Monday, January 12, 2009

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (Habits of Holiness)

Paul uses three verses in chapter 5 to describe three habits of the believer, three characteristics that should be present and practiced in all circumstances.

“Rejoice Always”

The believer in Christ is a person who practices joy in all circumstances. Joy is not happiness. It is not contentment. Lewis described Christian joy as the feeling Sehnsucht; a German word meaning something like intense longing. For Lewis this was the experience of the Human heart yearning after Heaven—that which for which we we’re created. It would not be accurate to think that Paul was thinking of this feeling here. However, Paul’s idea of joy was certainly a celebration of the hope that the believer has. We can rejoice in the face of all that life brings us for we know the destiny that awaits us.

“Pray Without Ceasing”

Not the idea of a monk in constant meditation, more like hyperbole. However, there is a discipline of constant prayer involving attitude. Like the man who never said “Amen” at the end of his prayers. He was keeping the line open. Giants of discipleship have spoken of the state of perpetual communion with God. Brother Lawrence is someone to read who has practiced this; Richard Foster has a lot of helpful things to say about this discipline as well.

“In Everything Give Thanks”

There is always the story told of this or that person who missed an important flight, but being sooo spiritual, they thanked God that they missed the flight… only to have the plane that they would have been on crash! The implied connection here is that a thankful heart avoids tragedy—but Paul here teaches us to be thankful in all circumstances, not necessarily for those bad things that happen to us. Tragedy happens to everyone; the believer suffers and hurts like everyone else. They simply always have something to be thankful for in spite of the bad.

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