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Help me do more than survive

16 Celebrate always, 17 pray constantly, and 18 give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in. (This is God’s will for all of you in Jesus the Anointed.)19 Don’t suppress the Spirit. 20 Don’t downplay prophecies. 21 Take a close look at everything, test it, then cling to what is good. 22 Put away every form of evil.  (I Thessalonians 5:16-17 VOICE)

Throughout scripture we find certain actions which are presented not so much as suggestions for living, but as imperatives upon which we are to build our relationships with God and others.  They are not "optional", but are instead what we might just refer to as "conditional". They depend upon the condition of our heart!  They influence the condition of the hearts of others.  They can undo hard conditions.  They can create conducive conditions. 

The first we will explore today is that of celebration.  The directive is to celebrate always. I don't know about anyone else, but this one is hard for me because there are situations in life which are just difficult to remain positive as they unfold around me.  When I get the flu and begin to feel kind of run down, like I am going to fall over at any moment, and where nothing looks more appealing to me than the comfort of my bed, I don't usually want to celebrate very much! To be honest, I am asking God to provide a way for me to be better again - so I don't have to endure the torture of sickness any longer! There are just times and situations which are harder than others and it is harder to celebrate in those moments. God doesn't "condition" praise on the right set of conditions existing in our lives - it is a continual thing - in the good and the bad. Why? Our joy isn't based upon the conditions around us - it is based on the "condition" of our soul.  A soul redeemed is a soul which is set right - nothing can undo what has been set right, no matter how hard it may try.  So, the soul's celebration isn't based upon outward circumstances - it is based upon an inward condition well-established in us by the Spirit of God.

The second is that of continual prayer.  I have previously spoken of the unlikelihood of this actually being any of us on our knees 24-hours a day, but rather us being in a "prayerful posture" all the live-long day.  It means we keep our hearts in tune with God's by maintaining frequent and consistent contact with him - even when we think we have it all handled on our own!  This is something I have had to learn because I am one of those, "I've got this one, God", kind of gals.  I could try to pull the wool over your eyes on that one, but truth be told, I have a hard time giving God control some of the time.  Especially on the stuff I think I could handle just fine on my own.  The truth of the matter is that God isn't just concerned with the big stuff in our lives - he is equally concerned with the condition of our heart which wants to manage most of the stuff and only seek him out when the stuff gets too big or messy for us to handle alone!  He isn't wanting a relationship of convenience, but one of consistent contact and in turn, it becomes one in which he can show us his care, but also his support of our abilities and talents.  

The third is based on the first two, because thankfulness doesn't always come when we are feeling a load of weight or we go through times we have a tough time handling on our own.  Thankfulness isn't conditioned on the stuff getting worked out, but on the fact we know the one who will work it all out has it all under his careful and watchful eye.  Even the bad stuff will produce something good in us - things we may not realize we even need in our lives, but which God knows need to be produced there in order for us to walk strong and become more "grace-filled" individuals. 

We often just stop with these three, but he goes on to remind us of the tendency we have to suppress the Spirit and downplay what he tells us either in his Word or through teachers, preachers, and those who might just speak truth into our lives in some way.  When we suppress anything we are seeking to put an end to whatever it is - because it is too uncomfortable for us, it might give us a moment or two of embarrassment, etc.  Ever try to suppress a sneeze by grasping your nose really hard and holding it in?  The pressure is still there and something will escape - it is inevitable!  The thing which escapes gives us more pain and can be far more embarrassing than the sneeze ever would have been in the first place!  That is how it is when we try to suppress what the Spirit is doing in our lives - we experience pain we weren't intended to experience, and we find ourselves facing a little more embarrassment than we might ever have liked to experience!

To all of this, one condition remains - testing the stuff we embrace into our lives. I have tried various forms of "diet" foods, and let me just tell you this much - nothing quite matches up to the genuine.  When the genuine is embraced, it produces a certain satisfaction which just isn't there in anything which presents itself as a "form of" or "substitute for".  God's reminder to us is to have a heart which doesn't look for the easy out - but rather is willing to embrace the genuine.  In order to consistently do this, we need to become so familiar with the genuine we spot anything less than genuine when it comes along!  When we have done all this, we are reminded to let evil have no inroad in our lives. I think it is easier to meet this last condition when all the others are met first! Just sayin!

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