I was reading through 1 Thessalonians today and in my bible there is a heading over verses 12-22 of Chapter 5 that says, “Final Exhortation”. I know this is not in the original text and I am not going to try and over-spiritualize it, but I do want to use it to share this message with you.
1 Thessalonians was written to the believers in the city of Thessalonica (deep, I know). The Apostle Paul founded this church during his second missionary journey. The church grew rapidly during Paul’s visit to the city, but because of intense persecution Paul was forced to leave Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9). The believers receiving this letter from the Apostle were very new to the faith and had many, many questions.
As Paul continued to travel after leaving Thessalonica he sent Timothy back to these believers to check on them, to teach them and to encourage them in their faith. Timothy reported back to Paul what was happening in Thessalonica and this first epistle that we know as 1 Thessalonians was written in response to the report Paul received from Timothy.
A significant portion of this epistle speaks concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and our need for joyful steadfast perseverance in our faith, even in the midst of persecution. The apostle emphasizes the importance and necessity of holiness in our lives and reminds us that the gospel is to be preached and lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. As Paul closes this epistle to these young believers he lists bullet points of instruction to them. I titled this short message, “Apostolic Bullet Points.” These were the final important thoughts that the Apostle wanted to instruct and encourage our brothers and sisters in Thessalonica with:
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 NLT)
Let’s break these “Apostolic Bullet Points” down and encourage ourselves with the Word of the Lord.
Always be joyful
There is a different between happiness and joy. Happiness is based on our delight or satisfaction with the present or temporal things that are highly subject to change. Joy, on the other hand, is a supernatural quality of life that comes directly from Jesus.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NLT)
Regardless of what is taking place around us we can draw from the strength of God’s joy that lives within us. Always be joyful.
…for the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10 NLT)
Never stop praying
The simplest way of describing prayer is communication with the Lord. One of the most powerful results of redemption is the restored relationship that we, the redeemed, now have with our heavenly Father.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16 NLT)
We are never alone. We not only have access to the works and gifts of the Holy Spirit when we pray we have access to the voice of the Holy Spirit when we pray.
“Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. God’s voice in response to mine is its most essential part.” Andrew Murray
Be thankful in all circumstances
Thankfulness is one of the foundations of praise to God. We are thankful for all that He has done, all that He has provided, all that He has kept us from and all that He is and will do in and through our lives. Thankfulness must be the initial and ongoing response to the cross and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 NLT)
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. (Psalm 100:4-5 NLT)
We will find that our faith will grow in strength as we live in thankfulness. We look behind us in thankfulness to see the testimonies of God’s victory in our lives and as a result we will look forward in faith at the challenges that lie before us in confident expectation of God’s faithfulness to His word.
We have received too much from God to allow ourselves opportunities for unbelief. We have received too many gifts and privileges to allow a grumbling, murmuring heart to disqualify us of our destiny. In contrast, the thankful heart sees the best part of every situation. It sees problems and weaknesses as opportunities, struggles as refining tools, and sinners as saints in progress. (Francis Frangipane)
Do not stifle the Holy Spirit
He is the leader, and we are the follower. He is the Potter, and we are the clay. When the Spirit of God is moving in our lives it is our responsibility to respond in faithful obedience. When the Spirit of God is moving in the lives of others and in our worship services it is our responsibility to encourage, support and respond in obedience to what the Lord is doing. We must not find ourselves in opposition to the will of the Lord, regardless of impact it has upon our loves. He is God and we are not.
It is important to remember that we are the temple (or house) of the Holy Spirit.
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30 NLT)
Our God is an active God. His thunder is just as loud today as it was in the first century. His lightning is just as vivid as it was in the days of the early church. The sound of the mighty rushing wind is just the same today as it was on the Day of Pentecost. Pray for the violent blasts of wind from heaven, expect them, and you will get them. And do not be afraid of them. (Smith Wigglesworth)
Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said
Hearing “Thus saith the Lord” is not common in many Christian circles and in other Christian circles it is far too common. God speaks through His servants to His people today. However, just because someone declares, “Thus saith the Lord” does not mean that we (the Body of Christ) do not reconcile what is being prophesied against what has already been written.
The prophetic word of the Lord will never contradict the written Word of the Lord.
Hold on to what is good
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)
There are many alluring distractions from this fallen world that work very hard to gain a place in our lives. The Apostle reminds the believers to hold fast or hold tightly to the good things in life.
Living a consecrated life or a holy life or a sanctified life definitely involves staying away from the sinful things of this world but it also involves being deeply involved in the good things of this world and the world to come.
Stay away from every kind of evil
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:13 KJV)
Do our words and actions glorify the Lord Jesus Christ?
If any reproach could fall upon our Savior and His kingdom by our words and actions it is clear that our words and actions must change.
The Apostle concluded His message to these believers who were young in their faith with these bullet points. They are spiritual and practical for living a life that is connected to the Lord in joyful praise, growing in knowledge and in a faith that is consecrated, reflecting the glory of the Lord.
My prayer for each of us is that these timeless exhortations would be lived in our lives each and every day.