Pondering the Passages: 1Thessalonians 5:16-18

This Weeks Passage and Memory Verse (in red):
 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
 23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

There are several things in this passage that capture my attention. Verses 16-18 are pithy yet very meaty. Let me add my own translation of these: “Always rejoice! Always pray! Always give thanks!” And then Paul says that this is God’s will for us. We may not know God’s will about a lot of things but we do know God’s will in these matters.  And it seems to me that if we get these right then the ones that are not so clear will begin to come into focus.

1) So always rejoice. Not because everything that is going on in your life is peachy keen but because “you have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son He loves.” (Colossians 1:13) And because nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:39) And because “we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.” (Ephesians 2:10) So rejoice always!

2) So always pray. How is this even possible when there are jobs to do and people to talk to and life to live? Here’s my take on it. I think it starts by having such a close relationship with God that it is as if you are always “streaming” prayers no matter what else is going on. The Scripture word for this is “abiding”. (I blogged about this back in February). So as I’m working, I’m also praying. As I’m in conversation I’m also praying. When we are abiding in Christ prayer becomes a lot like breathing. It is something we are always doing no matter what else we might also be doing.

3) So always give thanks. When you go through life with an attitude of gratitude then you are guarded against things like jealousy, resentment, and selfishness. Things that “uglify” you. Henri Nouwen said this: “Gratitude … goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”

Verse 19 goes on to say, “Do not quench the Spirit” or “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.” We have a tendency to squelch what God wants to do in and through us both as His people and His church. We don’t really mean to but I think we often allow the Spirit’s fire to be quenched. Jim Cymbala, the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC, wrote a book called Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. One of the best quotes in the book for me expresses what I think most of us want for our church as well as our lives. He said:  “I despaired at the thought that my life might slip by without seeing God move mightily on our behalf.” In other words, he wanted the Spirit’s fire to “burn, baby burn!”

I love the salutations that Paul often sprinkles through his letters. I will close this post with the one he uses here as a way of echoing his prayer for you and me.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Matthew 7:24-29
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Matthew 7:24

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