STUDY | Spend the week studying 1 Thessalonians 5:12–24. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Many questions have been included in this guide. Read through this lesson to determine which questions will work best to encourage, push, and grow your group.
PRAY | As you prepare, pray for the preaching of God’s Word this coming weekend. Pray also for your time in this week’s study and your group’s openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | I can be joyful, thankful and pray in all circumstances. .
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
Dave was not a mechanic, but he knew that sound wasn’t good. He pulled over to the side of the road and got out to inspect the engine while his wife and kids waited in the car. Smoke billowed up from beneath the hood. His car was towed to the nearest shop, and the news wasn’t good. The cost to repair the engine was $5,000, which was certainly more than he and his wife could afford as missionaries in Germany.
Dave had to make a decision, so he prayed and asked God what to do. As he listened for an answer, 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 came to his mind. Then God said, “Rejoice.”
“Rejoice? But how, Lord?” Dave told his wife what God told him to do. While she was surprised, they both resolved to rejoice and be thankful.
When Dave called his friend to tell him what happened, his friend asked, “Well, what are you going to do?”
“We’re rejoicing,” Dave answered.
“Yes, that’s what God is telling us to do, so we’re doing that.”
His friend was a little confused. “Well, how much will it cost to fix the car?”
Dave told him what the damage was.
“Give me a few minutes, and I’ll call you back,” his friend said. A few minutes later, he called back and said, “I’ve asked around, and I’ve found the money needed to cover the repair. Don’t worry about it.” Dave was overjoyed.1
What does it mean to be thankful in all circumstances like Dave? That’s the question you will be discussing in this series. This week your group will look at 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 and what it looks like to cultivate a joyful, thankful, and prayerful heart.
Q: How do you relate to Dave’s story? How would you have reacted?
Q: Recall a time when you had to be thankful in a difficult circumstance. Share your experience and what you learned from it.
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
BACK TO BASICS
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul gives his readers practical instructions for how to live in light of the Lord’s return. Paul breaks down the Christian life to its basic fundamentals when he commands them to: 1) rejoice always, 2) pray without ceasing, and 3) give thanks in all circumstances. Despite being afflicted, these believers had every reason to be joyful and thankful. Paul didn’t see any circumstance as a barrier to these things.
READ: Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12–24. What stands out to you in this passage?
Q: In what way do Paul’s three commands relate to one another?
FULFILLING GOD’S WILL
Paul connects rejoicing, prayer, and thankfulness to God’s will. The right response to God’s grace is obedience. A believer’s life should be marked by gratitude for all God has done for us through Christ. God wants believers to live in such a way that joy, prayer, and thankfulness are part of everyday life. This is what God desires for each of us.
Q: Think of someone you know whose life is marked by gratitude. How do they express gratitude?
Q: Where do you see joy, prayer, and thankfulness in your daily life? Where is it lacking?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
God calls us to live differently. Rather than carry a sense of entitlement that says, “You owe me,” God wants us to be grateful for all we already have in Christ. So, how does God’s Word help us cultivate gratitude in our lives?
WHAT TO DO - GIVE THANKS
First, Paul commanded the Thessalonians to be grateful. Gratitude isn’t something we express when it feels right. Gratitude is a choice and an attitude. Grateful people choose to see any situation with a grateful perspective. Instead of seeing the negative, they search for ways to rejoice and be thankful.
Q: What are some barriers to gratitude in your life?
WHEN TO GIVE THANKS - ALWAYS
Second, Paul makes no exceptions for not being grateful. God works all things work together for good for those that love Him (Rom. 8:28). We will never find ourselves in a situation that doesn’t ultimately work out for our good and His glory. Because of this, we can thank God in the midst of any circumstance.
Q: How might you live differently if you lived with the belief that God works all things for your good?
WHY GIVE THANKS - GOD’S PLAN
Third, gratitude is part of God’s plan for our lives. The gospel is the greatest gift we could ever receive. We could never pay God back for the grace that He has shown us. What God wants for us is to live day by day, moment by moment in need of Him and His grace. We need His grace to be obedient and thankful. Doing this magnifies God and brings Him glory.
Q: How is your dependence on God connected to gratitude?
Q: What’s one thing you could do this week to remind yourself of God’s gift of grace?
TILL THE SOIL
What does it look like to cultivate gratitude? Think of gratitude as a tiller and your heart as the soil. The truth is, our hearts can become hard in places. And you can’t grow with a hard heart. Gratitude turns up the ground in our hearts and produces fertile soil for growth. When this happens, our hearts become softer and more responsive to the voice of the Father, which makes us more obedient to Him.
Q: What hard areas of the heart might God be calling you to address?
Q: In what ways could you cultivate more gratitude within your group? Be specific.
Spend time praising God for who He is and thanking Him for what He has done in your life. Ask God to use the gratitude to soften hard areas in your heart and give you the right perspective and motivation to live for Him.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Read Matthew 5:10–12 and reflect on what Jesus taught us concerning joy and thankfulness in all circumstances.
Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their life.
The Thessalonians’ Faith
Paul writes that the Thessalonian believers “received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thess. 1:6–7). Their reputation spread to other churches in the region, and it remains an example of joy in suffering for us today.
Day of the Lord
The term “day of the Lord” in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 refers to Christ’s second coming, which is the “biblical teaching that Christ will return visibly and bodily to the earth to render judgment and complete His redemptive plan.”2
Finding the Right Motivation
John Piper warns us against using gratitude-based obedience as a kind of “debtor’s ethic” or motivation. Concerning this, he says:
You shouldn't think of obedience as a mortgage payment, trying to pay God back month by month until you get the debt paid off. Rather, we should think that obedience is going deeper in debt to God every moment, because it takes more grace to be obedient this afternoon than I had yesterday. ... We will never get out of debt to grace. And so the thought of gratitude ethic as a kind of payback ethic is devastating to increasing the glory of God's grace in our lives. We go deeper into debt in grace, not pay it off.3
1. Dave Patty, “Discerning God's Will” (sermon, Colorado Christian University, Lakewood, CO, October 26, 2017).
2. Everett Berry, “Second Coming,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1456.
3. John Piper, “Is Gratitude a Bad Motivation for Obeying God?,” Desiring God, July 9, 2008, accessed October 31, 2017.