Summary: How should Christians live in preparation for the coming of the Christ?
Sound and Blameless – 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 - 28
Intro: It has been particularly difficult getting ready for the Christmas holidays this year. Usually, I have the Christmas trees up by the week after Thanksgiving. That didn’t work this year because we were having new carpet installed. --- So needless to say, we’ve not been able to make the usual preparations. --- Paul, in today’s passage, is encouraging the people at Thessolonica to prepare. He is giving them some do’s, don’ts and how to’s in order for them to be ready when Christ returns. What more appropriate time for us to consider this passage as when we are preparing for the coming Messiah on Christmas Eve.
Paul begins his formula for successful preparation for the return of Jesus with a list of three “do’s” beginning with verse 16 – “Be joyful always.”
BE JOYFUL! --- ALWAYS! --- Can’t you just hear the people reading Paul’s letter saying, “You’ve got to be joking!” Let’s look at some Greek here. Maybe we will get a better idea of what Paul meant. The Greek word used here is “chairete” – and can mean rejoice, be glad, be delighted. Be joyful. And here the word is in the imperative which is a command. I’ve had plenty of times in my life when I didn’t feel like being very joyful. But being joyful is Paul’s first “do” – What is there to be joyful or to rejoice about? Luke 10:20 says, “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
The second of Paul’s “do’s” is Verse 17 – “Pray continually.” When I read this verse, I thought to myself, “Paul, you have no idea of the complexity of my life. Things are different now. We don’t have time to pray all the time.” I have to know what prayer is before I can do it all the time. The Greek word here is “proseuchomai.” It is a religious technical term for talking to a deity in order to ask for help, usually in the form of a request, vow, or wish.” Pray while you work, pray while you play, just pray, pray, pray!!!!! I have repeatedly said, “As long as we keep God at the center of our ministry, we will not fail.” That is exactly what Paul is saying here. Praying continually acknowledges our partnership with God and our dependence upon Him.
Paul’s final “do” is in Verse 18 – “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In EVERY circumstance? For ALL things? --- Most of us would want to adjust Paul’s words. We would prefer that he said, “in SOME circumstances” or “in SOME things.” But he didn’t. --- Paul encourages his readers to have a positive attitude in every circumstance. Paul is not saying, “give thanks FOR all circumstances.” He says, “give thanks IN all circumstances. We can be thankful in the midst of any circumstance for what God is working. --- For those of you who have been accused of being “Pollyanna” this is YOUR Bible verse. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, maintain a positive attitude. Look for the good in every circumstance and you will find it! “With your face to the sun, the shadows are behind you; with your back to the sun, the shadows are before you.” It’s all a matter of perspective. “I can do all things through God who strengthens me.”(Philippians 4:13)
There are circumstances that existed in the church in Thessalonica that cause Paul distress. So in addition to telling them what to do, Paul admonishes them about the things that they are doing which he feels are harming not only the unity of the church; but they are not helping people remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus.
Verse 19 begins Paul’s “don’ts” by stating, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;” the Greek word Paul uses here is “sbennte” and it means “to extinguish or put something out, to suppress.” There were those in the church who were enthusiastic and excited about what was happening. The church was growing in numbers. Many people were embracing their new-found faith with great enthusiasm. There were those in the church who were more cautious. They believed the church should seek “quality” rather than “quantity” of members; perhaps, rightfully so. But, Paul felt it was necessary to have that enthusiasm. It was necessary for the church to be “on fire” for Christ. --- Therefore, he cautions the believers there to not quench the enthusiasm. Putting it in modern terms, Paul instructed the believers to not be a “wet blanket.” There are people in every church who believe it is their “job” to keep things in perspective, to slow down progress, to dampen enthusiasm. Paul says that if you want to be prepared for the return of Christ, you must be enthusiastically seeking to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.