Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Listening for God's Voice and Trusting His Promises- 1 Thessalonians 5:19-28

The end is upon us and we're wrapping up with Paul's final words (in this letter, at least) to the people of Thessalonica. Let's look at the place that we left off and see what he says:

" Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)

We have touched on this idea in past posts from other studies. But let's look at it again as Paul is offering up this advice again for a reason. Number 1, the people of Thessalonica would have had almost no way of getting this advice from another source. News traveled, but not very quickly. And this one may have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Number 2, it's vitally important to the life of a believer. If it weren't, Paul wouldn't have wasted time, ink, and paper saying it. If we are listening, the Holy Spirit is talking to us, guiding us, pointing us in the right direction. Is this an actual audible voice? For most of us, no. Look at verse 20. Paul suggests we "check out everything." How do we do this? There are several steps one should take to check out the direction in which they feel the Holy Spirit is guiding them.

1. Pray- If you feel led in a certain direction, stop and ask for clear guidance before barging forward on it. Ask God to make it abundantly clear to you. The last thing you want to be doing is listening to a feeling (remember, feelings are sometimes used to mislead us) and find out that it wasn't God pointing you in that direction.

2. Read your Bible- What does the Bible have to say on this subject? Are you feeling led to leave your husband and children behind to become a great painter in France? That's not God telling you to do that. I promise. It goes completely against what the Bible has to say about marriage and family. That's Satan using your feelings to lie to you.

Are you feeling led to talk to that woman in the pharmacy who's standing off to the side quietly crying? You don't need to check your Bible for this one, honestly. I can tell you it says to love others and comforting those in need is a great way to show love to others. This is one argument for reading your Bible regularly, not just when you need something. If you are a regular reader of your Bible, then you are allowing God to speak clearly into your life on a regular basis. You'll start to just know what it says.

3. Talk to a Trusted, God-following Friend or Two- Run your thoughts and your leadings past another Jesus follower. See what they think. Are there holes in your plan that they can see that you didn't? Do they have any Biblically-based reservations about it? Ask them to pray with you on it.

If your plan passes all of the tests above, then do as Paul says in verses 21-22. Keep the good. If not, throw it out with the bad. God will show you which it is if you take the time to ask him.

From here, Paul moves into his final words and closing remarks in his letter:

"May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!" (1 Thessalonians 5: 23-24)

What a great reminder from Paul! If God said it, he'll follow through. He is trustworthy. He has made us, His followers, so many good promises that we can count on. Here are just a few to lift you up:

Joshua 23:14b- "Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!"

Luke 18:27- " He replied, 'What is impossible for people is possible with God.'"

Ezekiel 36:26- " And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart."

Psalm 103:12- "He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west."

John 16:13- "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future."

Matthew 6:33- "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."

Philippians 4:19- " And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."

James 1:5- "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking."

Proverbs 3:5-6- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take."

Psalm 138:7- "Though I am surrounded by troubles,
you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
and the power of your right hand saves me."

Aren't those some amazing promises from God? I could have listed hundreds more, but in the interest of time and space (and to encourage you to read your Bible yourself), I am going to stop with those. Let's finish up Paul's letter here:

"Friends, keep up your prayers for us. Greet all the followers of Jesus there with a holy embrace. And make sure this letter gets read to all the brothers and sisters. Don’t leave anyone out." (1 Thessalonians 5:25-27)

Pray for one another. Paul's words. We should be praying for one another, not just for ourselves. Lift up your friends and family to Jesus. Lift up the mom at school drop-off that you don't know, the check out guy at the grocery store that never says a word to you despite your best efforts, and the dude who is always walking somewhere weighed down with reusable bags on the side of the road. Pray for everyone.

To wrap up this final post on 1 Thessalonians, I want to use Paul's closing words from the letter. Remember to be blessed today and to choose to bless someone else as well.

"The amazing grace of Jesus Christ be with you!" (1 Thessalonians 5:28)

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