Don’t put the spirit’s fire out is a statement made by Paul in 1 Thesselonians 5:19-31. It is the statement that when life is hard and we’ve been through difficult times, it is God’s Holy Spirit that comes to ignite that fire, that zest, that enthusiasm for living in our lives rather than letting us become depressed and tired and cynical or bitter. It is the spirit that comes to set us on fire for life. That’s what Paul was saying to the people in Thessalonica. Paul shared with them, specifically how to do this and I want us to look at that today.
He says first of all, rejoice always. Sometimes you and I think we have to wait for good circumstances in order to rejoice. That’s not what Paul says. He says rejoice always. No matter your circumstances you can rejoice. You don’t have to wait for something good to happen to you in order to rejoice. We discover that within life it is a choice that we get to make. Paul knew that things were hard for the people in Thessalonica. It wasn’t easy, it was difficult. But he said to them rejoice, always.
Secondly he said, pray constantly. It’s hard to believe that we’re going to start Advent in just one week. The St. Luke’s staff has already produced a daily devotional that has gone to press and will be ready to hand out at the beginning of Advent. We pour so much into this effort because we believe it’s important that you and I have a daily discipline and are committed to take time every day to pray, to read, to listen; to hear God speak. It is so important, for when you open your heart you get to have the spirit that ignites the fire in your life so you don’t just get bitter and disappointed and cynical…you live! Don’t quench the spirit’s fire, don’t put the spirit’s fire out. You’ve got to take time to pray constantly.
Third, Paul said Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for your life. Give thanks in all circumstances. It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is next week. It was in 1621 when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. They got there way too late in the season, so late they didn’t have time to build proper homes and shelter and when the winter came it was harsh and by the following year half of all those who landed at Pilgrim Rock were dead. In July when they started to have a harvest, Governor William Bradford said We’re going to set aside three days for prayer, rejoicing, and create a time to give thanks. In spite of the hardships and struggles, they chose to give thanks. It resonated so deeply that they decided to continue the tradition each year on July 30. In 1789, George Washington made the decision to move the celebration to early November since this is the time of year when the harvest comes in. Next, in the mid-1800s, Abraham Lincoln moved the celebration to the last Thursday of November. In 1941, Congress moved it to the fourth Thursday of November to allow for more Christmas shopping days. Of course, we know that Congress had nothing to worry about because through the years, retailers have begun putting Christmas merchandise out before Halloween! What happens to Thanksgiving? What happens to setting aside a day to pray and rejoice and give thanks in all circumstances. Paul tried to say to the people in Thessalonica, I know it’s hard, life isn’t easy, give thanks, it is God’s will for you.
You can choose to rejoice always. You pray constantly. And you give thanks in all circumstances for it’s God’s will for your life. You can open your heart to experience the spirit that ignites your fire and lets you live.