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Monday, January 16, 2012

Give Thanks, Quench Not

Paul wrote two letters to the Thessalonians whom he had ministered to and loved during his missionary journeys.  These letters reveal his confidence in their faith and his hope for their ultimate salvation.

Toward the end of 1 Thessalonians 5 there are several verses that seem like last minute reminders I used to give my kids:  Be careful, don't forget your coat, get home at a decent hour.

Paul's reminders go like this: 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
 16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
 19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil. (NIV)  

Tucked away in the middle of this voluminous collection of last minute reminders is a verse that bares closer examination.  Verse 18 is more than just the injunction to give thanks.  It also gives the reason:  this is God's will for you.  More than that, it is God's will in Christ Jesus for you.

Try it from another translation:  ...in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.(KJV)  This is counter-intuitive if not absolutely absurd.  In the myriad painful and evil events that befall us, we are supposed to give thanks?  Be real.  I'm not happy about some of this stuff!  

That's O.K.  Paul doesn't say you have to be happy about the event, but still you must give thanks to God when it happens.  I found I could give thanks when James wasn't killed when the tractor ran over him.  He wasn't even hurt.  I could give thanks Nicki was tough and determined when her leg was broken.  I could give thanks when my niece was killed and we could support her father.  Life plays hardball, and we must be up for the game.

Once I was reading that verse, verse 19 was bold on the page.  It quivered and I thought my mind and my eyes were playing tricks.  I read it again.  It said:  Quench not the Spirit. (KJV)  I was giving thanks in some disaster through clenched teeth, and it made me mad.  But then the light shone.  It was the yielded and obedient giving of thanks that released the Spirit to bring about comfort and resolution in my difficulty.  Giving thanks and looking to the Lord were not denying the very real difficulty.  Realizing the power of the Holy Spirit to act on my behalf and ridding myself of  bitterness and fear gave God entry into my situation.  Then the thanks flowed like water and I was refreshed in it.

I pursued this line of thought and found that all the reminders could be paired with these two verses. Try it yourself.

Give thanks and quench not--reminders to live by.