Rejoice Always

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

These three have been called the standing orders of the Christian church. No matter the circumstances or occasion these are relevant, helpful and applicable.

Rejoice always. 

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” Habakkuk 3:17–18

This means you worship no matter what. It’s a mentality that says “even though everything may be falling apart around me, I will rejoice.” There is an invincibility that flows from joy. When the joy of the Lord is your strength you are unstoppable.

Pray without ceasing.

This is living with nothing between your soul and your Savior. We must practice the presence of God – a constant realization of His presence and work in and around us.

In everything give thanks.

Nothing will change your attitude like gratitude. It’s impossible to complain while you are saying thank you, and the best time to express thanks is when you don’t necessarily feel like it. This is being thankful in everything not necessarily for everything.

“Even on the darkest day there are blessings to count. We must remember that if we face the sun the shadows will fall behind us but if we turn our backs on the sun all the shadows will be in front.” -William Barclay


The First Must Never Go Out

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies.” -1 Thessalonians 5:19-20

Do not extinguish the flame of fire the Holy Spirit wants to ignite. The Holy Spirit teaches, guides, empowers, convicts, directs, brings scriptures to mind, gives joy and peace, unlocks gifts and transforms character. Without Him we are powerless!

We must live where we do not neglect the Holy Spirit in our lives. We should always be at a place where we ask for the fire to fall on each of us, testing all things through the filter of God’s word.

“Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. “ -1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

Don’t be a spiritual Smoky the Bear – ignoring the spirit’s impulses, refusing His guidance or neglecting to use your gifts when He gives you the opportunity. The stakes are too high for us to let the Spirit’s power dwindle.

The Holy Spirit gives us strength to point people to Jesus. The fire has a purpose. The purpose for the power is this:

“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in all Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” -Acts 1: 8

The fire isn’t ceremonial, the fire isn’t for show, the fire is for the people that need to know about Jesus.


Because of Jesus, Death is Only Temporary

In the fourth chapter of 1 Thessalonians we see confusion among the church at Thessalonica about how to handle death of fellow Christians. Paul addresses this, referring to believers who have died in Christ as “those who have fallen asleep.”

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13

Whether you’re grieving right now or not, latch onto this. Death can feel so final, but that is not true if you are in Christ, which is why Paul chose to liken it to sleeping. It’s not permanent, the body is like a seed going into the ground that will come out better than ever.

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

When Jesus returns the dead in Christ will rise first – early to bed, early to rise. I go to my daughter’s grave and look to the sky and think about how that’s the first thing she’s going to see when He returns. I think about the most glorious family reunion that will ever be. If we are still alive when Jesus returns we will be “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” Whether we wake or sleep, we will be with Him.

How do we know this is true? Because of Christ. Our faith is based on fact. This is not fable or wishful thinking, we are anchored in our hope of the resurrection of the dead in Christ because we have a precedent. Jesus already did it.

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13

The resurrection of Jesus is the irreducible core of Christianity. The enemy wants us to spin our wheels in the mud of sorrow, in the valley of the shadow of death, but you can face it without fear because of Jesus’ resurrection. You have authority to believe in Christians rising when He returns because Jesus already did. We do not face death without hope.


Wake Up and Suit Up

As believers we don’t get a pass on grief, but the right way of thinking about it separates us from the rest of the world. Paul talks to the Thessalonians about the proper mindset when it comes to the death of a fellow believers:

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We must wake up and suit up. We cannot fall asleep at the wheel of life, and must put on faith, hope and love. These things are the like the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation, guarding our hearts and minds as we move forward.

But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

Hope, faith and love are like a life preserver for the believer. Two people can be thrown into the same ocean with different outcomes depending on how they’re equipped. If we’re thinking clearly about grief, we have our life preserver on, avoiding the unwarranted fear that can so easily creep in. We rise up, still in the ocean of grief but not crushed by it.


It Takes a Village

Godly living takes a village. If you want to grow more and more with God you have to grow deeper and deeper with God’s people. There are very few things that will influence the outcome of your life more than who you do life with. That said, you don’t have to come to church as the best version of yourself. Come broken and bruised, come with your problems, come with your insecurities. The church is meant to be a hospital, a place where you can heal. You are welcome as you are.

“concerning brotherly love you have no need…but increase more and more” 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

Our job is not to judge someone but love them. We need community even more than we can imagine. It’s God’s desire for us to be known, held accountable and loved on.

The best place for you to start growing in your community is by serving. God wants you to find your sweet spot, He wants you to be doing the thing that makes you feel like you were born for this! That said, sometimes the best place to start is where you’re willing to do whatever is needed. It’s important to learn to be a part of a team. It’s not about what comes out of you but what is in you. We should always desire to grow more and more in community.


A Life of Tranquility

We must mind our business with an intentional focus on tranquility. God’s desire is that we should desire more and more of that peaceful serenity He gives. This is His desire for us even and especially when what’s happening around us has nothing to do with the peacefulness that is flowing through us.

“that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you” 1 Thessalonians 4:11

That phrase “quiet” speaks of all that we’re talking about – aspiring to lead a life with that peace. We must begin by wanting it and working toward it.

“Seek strenuously to be still.” – Charles Swindoll

It does take an intentional focus to relax and wind down. We must work hard at resting.

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

The more we do this the better we’re going to get at doing it when it counts, when everything is crazy. The more we will perform well under pressure and be unflappable in the face of things that formerly made us lose our cool. We must be watchful on our lives, seeking strenuously to fight for tranquility.


Born for Generosity

We were not born again as an end unto ourselves but as a beginning for someone else. The more we give the more life can grow.

“The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.” Proverbs 11:24

We were born for our world to grow bigger as we reach out wider. Not only were we born for this, but others need to be born into this. The same gospel that brought us life must be passed on so other’s can have life. We’ve got to share the only name by which men can be saved: Jesus. He must overflow from our lives.

“May the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12 MSG

This is going to take generosity. Generosity of spirit, of time, with finances, and with sacrifice. As we are fishers of men following Jesus Christ the mark of our progress is not simply Bible knowledge, it’s evangelistic passion. You know you are like Jesus when you are growing in zeal. A generous spirit knows salvation was given, not earned. We’re stewards of the gospel and will be held accountable for what we did with it. What right do we have to let it stop with us?


Purpose, Perspective and Progress

Having a purpose in life gives you perspective – when you have a purpose for doing something it changes how you respond to obstacles. Increasing desire to spread the gospel and share Christ is a mark of progress in the Christian life. That’s what we see happening here with the Thessalonians:

“…sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know.” 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4

The Thessalonians had experienced pain as a result of their decision to follow Jesus. Paul tells them not to make the mistake of interpreting their situation as evidence that they did something wrong, but that they did something right. They were appointed to this. They’re on the right track. They were, in fact, born for this. Their passion to preach the gospel was a mark of progress, and so was the adversity that came against them. If you are going to shine a light darkness will try and put it out.

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12

This is far from being a bad sign – it’s evidence you are right where you are supposed to be.

 


A Will to Receive God’s Word

This weekend in part three of “Our Glory and Joy” we talked about will. Will can also be defined as determination, resolve, drive, dedication, doggedness, tenacity or tenaciousness.

Paul’s will was to minister God’s word to the Thessalonians. He was grieved to be apart from them physically, but was still with them in heart. Their part was to have a will to receive God’s word.

“For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
1 Thessalonians 2:13

Paul didn’t thank God that they simply heard it, but because they received it with faith. God’s word is powerful when it is received with active faith, otherwise it does not work effectively. The impact the word has is conditioned on the faith in which it is received. The word can’t work where there isn’t that a will to see it work.

“But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.”
Isaiah 66:2

This is why the work at Thessalonica was so on fire, sounding forth all of Greece so that Paul didn’t even need to say a word. There was a humility before God’s word and a drive to see it work.

What’s your will when it comes to receiving God’s word?


Honey I Shrunk the Church

series

I can’t wait to begin our brand new series called “Honey I Shrunk the Church” this weekend at Fresh Life! These messages are going to be all about growth. Proverbs 30 talks about four things on earth which are small in size, but exceedingly wise. In this series we’ll learn how to get big by thinking small. You can visit this page to get promotional art for your social media and tag your posts #HoneyIShrunkTheChurch