Third Wednesday in Advent
I Thessalonians 5:16-24
 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; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.
 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thes. 5:16-24 (ESV)
We wait. We wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes it seems like a long wait. God tells us what to do. He gives some great advice. Looks like great advice. No he tells us to do it. It isn’t mere advice. Rejoice always, pray with out ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ for you. That would all fall under the easily said harder done category. I don’t rejoice always. I tend to stop praying. I don’t give thanks in all circumstances, and that this is the will of God for me, just makes me a little less easy. Don’t quench the Spirit, do not despise prophecies, but test everything. Hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of Evil, more of the same easily said harder to be done. I don’t receive very many prophecies you will be glad to know. Perhaps I have thoroughly quenched the spirit. Perhaps not.
One is tempted to water all this down, make it seem less than it is. Explain it away if you will. I try not to do those sorts of things, when I am reading scripture. I look at this list I see things done partially. I see things for which I should feel guilty. Why haven’t I always rejoiced? In the grand scheme of things I have nothing to complain about, but I do. Why do I stop praying. It says pray without ceasing. Laura and I try to get into prayer routines, but the next thing you know we are watching t.v. during that time we had scheduled to pray together. Prayer it is a wonderful gift of God. I am pretty good at following through with it Monday through Friday when I am at work. Not so good after that. Even so I enjoy it. Enjoy praying for people and talking to God, letting his word talk to me. Prayer and devotion. That is what God has given us to do while we are waiting for the day of the Lord.
Prayer and devotion. I am not always the most faithful with it. Are you? I get paid to do it, to devote my self to prayer and God’s word. And I fail. I thoroughly enjoy it. But often I am tempted to think of other things as more important. I let things get in the way, guilt nags at me, I get further away. So it is with the law. It is supposed to drive us to the foot of the cross to repent of our sins. Yet often it works in tandem with our pride to drive us away.
But all this advice here is nothing more than Paul urging his readers to prayer and devotion. I’ve given up looking at it as mere law. Law kills. When I look at it as something I have to do, I am not very likely to do it. Besides all that God has forgiven me with the blood of his son.
No, I look at devotion praying without ceasing, not despising prophecies, or quenching the spirit (reading his word where the prophecies are recorded and his sprit comes to us.) I look at it as something I am fortunate to do. Part of me can’t wait to get back to the office on Monday morning so I can go back to doing it. Spend a morning reading studying, and praying.
People have started to talk of this as spiritual exercises well it is nothing new. Ignatius Loyola of the Jesuits did that in the 16th century. I don’t always enjoy exercise, it is work. It is hard. Leaves you sore and bruised. Devotions shouldn’t be that way. Not spiritual exercise, spiritual feasting. That is the way we might look at it. God has given us all this rich food to sustain us, every word that comes from his mouth. They are pleasant words. Words of comfort. Knowing that his son has died for us on the cross. Church is that way too. Can be. It is meant to feed. One might say that is what these prophecies are all about, pastors preaching, and they ought to be tested like anything other spirit, by God’s word.
But you can’t do that if you haven’t taken the time to study God’s word. To read it and understand it yourself. It is actually a wonderful thing. It doesn’t have to be work. Sit down to do it and you might find you enjoy it. It is a wonderful gift from God. A gift he has given us to sustain us in these dark days of this world as we wait for the dawn of his kingdom to light up the sky in a final victorious bombardment of light and righteousness.
For there we have our God of peace visiting us. And in his word, he sanctifies us completely with his promises that our whole spirit, soul and body are kept blamelessly by the forgiveness of sins till the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. And The holy Spirit who calls us by that gospel, is faithful and does it.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.