16 Rejoice always,
17 pray without ceasing,
18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
19 Do not quench the Spirit.
20 Do not despise prophecies.
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
22 Abstain from every form of evil.
23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
25 Brethren, pray for us.
26 Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.
27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen./p>
for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
These verses outline the outward appearance of a man who is practicing Godliness.
"Live so that when you tell someone you are a Christian, it confirms their suspicions instead of surprising them." - Unknown
Verse 16, 17 and 18 must be read together, as rejoicing, pray and thankfulness always together,
Rejoice in the Lord alway: [and] again I say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4. Be reminded that Paul penned these words while cast into a dark damp dungeon for his faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul knew and understood the words
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose. Romans 8:28.
As Arthur Pink puts it - "our hearts are designed to rejoice again and again".
The trouble with many men is that they have got just enough religion to make them miserable. If there is not joy in religion, you have got a leak in your religion. - Billy Sunday SERMON, NEW YORK 1914
Our rejoicing can more abound if we pray without ceasing, as Gods abundant mercies are show us in response to our pray we rejoice without ceasing.
The Psalmist, in the midst of his enemies could write
For my love they are my adversaries: but I [give myself unto] prayer. Psalm 109:4
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16
Spurgeon’s warning is salient "The common fault with the most of us is our readiness to yield to distractions". What if someone was petitioning you for your time or money was speaking to you while doing up their shoe laces - we do the same with God. Does your mind wonder as you pray? Is your heart in gear?
It is only by prayer do we put ourselves under the covering wings of God.
Stonewall Jackson, asked about praying without ceasing, said: "I never raise a glass of water to my lips without asking God's blessing, nor seal a letter without putting a word of prayer under the seal, nor take a letter from the post without a brief sending of my thought heavenward, nor change my classes without a minute's petition on the cadets who come in."
"Don't you sometimes forget to do this?" "I scarcely can say that I do. The habit has become as fixed as breathing."
John Bunyon writes 'You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed".
Prayer cannot be a one way street. The prayer of Jesus of John 17 is a perfect example of how to pray. That of Nehemiah resembles a man walking closely with the Lord, although in difficult circumstances. Pray will contain thanks - a heart overwhelmingly joyful will spill over in thankfulness.
Rejoicing and thanks giving cannot be separated in God’s realm:
Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. Psalms 97:12.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD [is] good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psalms 100:4-5.
John Wesley was about 21 years of age when he went to Oxford University. He came from a Christian home, and he was gifted with a keen mind and good looks. Yet in those days he was a bit snobbish and sarcastic. One night, however, something happened that set in motion a change in Wesley's heart. While speaking with a porter, he discovered that the poor fellow had only one coat and lived in such impoverished conditions that he didn't even have a bed. Yet he was an unusually happy person , filled with gratitude to God. Wesley, being immature, thoughtlessly joked about the man's misfortunes. "And what else do you thank God for?" he said with a touch of sarcasm. The porter smiled, and in the spirit of meekness replied with joy, "I thank Him that He has given me my life and being, a heart to love Him, and above all a constant desire to serve Him!" Deeply moved, Wesley recognized that this man knew the meaning of true thankfulness.
D.L Moody said, "I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God's law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled."
Do you blot out the sound of the Holy Spirit speaking to you? Do you quench him like water on a camp fire, with pride, arrogance, anger, self-righteousness?
Here prophecies mean more than prediction of the future - but includes Scripture itself. There are many self-help books in the books-stores when the greatest available is Scripture itself - use it.
The prophecies pertaining to the end-times is more relevant now than at any other time. Listen with care, always checking against the Bible. There are too many bad and plainly wrong interpretations of the future on the internet and in books. It gives us hope of the coming of Christ. Be ready in season and out of season to give a defence of the gospel.
This follows on from verse 20 - test all things, what has been said here, what you hear in church or during bible study - against the Bible. The vast amount of information on the internet has not been tested by any one or against any truth.
Another way to put this is don’t be polluted by the world.
It takes very little to make a clean dress appear spotted and shabby, as is our lives. We can easily be distracted from the Lord if we enter into any evil, even the slightest. This includes merely pondering or considering evil in our mind. Murder in the heart is the same as murder by the hand, stated Jesus.
Paul to Timothy puts it more forcefully "Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, love [charity], peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart". 2Ti 2:22 .
We are not fleeing to the woods, but to a life of righteousness, for such is the kingdom of God.
The "keeping from" needs to be an active conscious decisions. It will not happen naturally, for the natural man tends towards evil - our newspapers attest to this. One not only keeps way but flees - for example, "flee fornication" (1 Corinthians 6:18).
Note that evil may appear beautiful indeed, very pleasing to the eye and even right on face value. (See Proverbs 7 concerning the prostitute).
"Evil unchecked grows, evil tolerated poisons the whole system." - Jawaharlal Nehru
We need to be set part - our whole spirit, soul and body. Notice this starts from the inside - our spirit needs to be in communion with the Holy Spirit. We can start in no other place, and we have not other place to start. Our soul needs to lead by the Holy Spirit which so directs our body through our mind.
Our prayer too, is that God would sanctify us.
Our understanding of faith comes from God - he is faith and true to us. He will sanctify us because he is faithful.
One day a pastor visited a farmer who was a member of his congregation. As the pastor climbed out of his car he noticed a windmill on the barn which carried an in scription. Squinting his eyes, the pastor could just make out the words: GOD IS FAITHFUL. "Do you mean," asked the pastor, "that God's faithfulness depends on the direction the wind is blowing?" "No!" said the farmer. "The words mean that, regardless of which way the wind blows, God is faithful."
We are too to pray for our leaders, uphold them in our prayers and supplications. This means thinking about them, pondering their needs and praying for them. This means we need to get to know our leaders.
It is all too easy to enter the meeting hall (or church building) on the Lords Day morning, flop into our chair, sing when needed to, pray when needed, listen when needed, then walk out with little communion with the saints. The meeting together is ordered for the purpose of communion - corporately with God (where two or three are gather together there am I in the midst) and with each other. We are wash each other feet - the dirty grime of this world pollutes the parts that make contact with it - our communion before and after the meeting should be of the type that washes each others feet.
What do you discuss - the football our how the Lord has up held you during the week? Remembering that those that loved the Lord spoke often one to another about Him.
A teenager came home from choir practice early one evening. His father was incredulous. The boy had never come home early from anything. Looking over his paper he asked, "What brings you back so soon?" "We had to call off choir practice for this week," the youth replied. "The organist and the choir director got in a terrible argument about how to sing `Love Divine,' so we quit for tonight."
This little is as relevant to day as it was when first read in the churches,
All in all, it is the Grace of God that abounds, giving us the peace, joy and hope with have, knowing the absolute faithfulness of God the Father.