Summary: A ton of instructions for this church that are still relevant for the church today.
Warnings, Exaltations, & Instructions: More Words to Thessalonica
I want to take a poll this morning as we get started. How many of you like to talk on the phone? How many of you don’t like talking on the phone? I fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes – it depends on who I am talking to whether it leans more toward like or dislike. However, I tend to be one who says what needs to be said and then I try to finish up the call.
Now, when you talk on the phone, if you pay attention to the other person, you can always tell if they like or don’t like talking on the phone. I have a former house mate that I keep in contact with regularly. He enjoys talking on the phone because it is one of the only ways he can keep in contact with his friends due to his very busy work schedule. So, when you get a call from him, you are going to talk for quite awhile. Every time I talk to him, it seems like we get to a place in the conversation where I have nothing left to say, so I go about trying to end the call. You know what I am talking about. You wait for them to come up for a breath so that you can say you have to go. This never works with this friend.
Even after you tell him you have to go or that it was nice talking to him, he still keeps talking and has plenty more to say. Most of this talk is unimportant – it’s just something to say to keep from having to be finished talking. It’s reminds me of times when I have heard the preacher say, “In conclusion” and he keeps on talking for another 20 minutes. You think he is done when in fact he is just getting started.
Paul does something very similar to this when he addresses the church at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 5. He has said all that he has intended to say and the letter is coming to an end. In my Bible, there is a caption that reads “Final Instructions”. You can feel Paul is getting to the end of the letter and is going to wrap it up real neatly. But then, in a matter of just 12 verses, he gives about 18 tough teachings. It’s almost as if he saved the best for last and not the unimportant chit-chat that comes at the end of phone calls. Just as you think Paul is getting finished, he, in fact, is just getting started. This morning, we are going to take a look at just a few of these important instructions found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22. Please follow along with me in your Bibles or in your sermon notes.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophesies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.
I told you – Paul had a lot to say in just a few short words. This morning, may the Holy Spirit stir our hearts as we take a look at six instructions Paul gives to the church at Thessalonica. Before we begin, let’s ask the Lord to be here in a mighty way. Join me in prayer.
Instruction #1: Be Joyful Always
As I hold up this cup this morning, how many of you would say that it is half full? How many of you think that it is half empty? Those of you who are half full people do not see that half of the water is already gone. You see that there is still half a glass of water and are glad because you still have a whole half left. Those glass half empty people are different. They look at this glass and are excited by what they see. After all, half of the water is already gone, so it is only a matter of time until the rest is gone as well.
In the real world, the population is split close to 50-50 between optimists and pessimists, and you can usually tell who is in which camp after spending just a few moments with them. An eternal optimist always has a smile on their face. They are marked by hope, and they always tell you how good their life is. An eternal pessimist, however, will be quick to point out what is wrong in their life and in the world. They are just waiting for the world to fall apart and their speech is marked with complaint.
As I said, in the world there is about a 50-50 split between optimists and pessimists. What should that split be in the church? Our verse tells us to be joyful always. How do we do that? We do that by focusing on what is good with the church. We do that by realizing we have a heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally. We do that by reading the Word of God and realizing how powerful our God is. We do that by realizing that no matter what happens, nothing can take away our reward of living eternity in paradise. These things should give us joy and put a smile on our face. They should cause us to have an expectant life in which we hang on to the hope that is in Christ Jesus. They should cause us to have an optimistic outlook for our life and for the life of the church. This is not the case.