REJOICING IS A STATE OF MIND AND BEING
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
12 DECEMBER 1993
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Joy is a sense of being we have when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives. It is the assurance that everything will work out for the best, no matter what the circumstances may be at present; for unconditional love is the central motivating feature of our lives.
Joy isn't like happiness that comes and goes from time to time. Joy should always be present.
But being joyful is also a state of mind, as well as a state of being.
And just as we continue to sin from time to time even after the Holy Spirit is within us, so also we sometimes forget about the joy that is within us.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, we are given some direction and insight for keeping this joy always before us.
16. Rejoice always;
This statement seems to beg the question, for it tells us to rejoice always, when in fact we know we don't.
So there must be something more.
We know the Lord loves us, but there are times when we just don't feel loved.
17. pray without ceasing;
Well, if we forget about being joyful and loved, I suppose we also could forget about praying.
Again, there must be something more.
18. in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Here is where we get the key to continual joy.
It's not like turning the key in the lock, opening the door, and continual joy flows forth. It's not that simple.
We have to work at it, and it takes practice.
Here is where we must train our minds to accept the state of being that the Lord has given us.
And the key is our thankfulness.
It's so easy to complain, yet somewhat harder to be thankful.
We're this way because the world around us is this way.
Think about a few things:
Did you have something to eat and drink this morning?
Are you thankful for what you received?
Did you tell the Lord that you were thankful?
Did you turn on the water faucet?
Did anything come out?
Was it water?
Were you thankful?
Did you tell the Lord?
Did you use the kitchen this morning?
Are you thankful that you have a kitchen?
Did you tell the Lord?
Did you use the bathroom?
Are you thankful that you have one?
Did you tell the Lord?
How about your bed; are you thankful that you have it?
Did you tell the Lord?
Why would we want to thank God for every one of these little things?
If we do this, we won't have time for anything else in life, right?
For this is what we are told: "in everything give thanks"; not just in some things, but in everything.
Why? Because "this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
But why does God want us to do this?
It's to practice. It's to train our minds, until being thankful is like a second nature to us.
Now, our thank offering to God is a form of prayer.
So, if we train our minds to acknowledge our thankfulness, we will in essence be praying without ceasing.
And if we are continually thankful and are praying without ceasing, we will find that we are rejoicing always.
With thankful prayer, we will see beyond the people and situations with which we think we have problems.
We can always find fault, but behind every fault, there is something to be thankful about; maybe not with the person, or with a specific situation, but around them, or with the outcome, or somewhere.
I know, I know; this is being like a Pollyanna; but it works!
Think about what there is to be thankful about in every bad situation, and you'll find it. It's not hidden. It's there to be found.
This brings us to the next verses:
19. Do not quench the Spirit;
20. do not despise prophetic utterances [or gifts].
What I am telling you now is such a prophetic utterance, for I am proclaiming the truths of Scripture; and the Holy Spirit will confirm it to you, if you don't quench what He tells you.
Some people are afraid to be sensitive, for they believe it is a sign of weakness.
It is the Holy Spirit that sensitizes our spirit, and to fight against feelings is to quench the Spirit; and in turn, it is quenching our joy and our love.
And remember that fear is the opposite of love, and that God is love; thus, if we are afraid to live in the Spirit, we are in essence quenching God from our life.
Are you beginning to understand why we lose our joy?
I hope so!
Let's go on.
21. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
22. abstain from every form of evil.
Be your own person in Christ.
Don't worry about what the other person is doing, if it is ungodly.
And don't fret that you are going to be left out of something if you don't participate in what they are doing; for there is always something filled with righteous fellowship just around the comer, if you take the time to look for it.
Then in this joyful assurance, Paul gives us a blessing:
23. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
Do you believe this?
Will you accept this blessing?
If you do, you should be exceedingly joyful, for we will be spending eternity with the Lord.
In Psalm 126, we hear a song of thanksgiving for the people's return from their captivity in Babylon; but remember that seventy years before, Jeremiah told them they were going to return.
Even though they had lost everything but their lives, they still should have had the hope of the promised return – a place upon which to build joy.
Listen to the words and message of this Psalm:
1. When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
It was a dream coming true; or perhaps like being in a dream state, and having to pinch yourself to see if you are awake and if what is happening is really true.
The latter case would contain some doubt, and thus indicates that the people didn't have their full allotment of joy.
2. Then our mouths were filled with laughter,
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3. The Lord has done great things for us;
We are glad.
Of course they are!
They're no longer in captivity.
And they are truly thankful...now.
But their thankfulness should have been with the promise from the beginning of the captivity, even in the midst of the hardships.
In similar ways, I believe that there are many people who are going to be surprised to find out that there really are a heaven and a hell.
And, are we in the church going to be surprised when Jesus returns, because we haven't held on to the joy of His promised return?
Sure, there will be shouting and great joy when He returns; but we should be doing the same now, in thankful praise of His coming, simply because we believe.
4. Restore our captivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South [or desert lands of the south].
5. Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
6. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
But how much greater the joy, if there was no crying or weeping, but the smiles and laughter of knowing assurance.
The Lord Jesus will come again!
All things will be better!
There will no longer be any pain or suffering or weeping.
So rejoice, because we know it will happen soon.
This is our Advent!
This is our Merry Christmas!
Your Comments are welcome
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