Last week we looked at good behavior in the church. It was plain to see that as Christians, we shouldn’t be involved in revenge. Paul said it wasn’t good enough not to do evil, but we must do good. We’re supposed to do radical things like feeding our enemies when they are hungry and giving them something to drink when they are thirsty. Overall, we are to repay evil with good. Today, we’re going to see some elements of public worship.
If you have your Bibles, turn to and read 1 Thes. 5:16-18.
The first thing we want to look at is joy. The verse says, “Rejoice always.” I don’t want you to misunderstand this command. Rejoice means to feel happiness or joy. Happiness is typically dependent upon circumstances. It is difficult in certain circumstances to feel joy, but that’s not what this verse is saying. When you put this command in light of Phil 3:1 where Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord.” It is easier to comprehend. Matt. 5:12 says, “Rejoice and be glad.” Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” This isn’t joy dependent on circumstances; this is joy because we know who the Lord is. Read Psalm 95:1-6 and Psalm 100:1-5. Rejoice always in the knowledge that Jesus is worthy of our praise and adoration. He is worthy of our worship. This is Paul’s command to publically worship the risen Christ.
We aren’t only to rejoice when good things happen. In speaking of Christ’s disciples, Acts 5:41 says, “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Do we do that? Or do we complain that we’re being persecuted, or that we’re suffering or hurting? Rejoice always. He understands what you are going through. He’s still on the throne, nothing catches Him by surprise. Christ doesn’t change and we can therefore worship because of who He is.
Not only are we to rejoice always, but we need to engage in prayer. Paul’s not talking about saying the blessing before a meal. When I mention prayer, I’m sure there are many emotions running around in your mind. Fear – I hope no one asks me to pray out loud. Doubt – will God hear me? Guilt – don’t pray enough. Frustration – I’ve prayed for years and God hasn’t answered me. “Pray without ceasing.” It means without intermission, it means incessantly, it means without stopping. It means praying continuously. Are you thinking you don’t know how to pray? When you don’t know how to do something, you check with an expert, so I went to experts.com to check with an expert. Unfortunately, the only religion expert listed was for yoga. I even went to eHow.com, but there wasn’t anything listed for prayer. I was able to find an expert in prayer though complete with a how to guide for us. Look at Matt. 6:5-15. There are three elements of the Lord’s Prayer I want to look at.
Pray secretly. Jesus said don’t be like the hypocrites – they love to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners praying so everyone will see how spiritual they are. Go into a room and close the door providing to minimize distractions.
Pray sincerely. Don’t use meaningless repetition. There is no need to break into the King’s English when you pray. You don’t have to pray with lots of words – the Lord knows what you need before you even ask. There are no bonus points for using lots of words.
Pray specifically. Write down your prayers. It’ll help you stay focused. It’ll strengthen your faith as you see God answer them.
I want to touch briefly on dangerous prayers. Search me. Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart.” So much can come from a prayer like this. God can show things that need to be eliminated, things you need to do, things you need to confess. People you need to ask for forgiveness. Break me. Ecclesiastes 3:3, “A time to tear down and a time to build up.” Pride, arrogance, personal desire. It means to be brought low, humbled. Lead me. Guide me. Some of us don’t want our hearts revealed to us, don’t want to be broken, don’t want to be led or guided. That’s why prayers that include these phrases can be dangerous. You may not want to do what the Lord shows you or tells you.
Not only are there dangerous prayers, but there are useless prayers. Financially support the local ministry in which you are a part. Live a holy life. Be sexually pure. Be a witness for Christ. Our lives are to be filled with prayer.
We’re rejoicing, we’re praying, and we are to have a spirit of thanksgiving.
And it’s not just for November. This is not being thankful for every situation. It’s unreasonable to thank God that some tragedy has come upon you. This verse says, “In everything give thanks.” It means having a spirit of thanksgiving. It means recognizing that regardless of the circumstances, God is there. It means that God understands what you are going through. It means that God will provide the grace to make it, the strength to see the circumstances through to the end. That’s easy for you Pastor Ian, your life is awesome. In a span of just a couple of months, my dad died, my step mom was killed in a horseback riding accident nine later. This happened while I was trying to find a job in ministry questioning God’s purpose for my life and His sovereignty. Friends betrayed me, attacked my character, motives, and integrity. Two of my dear friends were murdered. My father-in-law was diagnosed with bladder cancer.
The point is that life is not perfect for me, but I know who is in charge and it is not me. I’m not glad all those things happen and continue to happen in my life, but I know God is there. He’s not going to quit on me so why should I quit on Him? You just don’t know what that church did to me. That’s not Jesus.
Rejoice, pray, and be thankful. These are not natural emotions, but we have something supernatural to lead us and guide us if we’ll focus on Him and not on ourselves.