The next few verses in this closing section of 1 Thessalonians 5 (vv. 16-22) contains what may be the most familiar verses of this letter to many of us. Here we are reminded of how we press on as family in the midst of a crazy, controversial, and contentious world.
This text is comprised of a series of very short, concise statements that have been preached, taught, memorized, and cited over and over and over again:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 These 5.16-22).
He urges us to rejoice. I have come to understand that joy is the awareness or consciousness of grace. To rejoice, then, is to stir up our awareness of God’s grace, to take joy once again. And Paul calls us to do so always. We ought always to be conscious of God’s great grace toward us.
We are then challenged to embrace a lifestyle of prayer. It seems strange, I suppose, to think of praying “without ceasing,” but I believe he is calling us to enjoin an ongoing conversation with God, much as we might with a very close and intimate friend with whom we walk through our day in continual discussion of things at hand, things far and future, and anything else that may come up in the course of conversation.
Perhaps one of the most difficult of these mandates is to “give thanks in all circumstances.” What may be counterintuitive at first glance may well be the most powerful notion in this letter. If we are mindful of God’s provision and attentive to His faithfulness, then surely we will be full of gratitude continually.
Surely these things are, without question, “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
The mentor carries on his instruction by warning us not to quench or resist the stirring and guidance of the Holy Spirit, for indeed we need His direction to navigate the challenges of this life. We must rather give ourselves entirely to His promptings and yield to His convicting.
Prophetic words ought not to be resisted or discounted, but they are to be tested by examination through the light of the Scriptures themselves. What is in line with the Scriptures and affirmed by the Spirit within us should be held firmly.
Finally, he challenges us to simply let go of any form of evil that He may bring to our awareness.
These admonitions give a powerful sketch of what it means to walk together in fellowship with God. I can point to many examples of people who would assure you they are living in accordance with these ideas, but are trying to do so without the grounding and accountability of community. They tend, with rare exception, to wander into some problematic doctrine or lifestyle simply because they don’t have that community support and accountability.
You see, we really do need each other.
A faith that will go the distance without withering up or wandering off course, a Real Life Faith, Endures Together.
Father, teach us to live out our faith in everyday life—just the way you meant it to be lived out, enduring together.