Summary: If you’re going to climb a mountain like "life" you need some tools...some handles.
THE PASTOR’S POINTS
sermon ministry of
CEDAR LODGE BAPTIST CHURCH
Dr. Russell Brownworth, D.Min., Pastor
January 11, 2004
1 Thessalonians 5:16-28 (NIV)
Handles are like rock climbing tools. Frankly, if you’re going to go up a mountain like "life" it pays to have some handles to grab-on and hold-on! The key verse of this series even says it that way:
…Hold on to the good 1 Thessalonians 5:21b
The Long Haul has to do with the fact that we do better to base our lives on principles than on rules. Rules tell you where you’d better not go; Principles show you the way to go. Life principles for the long haul are those which make life worthwhile and useful for a lifetime.
The Godly principle we seek is patience! Now, admittedly that is a dangerous and semi-despised word, especially in the Christian community. Everyone knows what Jesus’ brother James said about it…when you pray for patience, tribulation won’t be far behind. 
It helps to start with a definition:
Patience (Pa"tience) (?), n. [F. patience, fr. L. patientia. See Patient.]
1. The state or quality of being patient; the power of suffering with fortitude; uncomplaining endurance of evils or wrongs, as toil, pain, poverty, insult, oppression, calamity, etc…. 
Did you check-out all those words; especially the ones like pain and suffering? How about that uncomplaining? Waiting is one thing; suffering added to waiting stretches my admiration for patience. I have a lot of company in this. One psychologist put it this way:
No one wants to wait for anything and, for the most part, no one has to anymore. Waiting is interpreted as pain. ... People walk into my office and say they are Christians, but I see no difference except that they want to be happy and now expect God to make it so.
The problem is that, in this country, you can have what you want when you want it most of the time. ... People like the fact that they can buy a 50-foot tree and instantly plant it in their yard. Why on earth would anyone want to wait on relationships or wait on God? 
A few other wise sayings about patience:
Bill Gothard: Patience [is] accepting a difficult situation without giving God a deadline to remove it.
Arnold Glasgow: The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it open.
Henry Ward Beecher: There is no such thing as preaching patience into people unless the sermon is so long they have to practice it while they hear. 
And, of course, my favorite given to me some time ago by my elder, married daughter, Jennifer:
I pray for -
Wisdom - to understand my man;
Love - to forgive him;
Patience - for his moods;
Because, Lord if I pray for Strength, I’ll beat him to death.
We are all glad Jennifer found the strength there is in patience! And that is what this message, and this series of messages will be all about, finding the life handles of patient strength for the long haul of life…
Handle #1 - A Joyful Outlook
16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Joy, prayer and giving thanks are such good things we sometimes forget they are commands. Paul even says that those are among God’s will for us. To disobey is to go against God’s will. That means none of us has the right to be cantankerous or mean-spirited, carping and nit-picking on every little thing.
These are inner attitudes, joy, prayer and thanksgiving - all directed towards God by His children. However, they correspond to the outward behavioral commands, those things we do towards other people, which we find in the previous chapter.
Paul found it necessary to talk about this, because, even in the church, there are many people who claim to be experiencing the joy of God’s salvation, yet display anger and complain about everything from the temperature of the room to leadership decisions and the color of the carpet. They rarely have anything good to say! Our good friend Dr. McCutcheon would say, in his best South Carolina drawl, they musta’ been raised on sour stuff, an’ weaned on pickle juice.
I know it is hard to feel joyful all the time; at times we all get a little down, or even a tad cranky. But that should not characterize your every conversation. If you have trouble with being joyful, prayerful, thankful, pray for God to put some joy in your heart. Believe me; He is awaiting a prayer like that. Be like the oyster: