By GF Herrin
Several years ago Stephen Covey wrote a book called “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, a self-help book that impacted many in the business community. In the 1990’s as an enterprising individual, I needed to do a project for my career development at the training consultant job had at the time. I remember reading that book and thinking oh, that’s nice. Nothing too amazing but helpful nonetheless. Well, about a week ago or so, a Christian brother and I did an informal discussion of the first few verses of 1st Thessalonians chapter 5, while encouraging each other to keep looking for the Lord Jesus’ return. As I read the rest of the chapter, though, it occurred to me that Paul was urging us believers on to live out certain behaviors while we look for the King. In living for God, looking for the Messiah’s return, and also in being a highly effective Christian, there are 7 key actions that we as born again believers can perform in our daily lives:
16 Rejoice always, Notice that Paul doesn’t say, rejoice when you feel like it or rejoice when you are in the mood, or rejoice on Fridays! He says to the Thessalonians (and us) Rejoice always! We see an example of this rejoicing in Acts 16:24-30 when Paul and Silas are thrown into prison. Verse 25 says, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. “ Paul and Silas, locked into bondage in a dreary prison, and nearly naked, were (against all worldly logic) rejoicing and praising the Lord. Their behavior got attention from the fellow prisoners and the jailer who clearly wanted what they had. The same applies to us in the workplace, on the street, in the mission field, at school, and anywhere else. If you rejoice, especially during tough times you are going to get noticed by people who want what you have: Living water given to you by the eternal resurrected Christ.
17 Pray without ceasing
We as Christians should not limit our prayer life to when we are at home. Pray in your car on the way to work, on the phone when you are consoling a friend, with your kids when you begin a vacation, at your desk when you begin your work day, or during a crisis when you don’t know how to handle a challenge in your job. Pray continuously and tell the Lord that you are totally dependent on Him. He already knows that but you need to know it, too.
18 In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
This is the toughest one, I think because we get so deep into our own stuff that we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s face it, people are suffering. Financial troubles, health challenges, marital issues, or anything at all can drag us down. The unbelieving world would have you believe that all of the stuff happening to you is completely random and there is no purpose for your day to day life. But remember Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This means that the tough job assignment your boss just gave you was not random. God has a purpose behind it. So, be thankful. As a matter of fact be thankful in all things. I had a friend who is a web developer who would frequently get angry at work when he would have to wait for some kind of web or database process to complete. He would wait wishing that it would run faster until he realized that even in these moments God had a purpose. His attitude was changed when he asked the Lord to help him understand what the Lord would have him learn from the situation and would be directed to solve another issue or do something else that had God’s touch behind it. So, we can be thankful even if we don’t quite understand why we are going through something.
19 Do not quench the Spirit.
Are you responding to what you feel God’s Spirit has put on your heart? Are you doing things you should not do? Are you not doing things that you should? If you responded “yes” to this then you may be in danger of quenching the Spirit. If you are a born again child of God then the Holy Spirit has set up in residence in you. Paul writes, “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). There are numerous passages in Scripture associating the Spirit with fire (Isa. 4:4; Matt. 3:11; Acts 2:23-4). The traits demonstrated by a person filled with the Holy Spirit are boldness, courage, and prophecy. These traits tend to be high energy or fiery acts. Certainly, Peter acted in the power of the Holy Spirit when he preached at the Temple in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-36) and healed the crippled man (Acts 3:1-8). As Christians, we are called to live in the power of God’s Spirit by doing things that He has for us to accomplish. If a believer is not responding to the Holy Spirit by obeying what He wants him to do, then he can be in danger of quenching the Spirit. Are you called to preach? Teach? Or are you just called to reach out to the person down the street with some unique task that God wants you to help with? Do it somehow and live out the power of the Spirit.
20 Do not despise prophecies.
A lot of Christians, especially ones in mainline churches and even in mainline seminaries, tend to discount or not emphasize the many prophetic passages of the Bible. Specific types of prophecy that come to mind are passages having to do with the Lord’s Second Coming or the Rapture of the Church. For example, some preachers may say that we cannot understand the Book of Revelation because it is so hard to understand. Or they may advise you (regarding the Rapture or Second Coming) that since “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven” (Matt. 24:36) we should not be expecting Christ’s return during our lifetime. But that is biblically incorrect since Paul himself exhorted the believers of his day to “say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13). In short, understanding prophecy and applying it to our daily lives in a fashion that encourages us to live more holy is of great value.
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
This passage goes hand in hand with not despising prophecy. We should value prophecy: both what is written in the Bible and what a Spirit filled godly preacher declares from the pulpit. However, we need to test everything against the Holy Scriptures. We must make sure that whatever teaching we expose ourselves to, whether it comes from a Bible study teacher, a theology book, or a gifted evangelist, lines up with the Sacred Writ. The Christian faith holds to Sola Scriptura: that is that the biblical text is authoritative and “is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Further, “the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Whatever teaching we place value on must be consistent with what is written in the New and Old Testaments.
22 Abstain from every form of evil.
This passage really speaks for itself. In view are basic moral laws taught in the Bible such as not stealing, not committing murder, not lying, not committing idolatry, and not coveting. The early direction of the disciples, and elders of the Church emphasized to the new Gentile believers that they “abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:29; 20:25). It is interesting that of these specific instructions given, the most applicable one is the warning against sexual immorality. How does one stay away from such things? James writes, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your heart, you double-minded” (James 3:6-7). In essence, it is only by humbling ourselves before God and seeking His help that we can overcome our tendency to sin. If we humble ourselves and “confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:16). So, we know that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).