Smack in the Middle

Pastor Ed Young - Lead Pastor of Fellowship Church
Ed Young

May 21, 2024

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Smack in the Middle

Read

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Think

Up early in the morning, the glow of my phone reads 4:32 am. It's still dark outside, too early to rise, yet I've been lying awake, praying for what feels like hours. My thoughts drift to my sick family members, my friends in crisis, and the uncertain futures of us all. My heart feels as heavy as the quiet darkness surrounding me. I've been trying to follow the Apostle Paul's instruction to "pray continually," but I’m left wondering if this ceaseless praying was really what Paul had in mind.

As I think over this command, I remember the phrases that surround it. Paul didn’t just leave us with the directive to pray without pause, he embedded it between two other guiding principles: “rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances.” I admit, raising my hands in praise during life’s storms often seems like too much to ask. Yet Paul insists that praise should permeate our prayers, suggesting it as the element that transforms our petitions into something powerful. Praise shifts our burdens onto the shoulders of the One capable of carrying them.

Then it clicks—thanksgiving isn’t just a lofty ideal; it's a practical shift of focus. As I mull over these thoughts, I realize that when we focus on God’s faithfulness, our perspective changes. Thanksgiving turns our gaze away from our own problems and toward God, the faithful and true, the One who is ultimately in control. Indeed, Paul reaffirms this in 2 Thessalonians 5:24, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” This promise is a lifeline in the early morning hours.

So, here in the quiet before dawn, I choose to integrate praise into my prayers. Even when the night feels endless, I find strength in knowing I'm not shouldering these burdens alone. Thanksgiving becomes the vehicle through which my worries are transferred from my heart to his hands. And in this exchange, there is peace. As the darkness slowly yields to light, my weary heart finds hope in his promise—he is faithful, and he will fulfill his Word.

Apply

During your prayer time, consciously begin by thanking God for specific aspects of your life – even the difficult situations. List at least three things you are grateful for, no matter how small. This act of thanksgiving shifts your perspective from the weight of your burdens to the sufficiency of God's grace.

Pray

Heavenly Father, I am grateful for moments that bring me closer to you. As I lay my burdens at your feet, help me to remember that you are sovereign, you are in control, and you are capable of all things. Transform my weary heart with the power of your Word and your promises. I am thankful that you hear every word, see every tear, and know every heartache. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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