated. We have a supernatural access to get us through any natural pain. That is indeed God’s will for us because He wants to see us as over comers, capable through His power to be strong in any situation life throws at us.