I Thessalonians 5:16-24 NLT
“Rejoice always! Pray constantly.
Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Don’t stifle the Spirit.
Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things.
Hold on to what is good.
Stay away from every kind of evil.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”
First, let me acknowledge that often in my faith walk I miss the obvious. I have a tendency to make following Jesus more complicated than He intended. No doubt it is difficult to be a disciple, we are called to deny ourselves, but it is not complex.
Recently, I’ve had some minor bumps in the road. It began with a little flu bug four weeks ago. It was brief and I thought a good reminder of the blessing of health that I typically enjoy. Then I fell off my bike. I recently started biking and have been striving to get some miles under my belt on the trail with the hopes of doing a three day biking event next October. When I fell I happen to land on my right arm of course, because I’m right handed, and suffered a medial elbow ligament sprain, as well as some strains to the tendons surrounding my elbow and wrist. This is not only painful, but renders lifting and twisting nearly impossible with that arm.
After a week I decided I needed to get back on the bike. I calculated I could prop my arm up and squeeze enough on the brake without too much pain and be able to come to a stop safely. I set a date with a friend for the next morning, “rejoicing” in the fact I had only missed one week. That night I had a cyst that I’ve had for 2 years go angry on me. Suffice it to say, the location made it impossible to ride my bike the next day…or week…I’m still waiting.
Two observations I made in the midst of these minor afflictions. I don’t handle pain and limitations very graciously. I’ve lost my patience, cheerfulness and goodwill several times in the last several weeks. I apologize to Charles and everyone who has had to forebear me. Second, God is good. Truly, good. His mercy is new every morning.
In reading and pondering 1 Thessalonians chapter five several times recently it occurred to me how very clear and basic Paul makes following Christ, no matter what is going on in your life. These instructions are not dependent on mobility, health, location, maturity or intellect. They only require a willingness to obey. Paul knows that our salvation needs to be “worked out” daily in the practice of gratitude, praise, prayer, study of the word and perseverance. It is the quintessential, we do our part and God does His.
We rejoice. We choose to take joy in knowing God and His provision of salvation. We thank, in the midst of situations where gratitude would be the last natural response. Or, to put it culturally, gratitude when we wouldn’t post a #blessed on our social media. We pray, whether we sense God’s presence or silence. We pray to our Heavenly Father who we are confident hears and values our prayers. We don’t suppress, quench or grieve the Spirit of God by feeding the flesh (sin) or starving our spirit (lack of reading God’s Word).
“Don’t despise prophesies” is the negative of “Do love teaching and preaching” of scripture, with the following admonition to test for biblical integrity any instruction. Then hold onto it.
Stay away from evil needs no explanation, but serious consideration. Evil can have an innocuous appearance, such as gossip and coveting. God detests both of these.
Finally, even when we falter, and we will, there is reassurance that God who is faithful will complete the work He has begun.
Philippians 1:6- NLT
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”