Let’s read Thessalonians 5:23-24 together. (sd) “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 (The Message) Now it is what’s called ‘benediction’ and you’ve heard that word before, right? “Now you shall rise for benediction.” So what’s the benediction? Let me break it down for you. Two words make up the word, benediction. Bene, which means good and diction, which means words. So what’s the benediction? Good words. That’s it. Good words and we thought it was something, you know, some really amazing deal out there. It’s just good words. But how good are these words? How good are these words that God is the one who makes everything at everyone holy and whole? You’ve been trying to put your life together all by yourself. Does it work? It doesn’t work. Does it? And so today the good news is you can bring your wandering spirit, your wounded soul, your broken body to God and at last you can find rest. Why? Because our master Jesus Christ, on the screen, it says the one who called you, and he’s calling you, and he is completely dependable. If he said what’s it say, “He’ll do it!” If he said, what’s it say? He’ll do it! This is good stuff, right? You know the song, “Something beautiful, something good, all my confusion he understood and all I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but God made something beautiful.” I want that. Don’t you? I want that and the good news is you can bring your confusion and your brokenness and strife and God can make something beautiful. Out of my, your life, God can turn our mess into God’s masterpiece. Can turn our mess into a message. And my longing for today, my prayer for today, the reason I got of the bed today was the Lord and you. What I was thinking about is that I don’t want to just believe in Jesus. I want to know him! Don’t you want to just think about this? This is good stuff. I want you to experience this for yourself. I want you to know how God can fill the holes in your heart and in your soul. But then, how? That’s the question of today. (sd) How can my life be whole? To be complete, to be undivided and full, how do we find it? Well, right before Paul gives us this benediction. He gives us three simple yet profound instructions on how to live this kind of whole life? Anybody ready for that life? I think I do. So let’s look at them together. Number one. (sd) 1. Learn to rejoice no matter what! We need to learn to rejoice no matter what. I think this is a longing in every one of our hearts to rejoice. Here’s how I know this. We love parties, don’t we? We think of reasons to have parties and a lot of times they’re great reasons. I mean we have birthday parties, housewarming parties, cocktail parties, super bowl parties, fourth of July parties, Cinco de Mayo parties, New Year’s Day parties, Christmas parties, St. Patrick Day’s parties, wedding party, graduation party, we love to party! Sometimes we can’t think of reasons, so we party around mundane things. Anybody has ever been at the office and been thinking you know what we should have? We should have an office party. Yeah! An office party, that’d be cool! Sometimes we open our closet and say, “You know what? I need more Tupperware. We should have a Tupperware party! That’s right!” Sometimes we think, “You know what? We need to have a party! Whoa! Let’s get dressed up a little. I don’t have anything to wear to the party. You know what should we wear? Well, in college, people go, “Well, I got a bed sheet. Let’s have a toga party! That’s right!” We can have a toga party! I mean, we can think of all of these reasons to have parties and there are a lot of swimming pools around here but we have pool parties. Why are we having a party because we have a pool. Wow! And if you don’t get invited to a party, here’s what you can do. You can crash the party, right? Yes! We have this longing in our heart to rejoice. We want to rejoice, and the reason I love following Jesus is it God calls us to this life of rejoicing! It’s a party! And I know some of you think. “Oh, no no no no, he’s just a great killjoy. That’s all God is.” No, you haven’t read the Bible, you haven’t followed Jesus. You’ve not felt the power, the energy, the joy, the ecstasy of following Jesus in your life. There’s nothing better. There’s nothing greater. Tony Campolo wrote a book called the kingdom of God as a party and he is right. All throughout this book, there’s party after party rejoicing after rejoicing. Jesus summarizes all his teachings in this. He says, “I’ve told you all these things for the purpose that my joy might be your joy and that your joy might be holy mature. What Jesus’ saying is I am teaching you all this so you’ll know how to grow up and party!” That’s why I am teaching you all this stuff. You know what it’s like to live your life with that kind of joy, that kind of gladness. Paul knew this. That’s why in his letters, two dozen times he mentions rejoicing. Look with me what he says. This is the first instruction on a whole life. Verse 16. Read it with me (sd) Rejoice always…1 Thessalonians 5:16 (NIV) Now you might want to memorize that. You say I don’t know if I can. I believe you can do it. Let’s say it again. Rejoice always! When do we rejoice? Always! Rejoice always no matter what! You see that is what the difference is in people that follow Jesus and people that do not because we can have this Spirit enabled the ability to rejoice no matter what. Let’s face it. All of our parties have an end, don’t they? They come to an end. This week I read the Guinness Book of World Records. The longest dance party came to an end. It was only 55 hours. Eventually, all the parties come to an end. All the guests go home, the food runs out, everybody gets tired of everybody and so the party ends. But what I am talking about is the ability to rejoice when? always! Even when things are going south.
Look with me number 2. (sd) 2. We need to Learn to pray at all times! Rejoice always and pray at all times. When I was traveling 10 or 12 years ago, I landed at Atlanta airport. I was going to Atlanta to meet my friend who was studying there. I was walking in the airport and a man came up to me. He never made eye contact but all of a sudden, he starts talking to me about taking care of a business deal that needed to happen. A financial transaction. He just went on and on and on about the details of it. He was like I needed it to happen today! Don’t mess this up! I am not telling you again! And I was like “I don’t even know who you are!” I mean this is weird! I was trying to talk to him and he just looked at me very strange and he kept on instructing me on what to do. And then I finally just kind of dodged him. I got away from him in the crowd and I went down to the airport shuttle subway to transfer people from the AirPort to the parking lot. I was sitting there and this guy came up, he sat down, he’s next to me, and he started giving me orders about his kids. It was really weird. He was saying I need you to make sure they get their homework done, those kinds of things! He was just on and on and on and I finally said, “Sir, I don’t even know you, I don’t know what you are talking about!” He looked at me really weird. And the other guy who was sitting next to me was laughing his head off and he pointed to his ear. “Look at his ear!” And I looked at and there was a Star Trek thing coming down. He said, “That’s called Bluetooth! That’s called wireless! He can talk on the phone with that thing!” I was like, “Oh- he’s not talking to me, is he.” I learned a lot about technology that day. But this guy was talking constantly. We are constantly connected to each other. I mean, just go anywhere and look around at the number of people that are with a bunch of people. But they’re wanting to be with somebody else on their phone. I do all the time! I know! We’re in constant communication with each other. With Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, our phone, we are in constant communication. Here’s what the Bible tells us that we need to do. We need to be in constant communication with God. We need to pray at all times. Here’s how verse 17 puts it. Ready? (sd) …pray continually… 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NIV) Pray when? Continually! 80% of Americans say they pray regularly. 50% say every day. 20% of Atheists say that they pray regularly. Go figure that one out. I don’t understand that. But anyway, here’s a question about prayer. Are you praying just like to give a nod to God? Or you wanting to draw close to God? In fact, God wants to draw close to you. Prayer is not an art to be mastered. It is a relationship to be enjoyed and established. And you will discover that God has been with you all along and that God wants you to know of God’s love and grace so pray continually. God wants to come to you. Many of you have struggled through life events, touch ones, such as losing a job, a rough marriage because we thought we had to go through it all alone. God’s been right by our side, longing to talk to us, so we can pray continually and we can be real and honest in our constant communication and listening to God.
Look with me number 3. (sd) To find that wholeness, I must learn to give thanks no matter what happens! There’s one more instruction Paul gives on this life of being made whole. He says it in verse 18. (sd) …”give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) Now, give thanks for all circumstances is that what it says. How? How is that even possible? Last Wednesday I was getting ready to go to church for Thanksgiving Eve Service. I was happy and everything. I was so thankful to God for making my life this happy. And you know what? Right before I left the house, I found out that I had a bat in the basement? What? Again? No! Not again! I was not happy anymore. I was like, “Oh, God why are you giving me this ordeal? How could you???” I mean, even a small bat can kill my joy in my life, how can I give thanks to God no matter what happens?
It was a couple of years ago. I went to a restaurant with my friend couple and their 5-year-old son for dinner. It was a very quiet restaurant with a quiet piano music. We sat at the table and the food came. So we bowed our heads together to say a blessing for food. And all of a sudden, the 5-year-old boy went, “Oh, the Lord’s been good to me and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need. The sun, the rain, and the Appleseed; Oh, the Lord’s been good to me.” In that nice quiet restaurant! And everybody is looking, you know. And we were looking at each other, but the boy’s father was like, “Well, Amen!” You know what? He is right. Whether you know it or not, the Lord has been good to you. Whether you know it or not, I mean you’re alive today. You got a breath in your lung, you got blood in your veins. You are alive today and the Lord’s been good to me! Whether you know it or not, there’s not been a season of sorrow or a time of trouble or a tear you’ve ever shed that Jesus was not there right by your side. Longing for you to just rest in his arms of grace. There’s never been a moment that he’s not left you. He’s been there longing for you to know that the Lord’s been good. The Lord is good! The Lord’s been good to you. Thanks be to God for the grace in the son Christ. And that’s how Paul wraps up the letter. This is his final word to his friends. Look with me. (sd) “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:28 (NIV) See, how in the world are we supposed to rejoice? How do we pray continually? How do we give thanks no matter what’s going on in our life? I tell you how. Through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May he be with us. That gives us the power. This spring I went to CGH for just a routine check-up and they told me that I might have cancer. Sure, it turned out not. It was not cancer. But it took months to finally get the word. I got the final diagnosis about two weeks ago. With all kinds of different expensive tests over the past months, and with the memory of my mom being a cancer patient for seven years with pain, I found really hard this time to be joyful. And I thought to myself, “If you really were diagnosed with cancer someday, could you be still thankful and joyful to God?” Because of the family history, I will more likely end up getting that someday. That’s what doctors say. Anyway, and my answer was yes! Why? Because of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ with us, with me. Yes, this is our testimony, right? We can be thankful and still joyful no matter what happens to us because of the grace of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ! It’s the Lord who has been good to me and you and I thank the Lord for giving me things that I need. The Sun, the rain and the Appleseed! It’s the amazing grace for you today. He’s completely dependable. Jesus puts us all together. He holds us all together. He’s here for you.