Eight Habits for Holy Living
Our text for today is from First Thessalonians chapter five. Please follow along with me as I read:
16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 (NASB)
A woman was sitting on her living room couch one day when a snake slithered past. The woman who was deathly afraid of snakes, dashed to the bathroom to get her husband from the shower. He grabbed a towel and put it around his waist and also grabbed a broom. The wife then went to the bedroom and locked the door. The husband took the broom and using the handle tried to get the snake out from under the couch.
The family dog woke up and wondered what all the commotion was about. He touched his cold nose to the back side of the man’s bare foot. The man jumped thinking he had been bitten by the snake and passed out. The wife, not hearing any more sounds from the living room came to see what was going on. Believing that her husband had a heart attack, she ran to the neighbor’s house to call 911.
The ambulance drivers arrived and ran into the house and placed the husband on a stretcher. As they were carrying the man out of the house, the snake came out from under the couch. One of the attendants, who was deathly afraid of snakes, dropped the stretcher and ran. The husband fell off the stretcher and broke his arm. The wife seeing the broken arm and the snake going out the door fainted. - It was just one of those days.
Have you ever had one of those days, when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed and things go from bad to worse? Sometimes it’s not just a day; sometimes it’s one of those weeks, sometimes it's one of those months, sometimes it's one of those years. Nothing seems to work out, everything is a mess. Pressure and problems never seem to go away. It’s like the old adage, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” I don’t really believe in luck. I think there is a plan and purpose for everything and even if I don’t understand it all – God does. Did you know that God does not expect me to understand it all - but He does expect me live a holy life. Our focus today is upon the eight habits that lead to holy living. Here is a list of the habits:
1. Rejoice always
2. Pray without ceasing
3. Give thanks in everything
4. Don't quench the Spirit
5. Don't despise prophetic utterances
6. Examine everything carefully
7. Hold fast to that which is good
8. Abstain from every form of evil.
In the Bible the verb used with each of these 'habits' is in the present tense. This indicates that all of these things are to be continuing habits - a regular part of our daily lives. Let's look down through the habits:
Habit #1 Be JOYFUL
Verse sixteen tells us:
"Rejoice always" 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NASB)
The Message Bible says:
"Be cheerful no matter what" 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (MSG)
The New International Version says:
"Be joyful always" 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NIV)
The Greek word translated "joyful" here can also be translated "cheerful." It denotes the ability to maintain peace and calm when circumstances around you are anything but peaceful and calm.
Did you know that joy is not dependent upon circumstances. Unlike happiness - which is depending on what is happening - joy is a chosen state of being. We can choose to be joyful. A holy people are a joyful people. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. The Bible tells us:
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
Holy people allow their sanctified mind to keep them inspired when the rough winds blow. Holy people keep their mind focused on things above the druggery of the world around them. They know joy!
This is NOT to say that we are to ignore sadness and sorrow. But we are to live knowing that God will walk with us - no matter what happens in our lives. He is there in the good times and He is there in bad time. He is there no matter what. God's faithfulness does not come with a limited warranty. It is not here today and gone tomorrow. He is with me always. This fact brings me a sense of joy that can not be taken away by whatever is happening to me. I can always rejoice because I can always know that God is with me - no matter what the circumstances.
The second holy habit is:
Habit #2 PRAY
Verse seventeen says:
"Pray without ceasing" 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB)
Holy People pray! Jesus is the center of their lives so they bathe their goals, their plans, their dreams in prayer. Holy People talk to God about EVERYTHING! They talk to God about the little stuff and they talk to God about the big stuff. God is their best friend and they let Him know about everything that is going on in their lives.
Developing the habit of prayer takes time. It is not a habit that is developed overnight. Anyone who tells you that it is, is only deluding themselves. Don’t be fooled and don’t be discouraged. Praying is hard work sometimes. Distractions will fall upon you like rain.
Prayer includes thanking God, asking God, praising God, listening to God. It is a continuous conversation - an open phone line. I can pray with my head bowed and I can pray with my head lifted to heaven. I can pray with my eyes closed or I can pray with my eyes open. I can pray when I am in a secluded place or in a crowd. I can talk to God at any time or in any place. That is why the Bible tells us: "Pray without ceasing"
This is one of the holy habits that Christians needs to develop. We also need to develop:
Habit #3 Be THANKFUL
The Bible says:
"In everything give thanks" 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)
This Bible verse does NOT say, "Give thanks FOR every circumstance." But it does say to be thankful in everything. To be thankful "in all circumstances" is to see the big picture, to be aware that God is in control and to trust Him even when bad things happen.
I heard the story of a man who constantly had a positive attitude. He was positive about anything and everything. There was a day that the weather was extremely miserable. It was rainy - it was cold - the wind was blowing - it was overcast - it was gloomy. At church he was asked to open with prayer. Do you know what he said? He started out by saying, "Lord I am thankful. I am thankful that all days are not like this day...."
We are to give thanks in everything.
Habit #4 Keep God's Spirit BURNING
The Bible says:
"Do not quench the Spirit" 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (NASB)
Staying on fire for God is not always easy - but it's easier if you rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in everything. If I’m always rejoicing - if I'm always praying - if I'm always giving thanks - the Holy Spirit will be more operative in my life.
Have you ever met anyone who is in the bucket brigade? You know what I'm talking about don't you? These are people who always are carrying around a bucket of cold water to throw on your hopes and dreams. You become excited about something - you get on fire - and here they come - ready to put the fire out. The Bible tell us:
"Do not put out the Spirit's fire" 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (NIV)
Keep the fire burning. How do I do that? Habit five tells us.
Habit #5 Listen to what God has to SAY
The Bible says:
"Do not despise prophetic utterances." 1 Thessalonians 5:20 (NASB)
God's Word translation says:
"Don't despise what God has revealed." 1 Thessalonians 5:20 (GW)
Holy People love the Word of God. They love to hear it taught. They love to hear it preached. They study God’s Word to make sure that what the preacher says is correct. They trust that the Word of God is true. They trust that the Word of God has authority.
It is interesting to me that this verse is not addressed to atheists - it is not addressed to agnostics - it is addressed to the church. "Don't despise what God has revealed." You may not like some of the things you read in the Bible - but you should pay attention to them. I have heard it said: "God said it - I believe - that settles it." My attitude however is this: "God said it - that settles it." Why do I have this attitude - because I believe that God's Word has authority - I believe God's Word is true. If God said it - I don't have to debate it - I have obey it.
You may have some unanswered questions about Scripture - I think we all do - but scripture is still more reliable than anything else I have found in this world. Don't despise what God has to say. Listen to it and trust it. But that leads us to:
Habit #6 Test EVERYTHING
"But examine everything carefully" 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NASB)
The "but" here means that this phrase is connected to the previous one. "Don't despise what God has revealed - but examine everything carefully." The previous verse commands us not to treat the Word of God with contempt - but we are to test everything.
Holy People are not “suspicious”. Holy People are searchers. They are scholars. They search the scriptures - they study things out - they examine things to see if they are in keeping with the Word of God. They know when something is from God - when something is from man - and when something is of the devil. Holy People are not negative. Holy people are positive. They look for Godly things and hang on to them.
God’s truth is absolute. God's truth has authority. Test everything that a person says. If it jives with the Word of God - hold on to it.
The next habit is:
Habit #7 Hang on to what is GOOD
"Hold fast to that which is good" 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NASB)
The Living Bibles says:
"Test everything that is said to be sure it is true, and if it is, then accept it." 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (TLB)
Hold fast - accept it - hang on for dear life.
A few weeks ago I heard someone say, "It doesn't matter what you believe - we're all going the same place in the end anyway." Folks - that is a lie. It DOES matter what you believe. It does matter what you hold onto. If you don't believe this - try this experiment. Go out to a lake in get into a boat. Take two items with you - a rock and a life jacket. Take one items into your arms and jump into the lake. Which item do you think will save your life?
What you hold onto is important. What you hold onto is vital. What you believe can change your life. What you believe can save your life. The Bible says:
"As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" John 1:12 (NASB)
Folks - look for the Truth - examine everything - once you have found it - hold on and don't let go.
Finally our last habit is:
Habit #8 Stay away from EVIL
"Abstain from every form of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (NASB)
Avoiding evil is not new for those interested in pleasing God. God is pure - God is holy - God hates that which is evil - God hates that which is wicked - God hates that which is sinful. That is why the Bible says:
"Keep away from every kind of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (TLB)
God's people act godly. They seek to follow God with godly behavior. They seek to develop holy habits. Follow along with me as I read Psalm 1:
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish. Psalms 1:1-6 (NASB)
God has called us to be a holy people - and holy people develop holy habits. What are you going to do with this week? When you leave from here and the world confronts you face to face what are you going to do? God tells us to: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in everything. Don't quench the Spirit. Don't despise God's Word. Examine everything carefully. Hold fast to that which is good. Abstain from all that is evil.