1 Thessalonians 5:16-23
This Thursday is the time we celebrate Thanksgiving. A time to gather with family and friends in thankfulness to God for His blessing in our life. A time to share food, family stories, blessing snd yes, of course Turkey jokes. It is my solemn pledge to you as your pastor to share these classic turkey jokes with you and to add at least 2 every year.
What do you get when you cross a turkey With a centipede? A thanksgiving with no arguments over who gets the drumstick.
What do you get when you cross a turkey with an ostrich? A turkey that sticks its head in the mashed potatoes.
What do you get when you cross a turkey with a bell, a banjo and an electric eel? A turkey that rings its own neck, plucks its own feathers And then cooks itself.
What do you get when you cross a turkey with a chameleon? A turkey that changes itself
when you get tired of leftovers.
What do you get when you cross a turkey with a ghost? A poultrygeist!
What do You get when you cross a turkey with a member of congress? Another stupid turkey.
What do you get when you cross a turkey with ballroom dancing? The turkey trot
What do you get when you cross a turkey with a large drinking glass? A goblet.
What do you get when you cross a turkey with desert? Peach gobbler.
What do you get when you cross a turkey with a baseball batter? A foul ball.
What do you get when you cross a turkey with a motion picture? A movie with a R rating for foul language.
What do you get when you cross a turkey with a mathematician? Turkey pot pi.
And finally, what do you Get when you cross a turkey with a Baptist preacher? Dangerous inbreeding.
The 1st epistle of Paul, 1st Thessalonians.
The church at Thessalonica was started during Paul’s second missionary journey recorded in Acts 17. After the imprisonment and miracle with the jail and jailer, , Paul and his missions team traveled south and then west along the great Roman highway in this region to the Macedonian capital and commercial center, Thessalonica. Here they started the second church in Europe and were so successful they were driven from the city after a major riot. Paul fled down to Athens then sent Timothy back to encourage and strengthen the young church. Later, Timothy rejoined Paul at Corinth with a good report of the church. Paul wrote the epistle to the church in 50 AD, to encourage them more and to give guidelines how to live their new Christian life.
In the closing verses of the practical section of the book of 1st Thessalonians, Paul gives a very quick, rapid description of actions that should mark the life of a child of God.
If a modern preacher was writing this, we might expect statements like tithe, go witness or attend church every time the doors are open, but Paul knows that the true Christian life is from the heart and so he gives commands from his heart. In quick, rapid fire statements Paul drives home his final exhortations on thanksgiving living. We are going to just look at three.
Live Joyfully – 1 Thessalonians 5:16
First Act of Thanksgiving Living
Rejoice evermore means that my joy should be without limit. It cannot be defined by my circumstances, it cannot be stopped by my problems, it cannot be overcome by this world and its adversity.
This is the Joy of the Lord. It is not a pseudo-emotion I prop in front of my very real sorrows in order to keep up a good face. Joy is the undeniable reality of my relationship with God. I may not always be stress free in the circumstances of life I find myself in, but I can always know joy in Jesus, even in the worst circumstances of life.
Joy is a gift from the Lord, that flows with and from the gift of salvation.
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 17:13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Paul spoke of the fruit of the spirit, Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Way back in the book of Nehemiah when the wall of Jerusalem was finished, Ezra and Nehemiah called for a day of thanksgiving and celebration and they told the people in Nehemiah 8:9-10 “this day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
When we are told to “rejoice evermore” it is not a demand for pretense, ther is no place for the façade of Christian perfection we sometimes hold up as mask before the world.
This is not a command to be something you are not, or feel something that is not real. It is an exhortation, a reminder to let the Lord’s gift of joy show through. We are to uncover the wonderful, undeniable strength of God's joy in us and let it shine, like a beacon on a dark night.
What Jesus said about our light, could be also said about our joy and it would accomplish the same purpose, Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
100-year-old celebrating birthday
Passing by a table in a local restaurant, I saw a man I knew that was 99 years old and would be 100 in just a week. The restaurant had given him a small birthday cake, complete with candles and a fancy birthday hat. After they sang happy 100th birthday to him. I stopped and said to him, "Well, it seems you're out celebrating a little early, aren't you?" He looked at me and asserted, "You know, at my age, son, every day is a celebration!" - Dan Soman, Livingston, WI. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."
And that is what we as Christians should say, “You know for me as a child of God, everyday is a celebration, every day is a joy.”
Here’s a little song I wrote, you might like to sing it note for note. Don’t worry, be happy.
Paul would agree, rejoice evermore he told the church at Thessalonica, then in this quick one after the other encouragement he tells them in vs 17 to…
Live Prayerfully - 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray without ceasing.
Second Act of Thanksgiving Living
Paul is telling the church, that they should always have an attitude of constant prayer and a heart of instantaneous prayer. That communing with God should be uppermost in their minds even if couldn’t always be on their lips.
Pray without ceasing means I live my life in a constant attitude of prayer.
My pastor friend David Stone said, “ (Prayer) should be the first thing we do in the morning, the last thing we do at night, and the spirit in which we live throughout the day.” – David Stone
This is much more about the way I approach life than it is about the specific actions of my life.
From the Gospels to the Epistles the command to pray is often accompanied by this qualification of always.
Luke 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Luke 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.
Ephesians 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.
We pray because we have the full assurance of God’s word that it is effective. James the brother of Jesus wrote in his epistle, James 5:16 “…the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
We are to pray like a soldier fighting a battle, never surrendering but praying until the victory. We are to pray like a watchman guarding the precious treasures of our heart, our family or our church. Pray like a gunfighter, quick to draw prayer, your weapon of choice. Pray like a faithful steward, committed and loyal to your work for the master in faithfully praying..
We are called to an attitude of prayerfulness, of a life shaped and formed by prayer, of being able to go to God at all times, of living our life as though God was always walking beside us and we keep a running conversation with Him about everything. Pray without ceasing mean you understand your life, your family, your church, your job everything that is a part of you is affected by the power of prayer.
In the movie Shadowlands, C S Lewis is with his friends when he gets news that his wife’s cancer has gone into remission. As he gets his coat to leave one of the friends, he is with says, “Thank God he has heard your prayers.” Lewis portrayed by the Anthony Hopkins looks puzzled and then replies, “That is not why I pray. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It does not change God, it changes me.”
The prayer that is an aspect of our Thanksgiving Living is not the running of prayer beads through my fingers or tying prayer clothes to a tree so as the wind blows it carries my prayers to Buddah. Prayer is life to us as the children of God. A life I live in a close, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, my Lord. It permeates my life and maintains an always open attitude of communication, conversation and contact with God. Pray without ceasing.
The next attitude of Christian living that Paul give is thankfulness.
Live Thankfully - 1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Third Act of Thanksgiving Living
Thankfulness reflects the attitude of our hearts, but it cannot fully be expressed or seen without an outward action. My joy may be quiet and hidden and often is seen by nothing more startling than a secret smile. My prayer can be uttered from my heart and none hear but my Lord. Thanksgiving, however, cannot be silent or hidden and still truly be thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is seen by the way in our acts of worship and our acts toward others; it is heard in the words that come from my lips and it is seen by what, how and when I give thanks. You can't hide thanksgiving, nor can you hide the unthankfulness that often replaces it.
Paul began his epistle to the church at Thessalonica by telling them in 1 Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers.
Now Paul ends the epistle and tells them to give thanks in everything, every situation no matter how dire, every condition no matter how hopeless, every circumstance no matter how uncertain. In everything, everything give thanks.
Just as the exhortation to constant prayer is found throughout the scriptures so is the exhortation to the giving of thanks to God.
In the Old Testament one of the offerings you brought to the Tabernacle or Temple as a part of the Peace offering was a Thanksgiving offering, a visible act of worship presented to the Lord. Leviticus 22:29-30 And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will. On the same day it shall be eaten up; ye shall leave none of it until the morrow: I am the LORD.
Psalms 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of
and declare his works with rejoicing.
Coming into the Temple grounds was to be accompanied with thanksgiving. Psalms 100:4-5 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
For the Christian, whose life and body is now the temple of the Lord, our thanksgiving, like our prayers are to be a constant and consistent attitude of our life.
Peter in his epistle says, in 1 Peter 2:5 “Ye also, as lively (living) stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” Giving thanks is one of our most vital spiritual sacrifices, an action I do for the Lord, because of what the Lord has done for me.
Thanksgiving is still seen in the throne room of heaven by those who were killed for the Lord’s name. As the world tilts on the edge of the apocalypse and God’s people are being systematically hunted down and murdered, heaven is filled with this sound in Revelation 7:9-14 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Slain for the lamb, their robes washed white in the blood of the Lamb and heaven gives thanks. That is the epitome of what Paul is telling the very young church, in everything give thanks this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you.
Pastor Martin Rinkert
In 1636 during the Thirty Years War--one of the worst wars in the history of mankind in terms of the sheer number of deaths, epidemics, the economic results--there was a godly pastor whose name was Martin Rinkert. In a single year, this pastor buried 5,000 people in his parish--about fifteen a day. He lived with the worst that life could do.
But if you look in your hymnal, you'll find that in the middle of that time, he wrote a table grace for his children, our thanksgiving hymn:
"Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done,
In whom his world rejoices."
If I'd spent the year holding 5,000 funerals of the people I served, could I write for my children a song of thanksgiving? It's an unusual thing that in history many who have the least to thank God about thank him the most. - Joel Gregory, "The Unlikely Thanker," Preaching Today, Tape No. 110.
Thanksgiving living is rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing and giving thanks in everything. There it is the will of God for you.
Thanksgiving living requires that you uncover the gift of joy that God has given us. Thanksgiving living means prayer is your life, not just a ritual. Finally, is it knowing God's will for us is to give thanks in everything. Right in the middle of the problems the hurts and the sorrow, express it, show it and let others experience it through you.