“And we urge you brothers: admonish the idle; encourage the fainthearted; help the weak; be patient with the all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
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 (and) hold fast what is good; Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thes 5:14-22
Another bullet point list from Paul. Perhaps when there aren’t long explanations are there assumptions about stirring up old teachings in play? I sort of think so. What sort of stuff have I forgotten or mislaid concerning my being a disciple? What should I be reminded of often?
12 directives or admonishments given above-depending on how you look at them. I think it could be either one depending on the day.
It seems to me that these aren’t new commands from Paul-these are more of a reminder of past instructions to the believers at Thessalonica. Look at the directive words involved-the verbs and adverbs-the Spirit is pointing at certain behaviors and actions to be taken.
This past Sunday during the sermon my mind wandered for a moment concerning my early days as a believer. There was this newspaper called The Cornerstone that I was a subscriber to. I have forgotten what the paper was about except for that it was presenting itself as Christian-it was really cool though is my memory. But the point is that I forgot what it really was except it was radical Christianity for the time (early 70’s).
Paul’s bullet points are no less than radical Christianity practiced. It is radical because this isn’t normally practiced by Christians. Take “(Giving) thanks in ALL circumstances”: The word “all” is radically inclusive. “All Circumstances” would not be limited to an evaluation by me of what deserves thankfulness-no matter what I think the Spirit directs me to give thanks for whatever circumstance I encounter daily.
I have wondered from time to time “why is this important? When bad things, annoying things, etc. happen to me why in the world should I give thanks for these and not “rebuke” them or worse: take matters in my own hand; grumble and complain; retaliate; generally blow my top or crawl into myself?
Theologically the answer is pretty simple: By giving thanks in every circumstance that comes my way I acknowledge the Sovereignty of God to orchestrate things in the matter in which He decrees. I acknowledge that there isn’t anything on earth that doesn’t fall under his dominion and righteous Hand.
In practice this is a very difficult pill to swallow. Why? Because, like Adam our father, we are ate up with trying to order the world in the way we want. Adam was the first in a long line of following generations that are focused solely on “me, me, me.” By disciplining ourselves to “Give thanks in all things” we are saying “You are the Potter, I am the clay” and that these so-called circumstances are not random happenings at all but the Potter actively and purposefully forming us into the Image of the Son starting with and continuing with our heart.
Lord Jesus, by Your work on the Cross you have set me free from the chains of “me.” It is hard to think about a major piece of Sin is my focus on myself. Help me look to You and You alone. Help me to repudiate all the “self-‘s” in my life and to lean and acknowledge You in all my circumstances daily. Make me radical in this way, O God: “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13b-14). That’s what I want, Father. That’s what I want. AMEN