Today’s Scripture:  “16 Rejoice evermore.17 Pray without ceasing.18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Introduction:

I really enjoyed the previous message.  I know that it’s always good to be reminded that some times we need to take stock of what we do have, and learn to be content and enjoy the blessing we have instead of always pining, hoping, and wishing for better.

I’m excited about what the Lord’s going to have to say to us through this message too.  Never really spent much time in Thessalonians, but I am sure the Holy Ghost will help me to make sure this message is both encouraging and challenging.

Today’s Message:

Before I really get into the message I believe there’s a few things that we could say about these couple of verses here in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.  In this passage are three things that I think would go a long way towards helping us to find that gratitude and contentment that we talked about in the last message.

Now…I don’t really know what the writer of this devotion is going to say I haven’t even looked at what’s written yet, and maybe this is one of those messages where I won’t need to…but I feel like there are some things we could say about those three points right there…and I think that may be a side journey worth taking…are you ready?

– Rejoice Evermore –

First of all, let’s take a look at the word “rejoice”.  The word rejoice according to the dictionary means to “to give joy to”.  It also means:  “to feel joy or great delight”.  That’s where I sense the Lord is at.  To feel joy or great delight.

Secondly, let’s take a look at “evermore”.  The word evermore according to Webster’s Dictionary means:  “forever, always”, and it also means “in the future”.  Again where we’re going is where I sense the Lord is at…and that means we’re going with forever, always, and in the future.

So…when we put rejoice evermore together as the Lord is desiring us to do at the moment.  We come up with this:  We are to feel joy or great delight forever, always, and in the future.

This kind of goes along with what we talked about in yesterday’s message, and drives home the point that if we can find a place where we have gratitude and are grateful for where we are, what we have, and realize that we, as Christians, have it better than 93% of the world…then we can come to a place where we feel joy and great delight.

You know something.  That’s the kind of thing that the abundant life is all about.  These are the things that stuff and money cannot buy.  Stuff and money might be able to make life more comfortable, but the truth of the matter is there’s a greater feeling than comfort…and that feeling is joy…or great delight…and that only comes from realizing that the abundant life isn’t about money or stuff…but about achieving the ability to discover those feelings…and know what it means to really feel things like true love, joy, delight, and contentment.  Those to me are more of what the abundant life is about that stuff and money…because when all your stuff is gone and you’re out of money…then you no longer are able to have joy.

I’ve been there, friends.  I placed my joy and happiness on having stuff…and when my stuff was gone and I didn’t have any money to replace my stuff…my joy was gone because my joy was set upon things in this world, but now that my joy is set upon Christ…even if I lost everything…I know that I still have Jesus…and I don’t know about you…but to me…Jesus is my everything, my all and all, and my joy is full because of Him…not my stuff.

Is this making sense?  I have a feeling this is going to be better than what was written in the devotional.  I’ll provide you the link for the devotional if you’d like to read what it says…but I think we’ll stay right here and rely upon the Holy Ghost for this message…Amen!?!

– Pray Without Ceasing –

I don’t know about you, but I am always talking to God.  Do you know that we can talk to God just like we talk to anyone else?  Do you also know that it blesses Him when you talk to Him like He’s your friend?  You know, there’s always a time and a place for formal prayer, but I don’t know about you…but I cannot get through a day without talking to God just to talk to Him…and you know what…He blesses that just as much as He blesses formal prayer.

Listen.  I don’t walk around all day saying:  “My gracious Heavenly Father, how I thank Thee for what Thou is doing, Oh that Thouist wouldist…”  I honestly think if I went around talking to God like that He’d probably in return be like:  “What are you doing?  Why are you talking to me like that?  Don’t you know how ridiculous you sound?”

No, friends.  I can’t tell you how many times I’m sitting outside or in my car or where ever…and I just have something on my heart and I’m like:  “You know Lord, I really appreciate this beautiful day.” Listen…do you walk around talking to your dad like most people pray?  Seriously.  I’ve heard some of the most outrageous openings to prayer you can imagine.  I can almost imagine God wondering who the heck that person is talking to.

Now listen, I’m not making fun of the way people pray, and if that’s on your heart to pray that way…that’s awesome.  But, I can assure you that I’ve gotten more out of the informal chats with God than I’ve gotten when I do the formal praying like we hear in churches and everywhere else.  I don’t talk my dad like that…so why in the world would I talk to my Daddy like that?

No…like I said.  Sometimes, I will just start talking, and I know that God knows I’m talking to Him cause there’s no one else around.  Some times there may be someone else around.  I just start talking to Him some times when I’m driving or sitting outside or in the shower.  That’s what Paul means to pray without ceasing…it doesn’t mean say a thousand Hail Mary’s a day, and a hundred Our Fathers.

It just means talk to God.  Talk to Him about things that bug you.  Talk to Him about things that make you happy.  Talk to Him about how your day is going…ask Him how His is going.  Listen…we all know that prayer is talking to God…so talk to Him.

Look…if we just talked to our friends whenever we felt like it they would probably start to get the feeling that we really don’t care about them, and don’t want to talk to them.  God’s no different.  He wants us to talk to Him.  He wants us to put down the religious praying…and just talk to Him like we’d talk to anyone else.

Believe me…I know that He does because I talk to Him like that all the time.  He’ll let you know when it’s time to get into your prayer closet, and really sincerely seek Him and pray like we do at church.  But, friend, what I believe the Holy Ghost is trying to get across to us is that we need to just stop being so formal with God…and talk to Him like we’d talk to anyone else…Amen!?!

– In All Things Give Thanks –

And we’re back to being thankful and grateful…having an “attitude of gratitude”.  Come on, friends, how in the world can we not look at where we are now, and where we used to be…and not be thankful in all things?

I love the old expression:  “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”  That’s the attitude of gratitude I’m talking about.

Listen…I don’t know about you, but my life before Jesus took control of it literally sucked!  I’m not going to lie or sugar-coat anything.  My life before Jesus got a hold of it…and me was a Johnny Cash song.  Heartache after heartache.  Failure after failure.  Why?  I will tell you exactly why.  I wasn’t thankful at all for my life, the things in my life, and I had absolutely no gratitude in my heart at all.

I’ve only seriously been walking for the Lord for about two years now, but I’ve been saved, sanctified and born again all my life.  I can honestly tell you that for 36 years of my life I was miserable, and I couldn’t ever understand or figure out why my life was miserable until I began to understand that I had a wrong understanding of what the abundant life was…and what contentment was really about.

See, I talk about having a wrong understanding of the abundant life because of the prosperity gospel because I had bought into the thought that the reason I wasn’t having success and wasn’t having the abundant life was because my idea of the abundant life was tied to stuff…instead of the fruits of the spirit.  I bought the lie about how the abundant life had to do with sowing seeds of money into all these places, and reaping a financial harvest of the seeds…and the reason I had such a sucky life was because I didn’t have any seed to sow.  It takes a seed of money to reap a harvest of money…and…well…I didn’t have $1,000 to sow.  I didn’t have $100 to sow.  I didn’t even have $1.00 to sow at times.

Do you know when God broke me of that understanding of the abundant life?  He broke it about December of 2011.  I had no job, no car, and my bills were piling up.  I was months behind on my rent, I was months behind on my utility bills, and I was just flat broke.  I barely had any kind of money coming in at all, and whatever money I did have coming in went to basic necessities like food and such…and paying as much as I could on my rent and other bills as possible.

However…can I tell you that was one of the most powerful times in my life?  How can I say that?  I can say that because I had come to fully understand that God loved me, and that I was His own.  I began to understand that even though all of the “stuff” I had was about to be taken away from me…He was my supplier.  He made sure my electricity and heat stayed on.  He made sure that I got money from time to time to keep the landlord happy, and to at the very least pay the minimum to keep my lights on.

I learned at that time that even if all the world turned away from me that He never would, and in fact I had such a close and intimate relationship with God that under normal circumstances in my life without Him I can honestly tell you I would have been a nervous wreck.  In fact, I had people ask me how I could remain so calm in the face of so much adversity…and the only response I had or could give was this…I don’t know what, but I know God’s going to do something…and I’m just going to trust Him.

It would eventually lead to me moving in with the woman who would eventually become my wife, but what I learned during that time is just what Paul was talking about in yesterdays verses.  I was on the verge of losing everything, but I still was able to have delight and joy…because my joy and delight wasn’t in my stuff, but it was in Jesus.

So…today I can certainly look at my life and say that I may not yet be where I want to be, but I am so grateful and thankful that I’m not where I used to be.

I’ve learned to rejoice evermore, I’ve learned how to pray without ceasing, and I’ve most definitely learned to give thanks in everything.  That…my friends are three things that if you can learn to do…you’ll find that attitude of gratitude becomes more like second nature…and that living a surrendered life really isn’t all that bad…because the truth of the matter is that my life is so much more powerful surrendered to the Lord than it ever was when I was trying to be in control.

Plus, I’ll tell you a secret.  When you surrender your life completely to the Lord…He gives you the authority over your life right back.  There’s such a freedom in surrendering your life to God…because in return I’ve receive those things in the abundant life that cannot be purchased…and God’s provision keeps things like a roof over my head, food in my stomach, cloths on my body, money in my pocket, and a car to drive.

Remember we started this series in Matthew were the Lord talks to us about taking no thought for your life?  Do you know what that’s possible to do?  It’s because once you recognize that by surrendering your life those things you worry about are provided because God knows exactly what we need…it allows you to be free to seek first the kingdom of God because all of the things that you thought the abundant life was about will be taken care of…and the things that the abundant life really is about will start to be made manifest in your life.

How’s that for a side journey?  Did that help anyone?  Well…I’d love to just close and leave this message here…but I do believe that if you’ll bare with me a little longer…we can probably take a look at what the writer of this devotional has to say…and trust the Lord to let it all mesh and flow with what we’ve already talked about up to this point.

Back to today’s message:

The King James Version of the Bible says to “pray without ceasing.” I decided to look up the word “ceasing” in the original Greek text and found that it meant “without intermission.” Don’t let that make you feel defeated. I believe that we can have ongoing communication with the Creator of the universe if we will seek Him with our whole hearts.

So, we’re going back into the second point of what I was talking about…and that’s the point of praying without ceasing.  Can I tell you at the risk of exposing myself that I am absolutely certain there are people who think I’m one of those weird crazy people who talks to themselves.  But, like I explained already…I honestly find myself talking to God all the time…out loud…and I know I do it when other people can hear me or see me…and you know what?  I don’t care.

Like I said.  I talk to God often throughout the day, and when I do…I promise you I don’t start out talking to Him like this:  “Oh Most Holy Father…blah…blah…blah.”  Do you know that I think God would probably answer me with “blah…blah…blah” if I talked to Him that way all the time?  Don’t laugh I just heard the Lord say that in my spirit…so there you have it.  God’s response if I talked to Him that way all the time would be…”blah…blah…blah”.

Do you know why?  Because it’s fake and it’s not heart felt.  All these extravagant openings to prayers that you hear…God’s not impressed by that.  I don’t even think He really listens to that because most of the time when people pray like that they’re being like the publicans that Jesus scolded by saying that when you pray…don’t pray like that because if you do…the only reward you’ll have is the reward you get when people come up to you and say what a beautiful prayer that was.

Listen…God is not impressed by some greatly worded prayer.  Remember the beggar who simply bowed his head and said “Son of David, have mercy upon me.”.  Remember Jesus went on to say “But YOU when YOU pray, go into your secret place, close the door, and that those who sought the Lord in secret would receive their reward of the Father who rewards openly.”

You know the kinds of prayers besides the ones that are prayed with fervent faith touch the heart of God?  The ones where you just simply bow your heart to Him, and talk to Him.  Like I said already…some of the greatest times of prayer I’ve had weren’t times when I started of with some great beautiful opening, but when I just simply quieted myself…and started talking to God like I’d talk to anyone else.

Can I tell you God doesn’t get offended when you talk to Him like you would anyone else…even if that means you swear sometimes?  You know how I know that…because I talk to God that ways some times.  Do you know why God loves those kinds of prayers?  Because that’s when you are being real, that’s when you’re being sincere, and that’s when you are approaching God the way you really are…you are being real…you’re being authentic…and that’s what God is seeking after.  Those who worship Him in spirit AND in truth.

I believe that some times the reason people don’t get their prayers answered is because they approach Him in a way that’s fake, inauthentic, and I just hear the word “fake”.  In my spirit.

Listen…God loves you…and I can promise you that if you drop an “f” bomb when you’re talking to Him that He doesn’t gasp in disbelief wondering how in the world you could talk to Him that way.  Listen, I’ve talked to Him like that because I was hurt and angry, and the only way I knew how to deal with those emotions was to…surrender them to Him (like we talked about  the other day), and once I was done ranting and raving…I always come back…and I’ll say something like:  “I’m sorry for some of the things I said, and the way I said them…but that was the only way I knew how to express myself, and I ask You to forgive me for talking that way.”.

Can I share with you that God’s never been angry with me for the way I talk to Him…but because I don’t talk to Him.  Listen…God would much rather you blow up when You’re talking to Him than to blow up on the person that made you angry, and ruin the opportunity to minister to that person forever.

I am sure some of you may be stunned to find out that I yell and scream at God sometimes, but don’t you know that’s exactly what He would rather us do.  Like I just said…He would much rather we talk to Him like that then the person that needs Jesus or is looking to us because we’re modeling Jesus…and ruin any opportunity to ever minister to them.

Can I tell you that God’s not stunned?  Can I tell you that He doesn’t turn away from me in disgust?  Can I tell you that no matter when or what or how I come to God with…He wants me to…because that…my friends…is praying without ceasing.

There’s nothing I can’t and don’t take to God.  When I need to rant and rave about something…I do so with the Lord.  Can I tell you that when I do that it brings me the ability to calm down, and by the time I’m done ranting and raving not only do I feel better, but I have peace in my heart, and I haven’t done the ranting and raving on the person who needs Jesus…and some times…the Lord even helps me to know what to say to the person so that I come across with the love of God…rather than the wrath of Bryan…and that enables me to maintain my witness.

I don’t know.  Maybe some of you need to hear that you’re being WAY too formal with God, and that He’s not impressed by that.  Be real with God.  Be yourself.  Be authentic…and I promise you that God’s not going to throw fire down from Heaven to consume you…but He’s going to honor that because you’re being open, honest, and vulnerable to Him.

Maybe this will help you.  God’s blessed more by you coming to Him as you are then coming to Him the way you think He wants you to approach Him because He wants you to approach Him like He’s your Father, your Friend, and anyone else you’d talk to because that…my friends…is what is meant by “praying without ceasing”.

Well…now I believe we can close this message…Amen!

Points for Pondering:

I’ve shared with you some things about my prayer life, and what I do when it comes to praying with out ceasing.  I know that many of you have excuses for not praying…so that’s what this part of the message is about.

  • What are yours?
  • What keeps you from spending time on your knees on behalf of others?
  • When was the last time you just spent time praising God because He is worthy of it?

Be A Doer Not Just A Reader:

This is a new section to the messages that I’ll be using throughout this series.  It comes from the Book of James, and it’s called “Be A Doer Not Just A Reader”.

In other words, I don’t want you to just read these messages, but I want you to do something with what you’ve read.

So, in response to this message today…this is how we can be a “doer” of what’s been written.  Amen!?!

  • Spend time today asking God to make you a person of prayer. Our very existence depends on our communication with our Heavenly Father.

Conclusion & Prayer:

What a powerful message this was!  I am so pumped that God had so much to say through me today.  I hope that you’ll take much of this to heart…especially what God had to say to us about praying without ceasing.  We need to get over this need to be heard for our fancy words and prayers…and just be real with God…and talk to Him like He’s our Friend…and while there’s always a time and a place to talk to Him like He’s royalty…there’s also a time and a place to just talk to Him as Daddy God…and believe that He’ll bless you no matter what way you talk to Him…as long as when You do seek Him…you’re being real…because that’s what He’s seeking.

Oh Lord, thank You for all You’ve spoken to us today about praying without ceasing.  Lord, I ask You to help us to be more real and authentic with You when we seek Your face…know it’s not how we approach You that matters…but it matter that we approach You.  Teach us, Lord God to just talk to You  like we would anyone else…and also teach us that if we wouldn’t talk to You like we’d talk to anyone else…that maybe we need to take a look at how we are talking to anyone else…You’re such an awesome God…and I thank You for taking over this message…and speaking what You wanted spoken through me this day…may You sink this message deep into the hearts of those who read…and may You bless their prayer life…and help us all to understand how this all works together to help us to live a more surrendered life to You…we ask this in Jesus’ name…Amen & Amen