I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
It’s funny how things work. I was visiting a local discount store the other day entering through the Lawn and Garden Department through the automatic doors into a winter wonderland. How did that happen so quickly? It’s not even Thanksgiving yet. Surveying the Christmas trees and contemplating going back to a fake tree, it hit me. The holidays were here and I was fighting the blues or on the verge of depression. My poor children will attest that I am not very festive during such times. I have had to fight my entire life to find peace during this time. It begins as a mad rush to meet the expectations of so many and time which already seems short so exhausted. As I walked through the Christmas décor as if to challenge my emotions to rise up but nothing. I celebrated my small victory. It would be short-lived. Talking with another ministry leader in our church and our pastor, she began detailing my responsibilities during the holidays. Decorate the church, provide food for a fellowship, host a women’s meeting, and my mind checked out somewhere after that. Suddenly all those emotions came flooding back, I no longer wanted to decorate even our tree, celebrate the season or engage in the holiday rush. I just wanted to disappear and see everyone in January.
Now I could dig into the vast depths of such an emotional shutdown and bore you with details, I love to celebrate the Lord’s Birth. I love to worship Him during this miraculous and wonderful season of hope. But truly we all have our ghosts of Christmas past, just as Ebenezer has heralded. I don’t really care to share these things but rather offer a light given to me from the Word of God today. The Word is the weapon of our Spirit to kill the lie of the enemy, to subdue and take captive rebellious thoughts, and to overcome the bondage of expectations other than those God has for us. His Spirit takes them and uses them to combat our troublesome flesh that longs for control but uses it against us.
I read I Thessalonians 5:18 yesterday and then again today. The overture of emotions and fight for my peace is keeping me locked in this selection of scriptures. I sense that maybe they might be useful for you as well. Setting out to sermonize my symptoms, I found that many people actually suffer from seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression largely from unrealistic expectations, financial pressure, and excessive commitments. Add in to the mix – that there is less sunlight which is known to change human behavior. With less sunlight, people are prone to eat more and sleep more. With such insight – I give you my new holiday list.
This year my holiday goals are simple. I will rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. I will know and do the Will of God for me which are these three things. End of list. I am challenging myself not to make a list this year and give up control of all the details. I release myself from unrealistic expectations because the Greater is He who lives in me does not make me a super human. He is the Greatest Thing about Christmas. I must keep my focus clearly set on Him. It is His Birthday that we celebrate. He brought hope to a dying people of new life, rebirth, renewal and full restoration. This is God’s Will for me. I am challenged to do His Will this holiday season as I strive to the rest of the year with greater success.
I Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NIV) 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.
The Holy Spirit is our helper. The Lord gave Him to us because of our weakness. To plant seeds of faith deep into the crevices of even the most broken of hearts to grow and prosper our soul according to His Will. God’s Plan for our life does not change or stop because one chooses to disengage. The Lord is always working in us to fulfill His Work in us. I am quite sure it grieves His Spirit when the enemy is able to convince us otherwise.
In a season meant for fellowship and celebration, he pulls out an arsenal of lies, confusion and discord to wreak havoc on God’s People as we celebrate our Savior the annihilator of sin. When Jesus arrived, the enemy was put on notice. When He made it through this life as a sinless man to sacrifice His Life on the Cross, death and the grave were rendered ineffective. Those who believe in Jesus Christ have nothing to lose and everything to gain. During a time when many people go to church for the first, one and only time of the year, what better way to hinder God’s Work than to plague his people with fear, anxiety, stress, depression, and dim the Light of God’s Love that is love, joy, peace and absolute freedom.
We must strive to hold what is good and reject every kind of evil especially that which plays on our mind, will and emotions. It is a personal choice to rejoice always. It is personal commitment to pray continually. It is an absolute necessity to be thankful in all circumstances for that is the Will of God for us.
I Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV) May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
In Luke 2:14 the angels declared, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His Favor rests.” God’s Favor belongs to us. He gave it to us. He also has given us peace. Peace that can silence the demands of the world and give us absolute rest during the busiest most overwhelming season of the year. The secret is found these verses today. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless in the coming of Christ. Sometimes “blame” comes hidden in the expectations of others that we try to carry rather than fully entrusting our spirit, soul and body to Christ. It is the lie that if we do not meet the expectations of those around us to “their” full satisfaction that we somehow have “failed the Lord. God’s Will for my life is listed clearly to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. I do not read anywhere that it is to make everyone else happy and content but to receive and live in the full satisfaction and contentment of Christ. The Lord is faithful. Our faithfulness in Jesus Christ gives us good fruit to satisfy others much more than a “perfect” holiday that is simply not possible.
John 14:27 (NIV) Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
I offer you the same gift that I am challenging myself to hold tight to this holiday season. The Peace of God has been given to us. It is His Gift upon his departure so that we can live completely resting on the faithfulness of God and His Promises through Jesus Christ – His Gift to us. Do not let the enemy have your joy. Do not give up your prayer time which is communication with the One who loves us the most and expects the least. Be thankful even when challenged with discontentment, dissatisfaction and unmet expectations that this world will readily offer throughout the next month. Gratitude will always change your attitude. The enemy wants to steal away this season of celebration of our Savior’s Birth. He wants to make you doubt the Hope found in His Arrival. Don’t let him. Use the Spirit of the Lord within you to rally against such thoughts and unfruitful considerations. Greater is He that is in you! You are an overcomer even when it is self that is the adversary. My prayer for us today is this:
Romans 15:13 (NLT) I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you (me) completely with joy and peace because you (I) trust in him. Then you (I) will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.