|Volume 22 Number 9 September 2020||
The world in which we live has always been dark. Since the fall of humanity in Genesis 3, sin has been in the lives of people and destroying those who submit to sin rather than God. Though we may look at our current times as intensely dark and sinful, the things being done today should come as no surprise to the student of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:13). Jesus told His disciples that they were to be different. He wants us to shine our lights in this world so God our Father will receive the glory (Matthew 5:16). The idea of shining our light is normally taken to simply mean Christians should be good examples. Most certainly, Christians should be examples, but in what ways? How can we practically let those around us know that this world is not our home? I believe there are practical ways that we can let our light shine, which will catch the attention of those around us (Philippians 2:14-16). Near the end of 1 Thessalonians, Paul gave several commands that we should take to heart and adopt. When we examine 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22, I think we get a clear picture of how we can shine our light in a world that desperately needs it.
Always Rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
Paul told the Thessalonians to rejoice evermore (1 Thessalonians 5:16 KJV) or to rejoice always (NKJV). This does not mean that Christians never experience sadness. We do, but our overall disposition should be one of constant joy (Romans 12:15). We can have an abiding joy that is more permanent than momentary happiness because we know that God is in control of the world. We rejoice “in the Lord” at all times (Philippians 4:4). When we consider God reigning in Heaven, we can have joy even when many others think the sky is falling. In a world overrun with bad news, those of us who have the good news should demonstrate it by not being downcast or sullen but instead by rejoicing continually (2 Corinthians 6:10). Many people in our world seek joy through substance abuse, perfect circumstances or material possessions. We should be paving the way to show others that true and lasting joy is tied to our relationship to God, not to things of the world.
Paul previously praised the Thessalonians for being examples to all of those around them because of their conversion (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10). They would continue to be examples if they demonstrated persistent rejoicing in a world of persistent negativity and pessimism. We should sing with joy (James 5:13). Most importantly, we should share the good news of forgiveness with joy in our hearts (Ephesians 1:7). Jesus told us that we could be of good cheer because He overcame the world (John16:33). If our joy is full, it will spill over into every area of our lives. Our friends, neighbors and relatives will take notice (1 John 1:4). We will be able to point them to Jesus, who is the True Light, when they see the light in us (John 1:4).
Pray Incessantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Paul’s command to pray without ceasing is easy to quote and hard to practice. Our light will shine brightly in this dark world if we actually take the Holy Spirit’s words seriously and pray constantly. When we see crisis in our world, we should be those who fall on our knees in prayer before we do anything else. Instead of posting on social media about all that is wrong, we should be praying to the One who can make it right. Rather than pouting about how terrible things in the world have become, we should be petitioning God to allow us to continue to spread the Word freely, which can change hearts (2 Thessalonians 3:1). The Colossians were told to be steadfast in prayer (Colossians 4:2). The Romans were admonished to be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12). The darker things get, the more we have about which to pray. We should accompany our prayers with action as we have the opportunity to put our faith into operation.
Yet, we should always remember that prayer is in itself an action. When we pray, we involve the God of the universe Who can do the most about our situation. People should hear Christians say, “I’m praying for you.” When people express fear and anxiety about the events in the world, we should be saying, “I’m praying and trusting the Lord.” If we are just as faithless and overwhelmed as unbelievers, we will never draw them closer to God. Prayer must not be regulated to a last resort. Prayer is our first line of defense as we boldly approach the throne of grace and find the help that we need (Hebrews 4:16).
Be Thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
One thing that sets Christians apart from the world is our attitude of thankfulness. We are told to “give thanks always and for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Paul told the Thessalonians that it was the will of God for them in Christ Jesus to give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18). In a world of gripes and ungrateful people, we can shine our light if we fail to voice our complaints. The New Testament describes the worldly person as ungrateful (2 Timothy 3:2) and unthankful (Romans 1:21). It is not that we do not see things that enrage us or wish things were different, but we know things could always be worse. Also, we appreciate that God can use anything to His ultimate good (Romans 8:28). Practice gratitude. Do not just feel thankful inside but express it to God and to others. It will be impactful. Gratitude shows that we know we are undeserving of God’s blessings, and we want to thank Him for them. Count your many blessings and name them one by one. It may help someone else count theirs, too.
Love Good & Refrain
Evil (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)
The last few verses in this section deal with our relationship to the truth of God’s revelation. We should not quench the Spirit or put out His work (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We should not despise prophecy (1 Thessalonians 5:20). We need to test everything and hold to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Lastly, we must abstain from evil in every avenue it appears (1 Thessalonians 5:22). One could summarize Paul’s thoughts here by saying we should love the good and refrain from the evil (3 John 11). Paul wanted the Thessalonians to treat the Word of God properly and reject everything that was opposed to it.
Much of what on which people meditate today is contrary to the Word of God. The nightly news can keep us informed, but it will not help us to be conformed to the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). If we love the things that God loves and reject the things He hates, people will know that we are different. Shining our light in this dark world is not about being an example in a general way. There are concrete and specific ways by which we can announce to the world that our citizenship is in Heaven. Study 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22. Go and do likewise.
Ronald D. Reeves
The ideal congregation responds positively when encouraged to better learn the truths of the will of God, the body of divinely revealed knowledge that is essential for our personal salvation. Our spiritual screen must ever allow the fresh gentle breeze of God’s Word to penetrate deeply into the whole of our spiritual house. Our spiritual screen must also be strong enough to prevent pests of error from entering our personal and congregational fellowship (Ephesians 5:11). To be such a people, let us view ourselves as students truly in need of a greater measure of knowledge of the Word of God. Let us be committed to growing beyond spiritual infancy (Ephesians 4:15), accompanying such commitment with decisive action. Let us plan well and readily implement our plan as we seek success in spiritual growth. May we open our minds anew to the wonders of the Word of God. May we hunger and thirst after righteousness more so than we ever have in the past (Matthew 5:6). Growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord is worthy of our best efforts (2 Peter 3:18)!