Article: Every Day Spiritual Exercises to Make Us Strong | Jacob Varghese

Let us turn to 1Thessalonians 5:16-22 for this meditation. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
It is a very practical passage of Scripture. I want to take your attention to a few things we as Christian believers must do every day. If I ask you a question-what is your daily routine,can you tell me? Someone might answer me like this- brushing the teeth, taking a bath, eating breakfast, going to work, chitchatting with friends, watching you tube, eating lunch, dinner and the list goes on and on. We have a big list. That’s all part of our daily routine. But I want to take your attention to a few things that are very important for every believer, the things that we should do every day as a spiritual exercise to make us strong.
Number one- Let us read 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 vs. 16.Rejoice always! Rejoice Evermore!Now, we must remember that the Thessalonians were struggling with some severe hardship. They were enduring persecution. We will recall that the Apostle Paul tells us that they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and wait for His Son from heaven. And as a result of their faith in Christ some of them have now lost their jobs; they lost their families; they lost their friends.The Bible also says Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4) So the first thing that we all should do every day is rejoice. What is rejoicing? Rejoice is being joyful, being happy. God wants to see us having a smile on our faces but the devil wants us to be sad. Every time we put on a sad face, every time we are with a long face, the devil is happy. Do you know why? The devil thinks yes, I did it; I made it again to make this person be sad. The evil wishes to see tears from the eyes of God’s children. But every time we are happy, God is happy. Just like how earthly parents are happy when their children are happy.
God blessed us with three daughters, all of them grown up and become young ladies. But when they were small children, whenever I see one of them were crying it hurts me and I go to them and make sure that they are comfortable and stop them from crying. You know why parents want their children to be happy; similarly our heavenly father wants us to rejoice every single day. There is a verse in psalms 118:24,this is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Do you feel great every day? No, is n’t it? Feeling really good every day, No! Sometimes we wake up and we feel low, we are not really very happy. Some days when we get up, we may think that I do not have any reason to be really happy, not any big reason to rejoice. But for example, when your results are out- you top your college, you got marks more than you expected or you have achieved something, or it is your birthday, someone has given you a present- you feel great and you feel happy. Your face all gleaming, bright and shining but some other days you don’t feel the same way. But God is telling us, this is the day that the Lord has made we will rejoice and be glad in it. You know what every single day is- a day which God has made and that one reason is enough for us to be happy. Every single day is a day which God has made and every single day we are receiving is a gift from God. And every morning as we wake up and we have to say to ourselves-This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it. Being happy and glad is actually a choice that we make every single day. There may be many reasons for us to be unhappy and there can be many reasons for being happy. Yes or no? Every person will have some reason or other to be happy, some reason or other to be unhappy- here the question is what are you focusing on? Are you focusing on things that will make you happy or are you focusing on things that will steal your joy. The devil wants to steal our joy. Let us read John chapter10vs10, it says the thief comes only to steal, to kill and to destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance. Jesus said there is a thief- who that thief is? Satan! The thief comes into our life to steal. What does the devil steal from our life? Does the devil need our branded watch, jewelry, our wallet- No, of course the earthly thief need all of those things but what does Satan wants? Satan tries to steal our Joy, Satan tries to steal our peace, and Satan tries to steal what is in our heart. So you and I have to be careful. We need to rejoice in the Lord every single day of our life. Celebrate each day not because things are perfect. Things will never be perfect. Can you expect an ideal world? Ideal world is only in the stories. So we have to make a choice. Things will never be perfect. Do not expect people to treat to you in a good way every time. Everyone have their own mood swings. So do not expect people to be nice, kind, good and loving to you every time. People are people, they change, so circumstances change but being joyful is a choice that we make every single day. Not because things are perfect but because there is a God who is with us and that is why in Nehemiah chapter 8 Vs10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” What a great statement Nehemiah made! The joy of the Lord is our strength. What is the true secret of our strength as a believer? The bible tells the Joy of the Lord is my strength. Do you know something? When you are sad your body feels weak. Have you ever experienced it? When your mind is not ok your body also feels weak. The bible says let God be the source of your strength. Any time you feel week, helpless, sad- say this, repeat this, the joy of the Lord is my strength. I do not rejoice in anything else but I rejoice because I have God with me. Don’t you think that reason is good enough to be happy or do you need any more reasons to be happy? Celebrate each day and be joyful. Rejoice- that is something that we must do every single day.
The second thing we must do every day is pray continually (vs17) – Pray without ceasing. Pray every day.It is best understood as living in constant communion with God and this is something that every mature believer needs to do. Do you know something- A prayerful person is a powerful person. And one week without prayer make one weak. You need to be careful with the spelling of both the week/weak. A prayerful Christian is a powerful Christian. The devil is not afraid of any person but the devil is afraid when he sees you praying. When devil sees you on your knees, devil knows that you are in touch with God who is the source of strength, who is the source of power, source of victory and devil understands that his entire plan will go in vain. So when devils sees us praying, devil comes to us and reminds us of the things to be done and makes us busy and will try his best to make us avoid praying. Did any one of you ever experience it? I have! When we set apart a time for prayer- so many works comes to us, may be people come to visit us, mobile start ringing and many other things comes to our mind. Who brings all this? It is the devil. Devil is like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour. The devil is on full time duty, why, devil wants to prevent you from praying. He wants to stop you from praying. That is why devil is constantly on duty but the Bible instructs us we must pray without ceasing. You can pray anytime, during any part of the day, anywhere, any place, any circumstances- may be while driving, riding on your bike, while working in the kitchen, when you are travelling in the bus, when you are cleaning your house. You can pray from any place and in any posture. Prayer is nothing but conversation with God. It need not be formal always. Prayer is talking to God. It can be as informal as you talking to your father. God is our heavenly father and we can talk to Him anywhere, from any place. The important thing is whether you are in touch with your heavenly father or not. If you loose your connection with your heavenly father, devil will try to get connected to you. That is why there is a saying an idle man’s mind is devil’s workshop. The devil is looking for idle brains. The devil is looking for believers who are weak, who are careless and ignorant. Carelessness and ignorance is also a sin. When you are careless you become an easy target to the enemy. Because the Bible says devil is like a roaring lion. Whom do you think the devil will catch first? Does he catch first the active Christians or sleepy and lazy Christians? The devil is powerful too. But devil’s power is nothing when compared to the power of God. The Bible says He who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world. God in us is greater than the devil. But don’t under estimate the power of the devil. When compared with your power devil is powerful but when compared with God’s power the devil is weak so you plus God is a great army. You alone are nothing in front of the devil. But devil in front of God is nothing. As you plus God is a great army and the devil is scared when God is with you. The only way to have God’s presence with you is to stay in touch with the heavenly father. In Philippians 4:13 also Apostle Paul writes a wonderful statement “I can do all this through him who gives me strength”. I can do all things, I can do everything. Nothing is impossible. We all like those statements. Those statements give confidence and courage but when can you and I do all things. Through Christ who gives me strength. So when we kneel down in prayer, when you wait upon God in prayer, when you are in connection with your heavenly father in prayer that is when you gain your strength. The power source from where you receive your power. The Bible in Matthew chapter 7 vs7 says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” If you go to the original translation in Greek Bible, New Testament is originally written in Greek. So when we read Matthew 7:7 in Greek, it says-ask until you receive, seek until you find, knock until the door is opened for you. God commands us that we must ask Him. In Jeremiah 33:3 also the Bible says “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” So prayer is another important thing we must do every day.
Let us move on to the third point in vs18-In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. In everything give thanks. Have a thankful heart, a thankful attitude. Be thankful to God. Do you know something, thankfulness is actually the perfect posture to receive God’s blessing. I want to explain it a little further, for example you have a vessel or a container which can hold water and it is raining outside, if you turn the container upside down and put it in the rain how many drops of water will get into the vessel. None is n’t it? Though it is heavy rain, not even a single drop of water will get in to the container but you have to put it into the right direction or position so that it can collect all the rain water. Similarly being thankful is the perfect posture to receive God’s blessings. God will never stop blessing those who have a thankful heart and attitude. Say for example, if I have given a present to someone, you know what I expect, expect that person to say thanks. If they do not even talk about it or if they behave as if they have already forgotten, do you think I feel like giving them more gifts next time. I will try to give gifts to those who at least acknowledge, who at least express their happiness or thankfulness in one way or the other. Don’t you think God is the same? The Bible says give thanks in all circumstances. Now when I say give thanks in all circumstances should we give thanks even when we have problems. When everything is good, we have success, when you get what you want, we can be thankful. How can I thank God when I have problems? You may say, when I have a problem, should I say thank you God for the problem. Does this seem reasonable? But the Bible says all things work together for good to those who love God. Even if it is a problem, it is actually a blessing in disguise. Even behind all the waiting, you may be waiting for a blessing in your life, you may be praying, praying and praying but no answer and answer being delaying, delaying and delaying-remember God has aperfect time and there is some reason that God has while He keeps you waiting. He may want you to learn patience, or He may want you to grow spiritually even more. For example, if parents keep giving children everything they ask immediately after they ask. How do the children grow up? What will be their attitude? They will become careless, irresponsible, demanding, and selfish and they will not even recognize or realize how much pain parents put in behind that? How much parents are spending to give them a gift. They will not be thankful, not even acknowledge it, they will treat those gifts with carelessness. Even though God can give you immediately upon we ask Him, sometime He will make you wait, why? He wants to teach you dependence on Him, to trust Him, and to have patience. Being thankful is the perfect posture to receive blessings from God. Thank God for everything for good and bad.
Next point is, Listen to God’s voice every day, every single day of our life. God will not make big noises. He is not a God of noises. The Bible says God speak with us through still small voice. But often times we are so busy and we are all held up between the noises around us. These noises around us so distracting and we need to be careful what are we listening to. So the next thing we need to do constantly is to hear God’s voice. We read in vs.19Do not quench the Spirit,which literally means, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire in your life. Do not retard His work in your life. We have to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. You know that Jesus came down from heaven and He lived on this earth for thirty three and half years and He went back to heaven and today we have the Holy Spirit with us. The Holy Spirit is with us and Jesus Christ is going to come back a second time. But right now we have the Holy Spirit and anytime we are trying to do a mistake if you hear some voice from within do not do it, you know who this is? The Holy Spirit! If you are born again, if you are baptized, you have the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells with in you, the Holy Spirit will guide you, lead you and comfort you. If you keep ignoring the Holy Spirit, I know some people do this. They invite God to come in to their heart, it is like you invite someone home as a guest, when they come you make them sit on the sofa and then you are busy roaming around doing your own duties. The guest will try to call you, excuse me, excuse me, and if you still ignore them, what is the guest do, simply walk out. The same way when you keep ignoring the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will go away. That is why the Bible says quench not the spirit. In Gospel of John chapter 10 vs. 27 Jesus said “my sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”. Jesus also said I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. Yes Jesus proved that He is a good shepherd. Jesus did not make just a statement. The sheep will recognize the shepherd’s voice, the shepherd’s directions. Now I want to ask a question whose voce are you listening? Whose directions are you following? I know some people are led by their own emotions, their own feelings. Some people are led by their friends; some people are led by Satan. Yes, Satan also directs some people. But God wants us to hear His voice and to follow His directions and that should be our daily routine. So every morning as we wake up, say to Jesus, God talk to me, I want to listen. I am ready to listen. I want to execute your instructions in my life. God whatever you say, I will do, whatever you say No, I will not do.
Next point is seen in Vs.20 &21- Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.He goes on with the next exhortation and says in verse 20, “do not despise prophetic utterances.But, notice verse 21, “examine,” or literally test, “everything carefully and then hold fast what is good. Let us read Galatians 6:9 also. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”. The next thing we need to every day is doing good. We are not supposed to do what we are not supposed to do. We must do what we are supposed to do. We should not be weary in doing good. The good things that you do are like the seeds you are sowing. When you plant seeds what happens, one day they grow big and become trees and you will receive the fruits and will enjoying the fruits. When you plant good seeds you will receive a harvest. That harvest is going to be so many times multiplied than what you have sown. Just because you have sown one seed, you do not expect only one fruit, No, you get so many fruits, you get basket full of fruits, is n’t it? That is how it works when you are not weary in doing good. Don’t even keep a record of your good works. But God will give you reward for your good works. Do not think good works will take you to heaven. Some people think, if I do good works, works of charity, I will go to heaven, No; good works are not going to take you to heaven. Only Jesus will take you to heaven. Jesus said I am the way. Jesus is the way to heaven. Though good works will not take you to heaven but good works are something we are supposed to do. So it will add to your rewards you will receive in Heaven. God commanded us that He created us to do good so we do not be weary of doing good works. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. Have you done any good works? It is a time for self-assessment. Anything to help someone, have you been kind to any one? Have you made some one happy? Some down trodden, some underprivileged, have you helped someone in the church who is needy? It can be good works in any way. Think about it, Pray about it. Ask God to show you opportunities to do some good works.
The last point I want to share with you is based on 1 Thessalonians 5:22-Abstain from all appearance of evil or reject every kind of evil. That means there may be appearance of evil where evil is not intended to be in our actions, in our words and in our spirit. Abstain is a strong word.You know, abstinence is something that people don’t like today, right? It’s kind of a bad word. We want to have freedom to do everything but we are told here to abstain. It literally means “to avoid; holding yourself away from; keeping your distance from every form of evil.” Paul used it in Thessalonians 4:3 when he told to stay away from sexual immorality. Literally he writes, “Abstain from every form of evil.” The word “form” is an interesting one, while the term “can mean outward appearances, it can also mean, every kind of evil rather than just every outward appearance of evil.Evil does come to us in all sorts of sizes, shapes and forms and It is a complex enemy. To withstand its perpetual assault and deception requires perpetual readiness and preparation. What is an especially attractive form of evil to you may not be an attractive form of evil to me. Where I am weak, you may be strong. Where I am strong, you may be weak. However, we all have weaknesses; we all have areas of vulnerability. It is especially in those areas (perhaps it is the eyes, the mouth, the hands, the mind, the heart, or the will) that you must daily avail yourself of the essential exercise to “abstain from evil completely.” Let us thank God for the clarity of His word and for the conviction that it brings to those who truly know Him and for these every day spiritual exercises to make us strong.

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JACOB VARGHESE

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