Directions For Your Heart
Directions are everywhere. There are directions for assembling, directions for repairing, directions for preparing and directions for taking all kinds of things. God, in His word, gives directions for the heart. In I Thessalonians 5:16-22 Paul gives some short but powerful directions on how to have a good heart and good life. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." Let us learn some lessons for the heart:
Rejoice always (I Thessalonians 5:16): Let us rejoice in God and in what He has done in our lives. "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) Christians can rejoice, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." (2 Corinthians 6:10) Christianity fills our cup to overflowing. "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over." (Psalms 23:5) The Christian life is a life a joy, peace and true contentment. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17): Each exhortation connects with the ones before. The way to "rejoice always" is to "pray without ceasing." "Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1) The way to rejoice more is to pray more. Prayer will help in any right thing you are involved with. Pray aids in using the "Sword of the Spirit" or the "Word of God." "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:17-18) Christians pray always because prayer is the Christian's way to have needed things. "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight." (I John 3:22)
In everything give thanks (I Thessalonians 5:18): Notice God's order -- rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Thanksgiving is to accompany prayer and supplication. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7) Giving thanks is, "the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Whatever your state of life, be thankful. Thanksgiving is pleasing to God. “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.” (Psalm 75:1)
Do not quench the spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19): The spirit is quenched as faith, hope, and love are quenched with sin. Stephen accused some of resisting the Spirit. "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you." (Acts 7:51.) Paul said some grieve the spirit. "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4:30) This is done by refusing the instructions of the Spirit. Like raindrops quench a fire, evil thoughts, idle words or sinful deeds quench the Spirit of God. In many Christians the Spirit fire is quenched because it is never replenished by Bible study, meditation, prayer, self-examination, good works, kindness, love or mercy.
Do not despise prophecies (I Thessalonians 5:20): God's grace is received as His teachings are received. Let us never despise prophecies or the preaching of the word. Christians must prize and value the study, interpretation, and application of scriptures. "But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you." (I Corinthians 14:24-25) Do not despise the preaching of God's word or the one who preaches it. "Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16.) May God bless us with ears ever open to hear His truths. “Let these words sink down into your ears…” (Luke 9:44)
Test all things (I Thessalonians 5:21): Things taught by preachers and teachers must be tried by God's law and testimony. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1) When convinced from scripture that a thing is true, "hold fast what is good." Every Christian has the responsibility to grow to the point of discerning good and evil. "Everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Hebrews 5:13-14) Earnest searching the scriptures will settle our minds so truth and error can be recognized. "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars." (Revelations 2:2) Test everything you hear, by the Bible, to see if it so! If it is what the Bible teaches follow it with all your heart.
Abstain from every form of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22): Christians must be willing to do the will of God and to avoid all evil. "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth." (John. 17:17) God will provide a way to escape when temptation comes. "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13) A pure heart and clean mind gives strength to avoid all appearance of evil. A man will never begin to be good till he begins to decline those occasions that have made him bad; therefore Paul said to the Thessalonians and through them to all others, "abstain from all appearance of evil."
It is possible to live a life that is both holy and happy. Psalm 144:15 says, "...Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!" The Lord will grant you just such a life if you will follow His directions for your heart. "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16) Christians must leave no open doors for sin to enter. Strengthen your heart and be on guard at every point! "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." (Matthew 10:22)
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O Box 551, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA