Let’s talk about the Big Three

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Evidence of the building stress in our nation is cropping up everywhere. Mental health providers report sharply increasing numbers of calls to help hotlines. A few of us are going to extremes shown in things like the shooting of a Walmart security guard who asked a man to put on his mask or armed men pushing into the capitol building of Michigan. Mostly it is a quieter plague. Kids are fighting more because they have been isolated for weeks now. Spouses are waging wars of passive aggression without realizing that they are channeling their frustration about life on each other.

Facebook, always a mixed blessing (can I get an Amen?) is marred by intemperate outbursts of angry words directed at those on the ‘other side’ of whatever point is being made.  “How could you be so uncaring that you would want to get our economy back to work? You’re an ugly capitalist who cares nothing for human life!”  is matched with “Well, isn’t it nice to have your paycheck still coming so you have the luxury of sitting around condemning the rest of us? You socialist!”

I plead guilty to letting stress get to me, too. Too often, I find my heart slipping towards an awful unfocused anger. I want somebody to blame. Faith takes a hit and I start to question God- “Are You listening? Will You act?”- even though I have known His faithfulness for many years.

There is a better way. The Word counsels all of us to actively practice what I’ll call the BIG THREE disciplines that defeat anxiety and release us into the healing Presence of the Holy Spirit. Here it is – the wisdom of God for you and me this morning. “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV) Let’s take that apart together.

The most important truth is in the last 2 words: “in Christ Jesus.” Christian friend, He defines us, our very Life! We are His, held by Him, our lives secured IN Him. Bring that fact to the forefront of your mind. Confess it out loud. “I belong to Jesus, my life is hidden with Christ in God.”  He is the Foundation of our hope, our eternal Lord whose promises secure us beyond the last enemy, death itself. Next, we read,  “This is God’s will for you.” The big three we are about to explore are not suggestions, mottos, or slogans. They are Divine marching orders for us to keep us where God desires us to live. The big three cannot be practiced apart from one another. They operate together, each feeding strength to the others.

“Be joyful always.” We can choose joy. We may not want to because being angry makes us feel more in charge, temporarily lending us a faux power. But, we can remember who we are because of Christ and lean into the joy of the Lord. Joy does not mean we ignore the truth about the difficulties we face. It does not require us to shy away from being honest with ourselves. Joy comes when we wrap it all up and take the next step.

“Pray continually.”  An ongoing conversation with God is not only possible, it is essential. We learn to talk with Him about everything when we develop an ongoing awareness of His Presence in us and around us ALL OF THE TIME.  Because we know the grace of being ‘in Christ Jesus,’ we do not conceal our failures. Instead we ask Him to forgive and to help us do better next time. We thank Him – for things great and small. We share the needs of our friends and family with Him as we become aware of them. When temptation comes our way, we turn to Him for strength. Regardless of whether we recognize His Presence, HE IS THERE, EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME. Nothing that is happening to us is outside of His knowledge. That brings us to the next direction.

“Give thanks in (not for) all circumstances.”  James, in the pithy wisdom of his letter, says “And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?” (James 3:10-11, NLT) It is impossible to remain where God desires us to be if we are spewing filthy speech, dumping angry words, pouring out contempt, or complaining about every inconvenience.  Remember, we are ‘in Christ.’ When He is changing our heart, there is a supply of ‘living water’ that refreshes and one evidence of that heart change is an attitude of gratitude.

There they are, the BIG THREE, that will challenge and change us.
Joyful, Prayerful, Thankful.

Here is a word from the Word to close.
“A song for the ascent to Jerusalem. (A pathway into the Presence of God)
Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion;
they will not be defeated but will endure forever.”
(Psalm 125:1, NLT)

O Lord, do good to those who are good,
whose hearts are in tune with you.
But banish those who turn to crooked ways, O Lord.

Take them away with those who do evil.
And let Israel
(God’s people) have quietness and peace.” (Psalm 125:4-5, NLT)

___________

Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me

(lots of wonderful Truth in this song)

What gift of grace is Jesus my redeemer
There is no more for heaven now to give
He is my joy my righteousness and freedom
My steadfast love my deep and boundless peace

 To this I hold my hope is only Jesus
For my life is wholly bound to his
Oh how strange and divine I can sing all is mine
Yet not I but through Christ in me

 The night is dark but I am not forsaken
For by my side the Savior he will stay
I labor on in weakness and rejoicing
For in my need his power is displayed

 To this I hold my Shepherd will defend me
Through the deepest valley he will lead
Oh the night has been won and I shall overcome
Yet not I but through Christ in me

 No fate I dread I know I am forgiven
The future sure the price it has been paid
For Jesus bled and suffered for my pardon
And he was raised to overthrow the grave

 To this I hold my sin has been defeated
Jesus now and ever is my plea
Oh the chains are released I can sing I am free
Yet not I but through Christ in me

 With every breath I long to follow Jesus
For he has said that he will bring me home
And day by day I know he will renew me
Until I stand with joy before the throne

 To this I hold my hope is only Jesus
All the glory evermore to him
When the race is complete still my lips shall repeat
Yet not I but through Christ in me

 When the race is complete still my lips shall repeat
Yet not I but through Christ in me
Yet not I but through Christ in me

Jonny Robinson | Michael Farren | Rich Thompson © 2018 CityAlight Music , Farren Love And War Publishing , Integrity’s Alleluia! Music CCLI License # 810055

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