Life as a Highway

by Rich Bregitzer
(St. Louis, MO)

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)


1 Thessalonians 5:14-22

1Th 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1Th 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
1Th 5:16 Be joyful always;
1Th 5:17 pray continually;
1Th 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1Th 5:19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;
1Th 5:20 do not treat prophecies with contempt.
1Th 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.
1Th 5:22 Avoid every kind of evil.

I wonder how many times we think we have found something or experienced something thinking it was natural or a coincidence when it was really a God given miracle. I also wonder how many times we address God, asking for something, but not really believing that it will come to pass. Of course there are also those prayers, which we pray, that we probably shouldn’t be praying.

You know the ones like: “Dear God, let her get what’s coming to her!” or “God let me win the bet I made on the football game.” And even though we are Christians and even though we know better sometimes we need to be reminded that we should be about God’s business.

In today’s verse we find Paul reminding the Thessalonians of that very thing; that they should be about God’s business and the little chunk of verse we are looking at today contains some pretty interesting advice.

The first two verses of today’s scripture make me wonder if there were road ragers and slow drivers back in Paul’s day. Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is a “Sunday driver”, but that everyone driving faster than you is a lunatic? Perhaps we need to gain some perspective with thinking like that…perspective that would say that maybe we should consider those around us with a little more consideration.

Look at what Paul says in these verses:
1Th 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1Th 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

If we can imagine life as a highway we could say that to those that are idle or really not moving along that we need to honk the horn and warn them to get them going. To the timid we need to give them room to negotiate and navigate until they can gain some confidence. Those that are weak we may see as those broken down on the side of the road needing our help….but Paul would advise us that no matter who we experience along the way that we should be patient with everyone.

See if you’re not patient you can end up hurting yourself or others. By giving others room to move, by helping them along with gentle warnings or encouragement we not only benefit those on the receiving end of that service, but we help ourselves.

And wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could have such consideration in our day to day lives. Wouldn’t the church universal be even more awesome if the idle stepped up to the plate with enthusiasm and if the timid became increasingly bold? How many more lives would be changed by such people?

It is so important that we respond in that way and that we do not behave like the road-rager. Usually the road rager is someone that is only annoyed by the people around them. Like I said they see themselves as the only person cruising down the highway the right way. And if you get in a road ragers way they may respond in a less than civil manner.

Over and over again the news is full of people that end up in accidents because they were cut off or because they let their anger get out of control. When it comes to life do you know what Paul says? He says:

1Th 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

If we get cut off, we are told, to not return the favor by doing the same to the offender. If someone slams on their breaks we are not to pull around them and do the same back at them…and in life when we are taken advantage of, lied to, cheated, wronged or ridiculed we are not to perpetuate the trend by doing likewise. Thank God that some folks still understand this because otherwise the world would be a pretty ugly place.

So, what are we suppose to do instead? The next three verses tell us to…

1Th 5:16 Be joyful always; 1Th 5:17 pray continually; 1Th 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

Ok, Rich you mean to tell me that when I am cut off I am to be joyful always? No, I am not telling you that. Paul is telling you that as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit from our Lord Jesus Christ; the same Spirit that hopefully dwells in you and leads you to act in a Christian manner. The same Spirit that should cause you to see a reason to be joyful even when you are wrong. For example:

You are cut off, but joyful that you were not in an accident.
You are behind a slow person, but joyful for the chance to enjoy the scenery.
You are stuck in traffic, but joyful that you don’t have to walk to work.
And enough of the traffic analogies. What about life?
You are sick, but joyful that God has given you 1 more day.
You’ve been lied to, but joyful to know God’s truth

The Spirit of God, if you will let it, will allow you to have a fresh perspective. It is the same Spirit that fuels us so that we can respond to life with faith.

Now that verse also tells us to pray continually. It does not say to pray in the bad times. It does not say to pray in the good times. The verse says to pray continually. In other words we are to live our lives, both on and off the road, in an attitude of prayer.

Someone asked me some time ago why we should pray when God knows our every thought. It’s a good question and when I consider prayer in light of these verses I think I see an answer. You see while we talk to God for a number of reasons, such as to express our adoration, or to confess or to thank God…we also pray for our own good.

See God does know our every thought, but prayer is something that reminds us of God’s nearness and of His ability to interact with us. If we would be in constant conversation with God we’d find ourselves transformed. We wouldn’t attempt to pay back a wrong with a wrong because our constant conversation with God would remind us that God is in the car too.

That same person asked me why pray if God knows what we are going to do. Well, that is actually a question with two different elements in it. See, God doesn’t move us along the road like a big kid playing with his race car track. We have free will to move in any direction we choose. The Christian makes those choices. If you turn to the left the all knowing God is there. Turn to the right he is also there.

You have the right and the free will to operate your life and because you are found in Christ God is there no matter what you do and he may even nudge you in this or that direction, but choosing the course is up to you even though the fact remains that you can’t shake God. The more you converse with him, the more you pray, the more you will come to realize that.

The last part of the verse says to be thankful in all circumstances. I like that because God is in all the circumstances. Go way out of the way…God is there. Make all the right moves, follow the directions…God is there. Sure, the circumstances can range from severe and drastic to great blessing, but the fact remains that we are encouraged to be thankful.

The last part of the verse encourages us to travel down the highway of life with gusto. This is to say that you travel with purpose. You are not out there just for yourself, but to warn, to encourage, to help and to converse with God being thankful and joyful. This is what is meant by verse 19:

“Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.” Go forward, on this journey, on this road God has placed you on knowing that you have been sent out for a reason. And while you’re traveling obey the road signs, because verse 20 says:

“Do not treat prophecies with contempt.”

Now I don’t know about you, but I think road signs are pretty prophetic; they always tell you what is coming up. They warn you to yield, they tell you that Frogs Bottom, TN is 130 miles away, or that your next chance for gas is at the next exit, that a bump in the road is coming.

Paul is telling us to watch out for the signs because every now and then God wants his people to know something. It could be something huge or something little and just for you. Not every sign along the road is for you of course. If you headed east bound on 70 from St. Louis to Columbus, OH you can safely ignore the signs telling you how far to Indianapolis or the signs telling you to exit for Dayton.

And this is why our verses close out with verses 21 and 22 saying:

“Test everything. Hold on to the good. 1Th 5:22 Reject whatever is harmful”

If you are following the road God has placed you on and if you are actively engaged in helping folks and encouraging folks along the way, with a destination in mind then you want to follow those promptings that take you towards that destination while ignoring those things that may be for other people.

The main thing to remember as we all travel this road is that we are not alone; there are many others making the trip and we ultimately we will all arrive, with God’s help, at the same destination. May you have journey’s blessings and may others along the way be blessed by you.

AMEN

Comments for Life as a Highway

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Nov 05, 2010
Good Modern Day Perspective of Verses...
by: Cherie Lane

Thank you Richard for this wonderful message. It's so true. I will read it...and re-read it.
In this busy world we live in, so much stress, we all need to remember these verses. Your message
truly puts them into modern day perspective...which we all need to remember.
Great Sermon....God Bless and thank you.

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