God’s Threefold Will For Us (Especially When Times Are Tough)

Man prays to God

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”1

Over the last several months I have been praying for a number of my friends who are either battling life-threatening illnesses themselves or have close family members who are undergoing great suffering. It is often in times of such trial that we actively seek spiritual wisdom and direction that can hopefully help us to rely more upon God and rest in his immeasurable grace and comfort. From a Christian perspective, suffering can often be a mysterious experience. As much as we dislike it and truly hate to see our loved ones go through it, suffering also appears to be a severe mercy because for so many of us it uniquely causes us to reach out for and cling to God.

Life Verses

As people of faith who love God’s Word, we often gravitate toward biblical passages that can serve to give our lives spiritual guidance and discipline. The Pauline passage cited above from the First Thessalonians epistle is an amazingly simple threefold command that we can shape our inner lives around. The apostle Paul reveals that it is categorically God’s will that we incorporate into our lives the virtues and spiritual disciplines of joyfulness, prayerfulness, and thankfulness. And while these spiritual states of mind are necessary in everyday life, they become absolutely vital anchors during times of trial.

Let me discuss each of these three spiritual attitudes and practices that the apostle Paul mentions.

God’s Will #1: Be Joyful

In a spiritual context there can be a profound difference between being joyful and being happy. Happiness is often dependent upon circumstances. But Christians can be joyful in their forgiven position in Christ even though their present circumstances have left them rather unhappy. Life’s circumstances can change drastically from being up to being down, but one’s relationship with Christ remains steady because of what Jesus Christ has permanently accomplished on the believer’s behalf. It was said of the early Christians that they could be joyful during persecution, and amazingly even during martyrdom.

God’s Will #2: Be Prayerful

The apostle Paul exhorts believers to “pray continually.” This doesn’t mean spending 24/7 on one’s knees, though praying a lot and praying on one’s knees is always a good thing. To pray continually undoubtedly means developing an ongoing attitude and awareness of prayer. Prayer should become as natural as breathing. Thus, the Christian’s entire life is to be lived with the conscious awareness of God being present in one’s life and, in turn, God’s people communing with their Lord. In other words, prayer should punctuate the believer’s entire life. This prayerful approach offers proper perspective in life and allows one to balance the temporal with the eternal and thus, to justify joy even in times of trial.

God’s Will #3: Be Thankful

Like joy and prayer, thankfulness to God is a foundation of the Christian life. God the Father’s provision for his children in and through the work of the Son and the Spirit runs through this mortal life and beyond. What is amazing is that many psychological studies now indicate that authentic happiness in life is deeply influenced by one’s ability to express gratefulness.1 The Christian can always be thankful for the Lord’s sovereign promise that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”2

God’s threefold will for one’s life of being joyful, prayerful, and thankful can serve to transform the entire life of the believer. And during times of great pain and suffering the apostle Paul gives us this precious statement:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”3

Now that may be the ultimate life verse for all of God’s people.

Reflections: Your Turn
Do you have a life verse from Scripture? Do you agree that suffering is a severe mercy? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

God Makes You Glad: Positive Christian Attitude Linked to Happiness” by James C. Patterson II (article)

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18.
2. Romans 8:28.
3. Romans 8:38–39.

  One thought on “God’s Threefold Will For Us (Especially When Times Are Tough)

  1. Diane Rogstad
    January 17, 2017 at 6:29 am

    Thank you Ken, for this good reminder. I’m looking forward to reading your new book. God bless you and your family! Diane

    • January 17, 2017 at 7:10 am

      Thank you, Diane. I hope you enjoy my new book.

      Warm regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

  2. Christine
    January 17, 2017 at 7:04 am

    Thank you for the truth. We having been sold the American dream and the amount of prosperity gospel out there now seems to cloud the mind at times. Add to that Hollywood and social media and the noise can be defining. The truth still remains. Life is more than measured succes and achievements. It has pain and grief as well. Jesus is above it all seek Him!

    • January 17, 2017 at 7:08 am

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Christine.

      Best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

  3. Peter J. Wenzell
    January 24, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Thanks for your thoughtful and well reasoned article.

    After two years of crippling back pain that led to five unsuccessful back surgeries, a misaimed X-ray revealed a spine tumor that was the actual cause of all the intense pain. After the surgery to remove the tumor from my spinal cord, I woke up and learned I was paralyzed from the upper chest down and I would likely never walk again.

    At age 52 I felt as though I had lost everything that defined me, athletic talent, business success as an entrepreneur, and financial accumulation of wealth. I was angry at God and doubted His existence. It was then I decided to embark on a study that due to my limited knowledge of the subject I thought Science would prove that “God is dead”.

    After quickly learning that the weight of evidence in Science, History, and Philosophy strongly supported the existence of a divine creator and the historicity of Jesus Christ, I rededicated my life to Christ and have a ministry sharing the supporting evidence I gathered in a PowePoint presentation that I required to intellectually convince me and to turn my far less than Christian life completely around.

    I am living proof of the affirmative answer to “the argument from evil and suffering” that God does indeed have sufficient, good, moral reasons for permitting the suffering in our world. Had I not become a paraplegic in 2010 I never would have gained the knowledge necessary to seek Him and to find Him and to receive the gifts of eternal salvation and the secret of peace and contentment in all of life’s circumstances that you described so well in this article.

    • January 24, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Dear Peter:

      Thank you for sharing your amazing story of God’s grace in the midst of suffering. Believers and nonbelievers need to hear your testimony. I pray God continues to open doors for your presentations.

      I especially appreciate your emphasis on the weight of evidence pointing to the God of the Bible.

      Thank you for taking time to read my article and I’m glad it was helpful to you.

      With my very best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

      • Peter J. Wenzell
        January 28, 2017 at 7:15 am


        I just pre-ordered “God Among Sages” at Amazon Kindle, and I am looking forward to reading your work. I am in the hospital and will be here for a total of 24 days so it is another blessing from God that I will have the time to read it with rapt attention.

        Thanks again for your kind and encouraging words.

        I pray that the Lord will continue to bless you in your outstanding ministry at RTB.


      • January 28, 2017 at 5:08 pm

        Thank you, Peter. I pray for your good heath. Best regards. Ken

    • Mo
      February 22, 2017 at 8:50 pm

      @ Peter J. Wenzell

      I am so glad I happened upon your story! Thank you so much for sharing it.

      • May 7, 2017 at 8:43 am

        Thank you, Mo.

        Ken Samples

      • Peter J. Wenzell
        May 8, 2017 at 5:55 am


        I am so very sorry for what appeared to be a lack of response to you. It was not until Kenneth responded to you that I received word of your very kind and gracious response.

        It is so gratifying to know that my story helped you in some way.

        May God Bless,


        P.S. Kenneth, many thanks for responding to Mo which allowed me to see his/her note.

        While I suppose it is always better late than never, I regret that I left the impression of being ungrateful.

      • May 8, 2017 at 8:21 am

        Thanks for responding, Peter.

        Ken Samples

  4. Rita
    January 24, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    There are so many scripture verses that are special to me, but one of those that has taken focus right now is John 14:1, “Let not your heart be troubled but trust in God and me” (Jesus speaking). I think that He uses our fallen world’s suffering and thank Him for severe mercy to reach some people for God’sKingdom that may not come to Him any other way.The alternative is much worse. I’m reading your book Without a Doubt, which is enormously terrific and have your new one, God Among Sages, which I’m anxious to get into. Thank you for sharing these with the world.

    • January 24, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      Dear Rita:

      Thank you for mentioning Jesus’s statement in John 14. I really appreciate that passage.

      And thank you as well for your kind comments about my books. I’m pleased that you have found them to be helpful.

      My very best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

  5. May 5, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Regarding a life verse, lately I have been contemplating the depths of Matthew 22:37: And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” As most know, this was Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee’s question about what is the greatest commandment. But I see this as a description of what life is in Christ, as much as it is a command. And the three attitudes you discussed are details of what life in Christ is and does.
    In our fallen state without Christ, we are unable to love God as we should. But Christ makes it possible for us to seek and grow and know and love God for who He is. Our God is a jealous God, and knows what is best for us: He is. Even when we have to endure suffering, the purpose is to bring us to where we belong, in the love of God in fullness. That is an order and also is our greatest reward, and it is a promise from God that He keeps for us. Yes in eternity we will love God unencumbered from the curses on this present world, and all of it is made possible by Him, through Him, and to Him; we become a child of the eternal, infinite, perfect Creator forever.

    • May 5, 2017 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks, MFD.

      Ken Samples

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