Summary: This sermon tells us to rejoyce always - but there are seven aspects of 1 Thess. 5:16-22 that we need to apply to life.
Text: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians
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 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 the snake came out from under the couch. One of the attendant 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 just get worse from there? Sometimes it’s not just a day; sometimes it’s a week, a month, a year. Nothing seems to work out, everything is a mess. Chaotic, and fails. 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.
This is the third Sunday in Advent. The early church called it the Sunday of rejoicing. The focus today is joy. Yet, we struggle with that, don’t we? The pressure is on. There is just a few more days till Christmas. Money may be short, relationships may not be the way you want them, your health isn’t as good as it has been or you wish it to be and the weather has turned cold.
Yet the words don’t go away. “Rejoice always.” Is Paul so naïve, head in the clouds, that he really thinks we can rejoice always. – He was a man who knew the world, and learned much in his life through the school of suffering. Much of his instruction is full and rich with practical wisdom. And because of those experiences he says, “Rejoice always.”
What Paul is not saying here is to lay a guilt trip on his earliest readers – nor on us. He is not saying, “Rejoice or else” What he is saying is that true joy is deeper then human experience. True joy is much more then my situations or circumstances.
Listen to this verse, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake… Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5
True rejoicing then is knowing, trusting and celebrating Christ’s presence with us always. If Christ is with us we can rejoice. It is living in relationship with Christ each day and valuing that relationship more than anything in this world.
But Paul does not stop with rejoicing. He also says:
v.17 Always pray. “pray without ceasing” literally means, Pray without intermission. There should be no gaps in our prayer life.
v.18 Always give thanks. Give thanks in all circumstances. Weather good or bad, rich or poor, we are to give thanks.
v.19 Always fan the flame. Don’t put out the Spirit’s flame. Don’t stop the Holy Spirit from working in your life.
v.20 Always learn. “do not despise prophecies.” A prophet is on who is gifted to speak God’s truth. Some would say that the modern day prophet is a preacher. When a prophet speaks, he speaks not for himself, but for God who has gifted him.
v.21 Always examine. “test all things.” Test, examine, scrutinize everything in relation to the Word of God. If I am a soldier in the Army – I need to know how my weapon works. If the weapon gets jammed, I need to know what the problem is and how to fix it. Many people come to church and a content just to hear what I have to say. The Bible tells you to check it out. Don’t worry you’re not going to hurt my feelings when you are doing what the Word of God tells you to do. Check out what you hear. Test all things.