1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
I was talking to a pastor friend today who said his congregation is looking for simple, practical ways to practice discipleship and perfect their faith on a daily basis. Things that anyone can do today.
I felt challenged to go beyond practical faith models, such as in my book and video series on crisis, The Next Thing: A Christian Model for Dealing with Crisis in Personal Life. Sometimes life is complex, and complexity may require deeper answers like four-part models.
But on a daily basis, what can someone do to be in touch with God today, to increase their faith today, to carry Sunday into Monday, Tuesday, etc.?
Paul has a simple answer in 1 Thessalonians:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
You can see key verbs there: Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks. But I feel that the supporting words are equally as important: Always, Without Ceasing, In All Circumstances.
That is really the trick, isn't it? To find a way to live in the present with God. In fact, maybe we're using the wrong phrasing when we use terms like "practice discipleship" and "perfect my faith." Instead, we should be figuring out how to "walk daily with God."
In my video series and upcoming book, "Live Like You're Loved," I call it "living like you're eternal." I describe how the intersection of the present and the eternal can happen every day. When we do this, God will not be a stranger when we meet him face to face. Instead, it will be more like hugging our best friend that we met online years ago and have chatted with continuously, and we've just been waiting to finally be together.
The eternal and the present can intersect every day when we include God in every part of our lives. Always. Without Ceasing. In All Circumstances.
I have to admit, there are times when I shut the door on God. In a way, I tell God, "I don't need you right now. I've got this one." Or I am willful. I want to do things my own way. I want God to stand on the other side of the door so He can't see me sin (which is silly). Or I may simply forget to include Him. I forget the wise words I read one time: "Anything you're not praying about, you're doing alone."
God doesn't need us to deliver an eloquent Gettysburg Address of prayer each time we encounter Him. A word will do, like "Help!" A breath or gasp will do. Or the equivalent of a tweet - something short and not even spelled correctly. We know from Romans 8: 26-27 that the Holy Spirit will complete our prayer with sighs too deep for words, the Divine within us communicating with the Divine above us.
If I went back to my pastor friend, I would say, "Suggest to your congregation that they do anything that helps the eternal intersect with the present, with this moment." A quick prayer, right now, or a morning ritual of praying with your spouse or family. Reading a bit of the Bible at noon every day. Serving another. Smiling kindly. Reflecting for a moment about what Jesus would say about your next decision. Saying "thanks" to God for a small blessing. Pausing for a breath of prayer to collect yourself before responding to harsh words. Wearing a band on your wrist to remind you that "Your praise will ever be on my lips." Brainstorm it together! But it will inevitably be a set of personal answers that helps you connect the present to the eternal, Always, Without Ceasing, In All Circumstances. The will of God in Christ Jesus for you.