Let’s look at what Paul has for us as we close out 1 Thessalonians today in chapter 5. He first talks about the second coming of Christ and how we are wasting our time trying to figure out when it will be because all.of.us., yes, even believers, will be surprised when that day comes, it says He will come like a thief in the night. That it will be suddenly and unexpected, so we must always live prepared for it. Our application tells us that it would do us no good to know, that living for His return every day is our best choice. If we all knew, the world would look so different, people would be lazy about their relationship with the Lord, sin would go on and on because they’d just repent right before judgement, it goes on to say “Heaven is not our only goal; we have work to do here. Christians must keep on doing God’s work until death or until we see the unmistakable return of our Savior.” It goes on to share one of my favorite scriptures that is at the heart of this community, “therefore encourage one another and build each other up” v. 11 We need each other in this journey, at a time where Christians are not always well received and God seems to lose more and more of the foundation of our country, we need to be encouraged by one another. We need to help those in need and be patient. There is always someone that could use some encouraging words, let us be the ones to give it to them. He goes on to say that we need to be living in peace with each other. It has felt like our country has experienced more division and unrest than ever before. Do you feel that? I think we as humans are a lot alike, we disagree, yes, but at our core, we were all created by the same Creator and focusing on ways that we can get along, seems pretty important right now, look towards peace not towards hostility and not paying back a wrong for a wrong. He then tells us today’s verse which we will get into next, but he ends this letter with “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our application tells us that here he is trying to tell us that Christ wants all of us, every part of us, to be dedicated to God, that God wants to be a part of every area of our lives, not just here and there, that we need to be obedient to him in every area of our life. “Christ must control all of us, not just a ‘religious’ part”.
Today I picked a common verse you have probably heard before, but I chose it because I believe it speaks volumes, gives us a lot to look into and a good place of heart work; that understanding it more is important because I think sometimes this is a verse that is taken wrongly and confuses people in their hard circumstances. Rejoice always: be joyful, I like to think of choose joy. Now, I know that there are situations where being happy just isn’t possible, deep grief and sadness for example, but what the Word is telling us is that happiness and joy are not one in the same. I read from bibleref.com that joy is an act of obedience and it means that we are trusting in the hope we have in Christ. There are things that are going to knock us to our knees, but it’s in those moments where we must cling to every ounce of hope we can or we choose bitterness and unforgiveness towards God. I’ve been in both places and when I’ve been on the latter, where I’ve been angry with Him, I’ll testify that a bitter, angry heart, didn’t do anyone in my family any good and I learned choosing to trust him was my only hope. It then tells us to pray continually. I LOVED what our application tells us, “we cannot spend all our time on our knees, but it is possible to have a prayerful attitude at all times. This attitude is built upon acknowledging our dependence on God, realizing his presence within us and determining to obey him fully. Then we will find it natural to pray frequent, spontaneous, short prayers…” This makes me think of breath prayers, which I first learned about in a study by Rick Warren. I found a post on his site about this exact scripture and he talks about these prayers. This practice really helped me to adapt a prayerful attitude, you take thoughts like “help me trust you” or “I can’t do this in my own strength” or one I say often with my littles “help calm my frustration” and repeat them throughout your day. Check out his post for more on this: https://pastorrick.com/train-your-mind-to-remember-god/ and he ends with give thanks in all circumstances, and I think this one is the hardest for all of us. When things are so hard, it is even harder be in a place of gratitude. But, our application teaches us that “Paul was not teaching that we should thank God for everything that happens to us, but in everything. Evil does not come from God, so we should not thank him for it. BUT when evil strikes, we can still be thankful for God’s presence and for the good that he will accomplish through the distress.” It’s his presence that we can always be thankful for, that he is catching every tear we cry. I remember being in a season where I felt so disconnected, lost and flat out alone. One day in my quiet time, I got the visual of Jesus carrying me because it felt like I couldn’t even go on my own, and I think this is what that looks like, finding thankfulness in God’s presence; I was struggling but I was thankful that he was carrying me, that he was present to do so.
I think this is an important scripture to reflect on. Rejoice always: how can we choose joy today? How can we trust in Christ as an act of obedience rather than a feeling of happiness? Next jot down a breath prayer, work to memorize it and then repeat it often daily. And lastly give thanks. Thank God for something, even if today, the only thing that you can muster up is that He is with you or that His Word is alive for you. If possible, reflect on a season of hardship and journal out these commands and where you felt God in that hard time.
Heavenly Father, thank you for this letter and this help from Paul, thank you for our application and resources that help us better understand what you are wanting us to learn from your word. Lord, joy is not always easy, but we know that we can find joy and rejoice in the fact that you are present and constant. We know praying in length is not always possible, help us and guide us into having a prayerful attitude, where we are in constant communication and reliance on you, where you are included in every area of our day because we are talking to you throughout our day. And lastly God, we know that we aren’t to thank you for everything because not everything is from you, but rather that we can be grateful that you are presence, that you are carrying us. Thank you for loving us enough to desire to be a part of our lives, all parts. I pray when times get hard that we can see the truth in this scripture and not use it in a way that hurts, but in a way that encourages. It’s in your joyful, present and loving name we pray, AMEN!