God’s will for you
Preached in Quabbin Valley on 11-30-08
Lesson Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:15-19
A middle-aged farmer who had been desiring for years to be an evangelist was out working in the field one day when he decided to rest under a tree. As he looked into the sky he saw that the clouds seemed to form into the letters P and C. immediately he hopped up, sold his farm, and went out to P-reach C-hrist, which he felt was God’s leading. Unfortunately, he was a horrible preacher. After one of his sermons a neighbor came forward and whispered in his ear, “Are you sure God wasn’t just trying to tell you to P-lant C-orn?”
Have you ever said “I want to know the will of God for my life” or heard someone say “What is God’s will for me”? Maybe you have never actually spoken those words but something like that has come to your mind. Today we are going to find out what the will of God is for every Christian in this room.
Last week we talked about who we are in Christ and we saw that we are the Temple of God and we are royal and holy priests and we are to offer 100% of our lives to God as a sweet sacrifice.
This week I want us to look at Paul’s words to the Thessalonians and see what the will of God is for us and what our attitude and disposition is to be.
Turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 5:15-22
The first thing we need to think about is where Paul says “rejoice always”. What does it mean to rejoice? Some of us may think or have the idea that rejoicing has to do with singing, we rejoice when we sing and singing and rejoicing are synonyms or maybe we think it means to have a good feeling and have a smile on your face and that means I am rejoicing.
In Acts chapter five we find that the Disciples of Christ are being persecuted by the ruling Pharisees and Sadducees and they are brought in front of the Sanhedrin and told not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore and then we read in Acts 5:40:
Acts 5:40-42 40 ¶ and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Were the disciples singing? Did they feel good? They were beaten and persecuted; they suffered and yet were able to rejoice. Rejoicing has nothing to do with singing, we do sing sometimes when we are filled with joy and are rejoicing but singing and rejoicing is not the same thing. Feeling good and having a smile on your face is not rejoicing. Did the disciples feel good as they were being beaten? I don’t think so but they did rejoice that they were able to suffer for the name of Christ. Rejoicing is much deeper than superficial smiles or even a song it is the deep joy, not emotion, of knowing the creator of the universe and knowing that you are his. That joy can never be taken away by suffering.
Jesus in Matthew 5 said:
Matthew 5:11-12 11 ¶ "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Paul in Philippians 3:1 says to rejoice in the Lord. Was Paul a man that God protected from every trial and hardship, was Paul not in touch with everyday life? Of course he was Paul was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians not sure if he was going to be released from prison or killed. Paul had been ship wrecked, stoned, rejected, mocked and beaten and yet Paul said he could and did rejoice. Listen to Paul’s own words:
2 Corinthians 11:24-28 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
And yet Paul would encourage us to “rejoice always”. Rejoicing has nothing to do with singing or feeling good but has to do with that inner attitude that realizes that no matter the circumstances that God is in control and that we are in Christ safe in God’s love. Paul said “to live is Christ and to die is gain”. The inner attitude, that knowledge and understanding that as Paul said:
Romans 8:28 28 ¶ And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Ultimately, all that can happen to a Christian, is they are killed and that is nothing to fear because we will be headed to our home with the Lord in glory. So we can rejoice always and sometimes that joy will show itself in a smile on our face or a song we sing or in a quiet peaceful heart but remember not to mix up the joy we have in Christ as always having good feelings and a smile it is much deeper and more powerful than that. Paul didn’t have a constant smile on his face and song on his lips as he was being beaten or shipwreck but Paul did have true joy in Christ and rejoiced in Christ.
Paul moves on and says “Pray without ceasing”, without stopping, or constantly. This is a lifestyle, a way of life. Paul is saying that our lives should be dominated by the presence of God, being watchful and mindful of God’s presence. This is much more than just rambling off a prayer throughout the day. This is an attitude and a knowing that God is with us and that we are in Christ. This is the idea of being mindful of who is in control as well as having a set time for prayer, maybe at meal times and before going to bed and having times of spontaneous prayer throughout the day. This means to have your mind and heart on God constantly never forgetting that your life is dependent on God and that in Christ you are a child and an heir of salvation.
Sometimes we think prayer has to do with asking God for things and that only. Someone said:
Many people pray only when they want something from God. The more they become committed to God, however, the more they find themselves turning to prayer, not to ask for something, but to commune with God.
Prayer is so important, having a life of constant prayer, awareness of God’s presence. Someone once said that “Prayer is to the Christian like breathing to humans”. How long can you hold your breath before you pass out or die? The world record is 17 minutes and that was after breathing pure oxygen for 23 minutes before holding his breath under water. Without pure oxygen the record is 9 minutes. That’s not very long is it? 17 minutes.
The average person breaths around 12 breaths per minute, we breath throughout our lives and sometimes are breathing rate goes up and down but we don’t stop breathing till we are dead. What happens to a Christian who stops praying, stops remembering they are in the presence of the Lord? More than likely spiritual death if they don’t start praying. Prayer is our talking with God one of the ways we commune with God.
There is always to be time for spontaneous prayer and for set periods of prayer throughout the day but the constant awareness of God’s presence is praying without ceasing. It’s the life that is characterized by constant communion with the Lord.
Finally Paul says that we are to give thanks in all circumstances. But I need to ask the question, what do we have to be thankful for if the world is falling apart around us? Can we be thankful in times of hardship and trouble?
Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they ran toward the nearest fence. The raging bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it. Terrified, the one shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!” John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.” “But you must!” “The bull is catching up to us.” “All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: ‘O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.’“
Sometimes it feels like we are being chased by a bull or that we are in the worst situation imaginable and someone gets up on Sunday morning, some preacher and says “be thankful, give thanks” and we ask ourselves “for what”.
There was a time when, if you are a Christian, you were under the power of sin and Satan. There was a time when sin ruled your life and when you were an enemy of God, without hope, or peace, or any true, eternal joy. A time when you were sinking in sin and Jesus came and rescued you. Christ pulled you out of the self inflicted mud you were in and cleansed you. Christ set us up and clothed us in his righteousness and restored our broken relationship with God. What have you to be thankful for?
Our relationship with God our being forgiven of our sins but even more than that. We have peace in this world if we accept it, we have food on our tables even if it’s not a lot, and we have clothing even if it’s not the hottest style, we have a family in Christ, and we have running water, most of the time. Ephesians 1:3 tells us that Christians have every spiritual blessing in Christ, we can be thankful, we should be thankful, we are thankful, amen! Even in the worst situations there are many things we can be thankful for and the most important one is that Christ will never leave us or forsake us.
In times of trouble, count your blessings, give thanks even if the only one you can count is the fact that you are a child of God in Christ headed for an eternal home in glory.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
We are now going to take time to share in the Lord’s Supper as a reminder of Christ’s victory over the sin of the world and over the sin in our lives. We are going to enjoy remembering that Jesus is with us today and everyday to help us, and guide us, as we continue to rest in Him.