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December 19, 2017

Day Seventeen

Joy

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

“Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation…” I Thessalonians 5:16-18a

Has anyone ever asked you, “What final words do you want to leave with those you love when you are gone?” It is a challenging question. I have shared with many the words my father said to me shortly before his death. We were in the oncology ward when I asked him, “Dad, where do you think you will go when you die?” After teasing me by saying, “Well, I hope I go UP!” He finally said, “John, all my life I have believed in a good and loving God. This has been true in my life. I believe it will be just as true in my death.” Those words give me eternal comfort and a guiding principal to live by.

Now, I am not meaning to be morbid by sharing a story about the end of life in the season of Advent and Joy. I actually have a purpose here. Scholars believe that I Thessalonians is the oldest of Paul’s writings ever recovered. It is thought to be written about 50 CE, 20 years after the death and resurrection of Christ, and 20 years before the earliest Gospel written — the Gospel of Mark. That means the message Paul shares in these writings is the earliest record of the message and mindset of Christianity. In this earliest first writing, Paul’s “final words” ring true as the ground zero of our Christian instruction, giving birth to what should become our Christian character. What does he say?

“Rejoice always.” “Pray continually.” “Give thanks in every situation.” “Don’t suppress the Spirit.” “Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages.” “Hang onto what is good.” “Avoid every kind of evil.” Can you just imagine? If the world lived by only a few of these guiding principles we would be in GREAT shape. This is good stuff!

If the joy of this holy season is to take hold of your heart, I think you may need to find those fundamental words that resonate with your soul and claim your life. What is the rule you want to live by? What phrase or words hold the most power for you? What statement of truth unlocks your heart and calms your soul?

I’ll tell you mine. I usually want to explain it, but right now, I’ll just proclaim it:

“Love never fails.” I Cor. 13:8a

Prayer: Lord, thank you for a love that never fails, especially when I do. Amen.

Rev. John Farley
South District Superintendent
Dean of Cabinet
California-Pacific Conference