1 Thessalonians 5:12-18
12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I don’t know about you... but I really like practical things. Of course, I have my share of impractical things, too... no doubt.
But practical things are usually most useful and beneficial... especially practical advice and practical teaching... advice and teaching that concerns itself with actually doing something... following in the footsteps of James: “be doers of the Word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
Of course, Paul’s words in our lesson for today... to the church in Thessalonika... are about as practical, straight forward, and down to earth as you can get.
He encourages the Thessalonians, as we just heard... to acknowledge the hardworking within the family of faith... to hold their leaders in high regard... to live at peace... to warn the lazy and disruptive... to encourage the downtrodden, and weak... and to be patient... as they strive for the good for one another.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that not a single person among us has a problem with any of that! It’s all good, practical advice and instruction, that we can all stand to learn from, even today!
But then comes verses 16, 17 & 18... “Rejoice always, pray continually, [and] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Paul seem to do a 180 here! From offering good, solid, practical advice... to pushing theory and “pie-in-the-sky” wishful thinking.
“Rejoice always...” Really? I mean, who does that? When I’m hurting... when life’s falling apart... and I’m striving to keep my head above water... I’m not so sure “rejoicing” is very high on my priority list.
“Pray continually...” - again... who does that? More often than not, we forget to pray... unless we find nothing else works... and then we remember! We often treat prayer like it’s some “break glass in case of emergency” option of last resort!
And “give thanks in all circumstances...” Yeah, right.
The fact is: No matter how hard or often we remind ourselves of the hope we have, or how thankful we are, or how often we pray... at times it can feel like God is taking an eternity to show up and do something about our circumstances. In those moments, Satan wants to use our impatience to convince us to doubt God’s faithfulness.
Of course, sometimes, faith isn’t very practical.
But God reminds us through His Word that He is with us and He has not forgotten us.
So, this morning, I want to do something a little different today. I want to offer four verses of scripture (that are all echos of our lesson for today) that will help us remember both who and Whose we are, even when the practicality of our faith is being tested.
1. Romans 12:12... “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
When we experience affliction — whether it's the death of someone we love... the pain of a broken relationship, or some other heartbreak of life — the author of Romans tells us to be patient. Pray earnestly... and to be joyful in the hope of our salvation. God can work anything out for our good and His glory.
2. Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
It’s not easy to keep doing the right thing when it feels like you’re getting nothing in return. The Bible promises if we will persevere, we will see a return on our investment. Our words and actions can make an eternal impact on the people around us. We might not know the legacy we left on this side of eternity, but we can trust that Jesus will bless our hard work.
3. James 1:12... “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
When you feel beaten down, when you’re too tired to keep going, remember we are promised the crown of life. Our reward in heaven is worth the trials we face on earth — and God promises we will be crowned with life... if we endure to the end. Those who finish the race will be crowned with the blessings of God himself.
4. 2 Samuel 22:7... “In my distress I called to the Lord; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.”
God always hears us when we call on Him. He doesn’t always give us what we want, but He always gives us what is best for us.
If we trust the Lord, even when we don’t understand, we can begin to see where God is working in our lives, whether it’s experiencing His faithfulness through a financial need or His goodness through our Christian friendships that show us support and encouragement.
When we “rejoice always, pray continually, [and] give thanks in all circumstances” - when we ask for help and then seek God, He will open our eyes to experience Him in new ways that bring us closer to Him.
God’s understanding is far greater than ours and we have to trust that His timing is perfect.
We serve a mighty God who will never abandon us and who wants the best for our lives. It’s not always easy to wait in a world of instant gratification. But if we stop limiting God to our own deadlines, demands, and desires, we can experience a calmness amidst the chaos in our lives.
And we’ll learn how practical our faith really is...