Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Habit of Worship

Part 9 of A New Hope

Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22


All of us have good and bad habits.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, the apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians that they must develop the habit of worship.

This Is the Will of God

Verse 18 ends with the statement “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What is the will of God for us? “This” includes not only the exhortation [1] to “give thanks,” but also the exhortations to “rejoice” and “pray.”

Paul not only tells us what we should do, but also how often we should do it. How often are we to rejoice? “Always.” How often are we to pray? “Without ceasing.” How often are we to give thanks? “In all circumstances.” Rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks are to be habits in our lives.

Obviously it’s impossible to always being doing these things. You can’t pray while you’re sleeping! The point is that we are to develop the habit of worship.

Rejoice Always

When is it most difficult to rejoice? When life is difficult. The Thessalonians were facing adversity (“these afflictions,” 3:3). How can we rejoice when life is difficult? Paul writes in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” We can always rejoice “in the Lord”—in who he is and what he has done, is doing, and will do.

“This is not a sugar-coated call for putting on a happy face in the midst of difficulties.” [2] “We aren’t called to bury our feelings.” [3] Paul never told the Thessalonians not to grieve (see 4:13; cf. Rom. 12:15; 1 Peter 1:6). The author of Psalm 42 admitted to feeling “cast down” (i.e., depressed). He writes, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5-6). What can we do if our lives are difficult? “Rejoice in hope” (Rom. 12:12).

Pray Without Ceasing

In order to develop the habit of prayer, we must believe three things. First, we must believe that prayer really works. If God loves us, he would not tell us to do something that would be a waste of time. 

Second, we must believe that when we pray, we are communicating with a loving Father. We know he loves us because he “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). If an imperfect father “know[s] how to give good gifts to [his] children, how much more will [our] heavenly Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:11).

Third, we must believe that we need God. It’s in the good times that we most neglect prayer. We might think we’re doing fine on our own without God. Prayer demonstrates our dependence on our heavenly Father.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

Should we give thanks for all circumstances? We should be thankful in all circumstances, knowing that God can do something good in every circumstance (see Rom. 8:28). The ultimate example of this is the cross.

Developing the Habit of Worship

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Developing the habit of worship usually doesn’t happen overnight.

How can we develop the habit of worship? We must learn to focus on God and his salvation. What are some things you can do to make sure you think about God and his salvation every day?


[1] To “exhort” means to urge someone to do something.
[2] Gordon D. Fee, The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians, 214-215.
[3] Gary S. Shogren, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 224.

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