This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV
Life in the Spirit is revealed by Jesus, made possible through Jesus, and only within the reach of those who know Jesus. James Denney says, “Till Christ came, no man ever dreamt of rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in everything.”
There isn’t anything like this in the Old Testament. Why? Because it is only in Christ that you experience the Spirit bringing the life of God into your inner being. If you are in Christ, you are in an entirely different position from other people who go through the same experiences as you do, but do not have the Holy Spirit.
Paul is writing to people who had experienced persecution, people who were grieving the loss of loved ones, people who needed to be reminded to love and respect their leaders. These people were experiencing all the stuff of life, and he says to them, “In all of this, remember that you are in Christ.” There is a joy that is yours that can never be taken away. Be joyful always.
Paul is writing to people who have the Holy Spirit. You cannot live the Christian life without Him. You can choose to rejoice in all that Jesus is for you, all that He has done for you, and all that He still has in store for you.
God has graciously laid hold of you. He has chosen you (1:4). He has come to you with power (1:5). Your life has been transformed now and for eternity (1:9). You have endured great trials (3:3). Satan has launched some fierce assaults against you (3:5). But through it all, God has caused you to stand firm in the Lord (3:8).
If a Christian said to Paul, “My joy has been taken away,” how do you think he would counsel him or her?