December 14, 2008
3rd Sunday of Advent (B)
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV). All of us are seeking what God offers Jeremiah’s listeners. Our desire is to follow God’s guidance. Paul, writing centuries later to the church at Thessalonica, expresses that God’s will-His holy guidance-should include an inner strength, an inner fire and an inner purity. These three basic ideas offer an overall picture of how God guides His people.

I. God’s Guidance Through Inner Strength (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
The happiest people are those who have found inner strength that comes from an attitude of joy, continuous communication with God through prayer and a spirit of thankfulness.
I love coffee! I’m a latecomer to the coffee scene. The taste of coffee for the first 47 years of my life didn’t appeal to me. Both of my parents drank coffee, but not me. It wasn’t until my children introduced me to flavored coffees that I began to develop a taste for it. Now a dozen years later I can hardly pass a coffee shop without stopping. I’m not sure if it is the coffee or the fellowship of people that draws me to them.
Recently a friend sent me an e-mail about a group of alumni, highly established in their careers, who began talking at a reunion about the impact a professor had made on their lives. They decided to go visit their old university professor, who was now retired. During the visit their conversation soon turned into complaints of stress in their work and lives. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups-porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain-looking, some expensive, some exquisite-telling them to help themselves to the coffee.
When all the alumni had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said, “Notice that each of you took all the nice-looking, expensive cups? You didn’t take any of the plain and cheap appearing ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that has become the source of your problems and stress. The cup itself adds nothing to the quality of the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and, in some cases, even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup; but you consciously went for the best cups-and then you began eyeing each other’s cups.”
The professor continued, “Now consider this: Life is the coffee; your job, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life. The style of cup one has does not define nor change the quality of life an individual lives. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us. The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.”
God brews the coffee, not the cups. Enjoy your coffee! Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Joyfully give thanks to the Father. Spend time with God over your coffee.
Here is a prayer for you to pray: Heavenly Father, I can be a real gripe at times! Sullen. Complaining. Negative. I really don’t want to be like that. Help me to relax and let You fill my cup full of Your life. As You pour Yourself into me may I become open, happy and positive in my outlook on life. May I help others to sit down and enjoy coffee with me and ultimately with You! AMEN.

II. God’s Guidance Through Inner Fire (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)
This inner fire is passion. It is the powerful emotion for life or the boundless enthusiasm for God.
This passion allows me to have the freedom to explore all that God wants for my life. I can feel free to ask Him, confess to Him, launch out for Him into unknown waters and know that He will be with me! Oh, what glorious freedom! I was chained like a slave to sin, but Jesus broke those chains and allows me to experience genuine freedom. That freedom drives me closer to Him and builds my inner fire.
This passion allows me to be a person of integrity. The root word integrity comes from the Latin word integer and involves the concept of moral uprightness and steadfastness. It is especially revealed in circumstances and situations that involve our honesty, purposes, responsibilities and trust.
This passion allows me to have rights. These rights refer to those items that are equitable and correct, with privileges that come from the very hand and heart of God!
Is it any wonder that we can have such unbridled enthusiasm for God?

III. God’s Guidance Through Inner Purity (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
Paul writes, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through” (v. 23). God’s desire is that we become holy people. Moral purity must dominate His people. Theologically it means that God makes us clean or holy in the ethical sense through our total consecration to Him and His cleansing our hearts by faith. It is my one desire to be pure of heart and to live like He wants me to live.
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Pardon is not enough; we want sanctification. We beseech Thee, let the weeds that grow in the seed plot of our soul be cut up by the roots. We would lead consecrated lives, for we are persuaded that we only live as we live unto God, that aught else is but trifling.”1
Does your life reflect this inner purity that God’s guidance requires? 

1. Albert M. Wells, Jr., Compiler, Inspiring Quotations (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988), pp.174-175.

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About The Author


Rev. Derl Keefer pastored in the Church of the Nazarene for over 30 years. He currently serves as the Adult Development Ministries Coordinator for the Sunday School Ministries department at the Church of the Nazarene Global Ministry Center. He received his B.A. in Religion from Southern Nazarene University and his M. Div from Nazarene Theological Seminary. His other books include Let's Get Committed, Wedding Sermons and Marriage Ceremonies, and Open Doors.

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