"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16
When I was a 12-year-old aspiring basketball player, I heard NBA Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley teach about basketball’s “triple threat.” I learned that when you first receive the ball, you are in a great position with three potential options: dribble, shoot, or pass. I wouldn’t soon forget the power of the triple threat, and it changed the way I played basketball.
When I coach, I tell players they need to be a threat on the field. If you get the ball and the defender knows you aren’t going to do anything with it, the defender will smother you. But if the other players know you are a threat, they will be on their heels when you have the ball. It changes everything.
As followers of Christ, we can be a spiritual threat every day. This will change the way we live. Our opponent, Satan, wants to defeat us and take us out. He doesn’t want us to win, and he is working overtime to make sure you and I are discouraged and overwhelmed. He wants us to believe the goal of life is to just survive—get through one more day. But in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul gives us a great spiritual triple threat.
It is simply this: Be joyful, pray, give. This kind of triple threat will put Satan on his heels!
Threat #1: Be joyful
Paul says to be joyful always, not sometimes. It would have been easier to live this out if he wrote “Be joyful” not “Be joyful always.” Always seems impossible; sometimes is more realistic. This is a command that instructs us to be full of joy all the time. It is like saying, “You will do life with joy in your heart – all the time – you got it!?” Many times, my joy depends on my circumstances. Joy has a way of leaking because of worry, anxiety, and fear.
Joy is more than happiness. It is at the core of our soul. Joy is internal and happiness is external. Happiness can come and go, but joy is here to stay. It comes from knowing our identity in Christ. God gives us joy; happiness usually comes from our circumstances. In John 15:11 Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Are you feeling complete because of the joy Jesus has deposited in your heart? His joy should fill up our hearts so much that the outside stuff does not impact us.
Do not let anyone or anything rob you of the joy that God has placed in you. We should experience joy all the time. Succeeding or failing. Winning or losing. Happy or sad. Joy is off-limits.
Threat #2: Pray continually
Once again Paul makes an extreme statement. If instructing us to pray was not hard enough, he had to tack on that extreme word “continually.” You might be saying to yourself, “I pray, just not all the time.” Paul is saying that we should always be connected to our Maker, with constant access to the throne of glory. There should always be a prayer in our heart and on our lips. Many times, we just pray when we need something.
A prayer principle that has radically changed my life is: prayer is not telling God what He already knows, but God revealing to us what we do not know! Our goal is not to give God a report through prayer. Trust me, God does not need updates. What He wants is for us to dig deep and find out what is below the surface.
Prayer should be a revelation time, not a reporting time. Praying should be a workout. This kind of prayer is a threat. Are your prayers shaking the gates of hell? When you pray is Satan on his heels?
Threat #3: Give thanks
In all three threats, Paul uses extreme commands. First, it was “always,” then “continually,” and, finally, it is “all.” Just like in Ephesians 4:29, we need to use our words to build up others, bringing praise. When we speak, we either speak life or death. Giving thanks means speaking life in every situation: in the locker room, classroom, home, on the phone and even in text messaging.
Proverbs 12:18 says that reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. When you speak, do you bring healing? Is Satan threatened by the way you talk? Does he fear every time you open your mouth because he knows you are speaking blessing and thanksgiving?
I love working with FCA because we have volunteers, donors, board members, coaches, athletes and staff who wake up every day and live in such a way that when their feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says, "Oh no… they’re awake!” They live out the triple threat every hour, every day, every week, every month and every year. I am humbled and honored to serve with over 2,300 staff who are reaching over two million coaches and athletes in 107 countries.
Put Satan on his heels today. Our opponent will do everything to prevent us from being a triple threat, but it’s what God’s called us to do. There are family members, co-workers, friends, neighbors and teammates who are depending on you to be joyful, pray continually and give thanks.
Dan Britton is the Chief Field Officer for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He has served FCA since 1990, and since 2013, has led FCA’s international efforts, traveling extensively around the world, as FCA works in 92 countries, training thousands of sports leaders, coaches and athletes.