Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 1Thessalonians 5: 16-22 (NKJV)
People often lament not knowing God's will for their lives yet here it is laid out for us in detail. It was so important to God, that each individual imperative is given its own verse. We read these sometimes and in our mortal minds we dismiss them almost as not being possible. How can we be always rejoicing? What about death and pain and suffering? How can we pray without ceasing, give thanks in every situation, and test everything we encounter in this life? These are not only written as imperatives but as absolutes! Given the nature of the world we must live in they certainly seem out of reach. But here is the truth we must wrap our minds around today just because our finite minds cannot imagine them it does not change the fact that it is the will of God for our lives! This is what we should be striving for. It is what we should be working towards. The truth is that if we always rejoiced than we would find ourselves not getting depressed by the day to day minutia in this world which the Bible describes us as foreigners in! If we were ever able to maintain a true God consciousness, where we were praying constantly, we would never find ourselves acting without Him in any area of our lives. Too often by the time we bring something to God in prayer it already has become a large problem. Imagine if we presented Him with the small things before they become large! THAT is His will! If we were ever able to give thanks in all situations, we would always find ourselves in a humble position, avoiding the pitfalls of our pride. If we were able to test everything, which means to measure everything up to the Word of God, we would be able to avoid so much sin and heartache. These are the will of God for our lives even if we dismiss them as "pie in the sky."
And in the middle of these commands is the verse, "do not quench the Spirit." The NIV says, "do not put out the Spirit's fire." The dictionary defines quench as, "to extinguish or put out." The Spirit of God is often described as fire. When the Holy Spirit was first given at Pentecost it was in the form of tongues of fire. It should burn within each one of us providing light and comfort for a fallen and cold world walking darkness. Likewise, it should provide us with the same light and comfort we need to keep walking the right path in a world with so many distractions and trappings.
Quenching the Spirit then is a process of not doing the will God has for us in our lives. This can easily mean avoiding a calling He might have for us but at the core it means not striving towards these imperatives listed in 1Thessalonians. When we are not joyful and we allow the misery of the world to infect who we are in Christ, we are actively quenching the Spirit within us. We are working toward putting that fire out. When we do not cultivate a God consciousness we are avoiding talking with God! We leave Him out of areas of our lives and then wonder why things go so wrong. Or prayer can become ritualistic where there is no intimacy between you and God no fire. Or it becomes a "whine list" where we expect blessings from God while we walk in disobedience to Him. When we fail to give thanks to Him for everything in our lives we also quench the Spirit within us. The devil is a master at showing us what we do not have so we cannot appreciate everything God has given us. We become externally focused instead of reflecting within to see all God has done. We see someone else and measure their blessings against ours. We forget where God had to go to find us. How far down He had to reach. It would have been easy for the Apostle Paul to become inflated in his view of himself. But he always remembered that he had persecuted the church. He never forgot where God found him and as a result he always declared that of all the apostles, he was the least. We often talk about the verses regarding the thorn in his flesh but forget why it was given:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 2Corinthians 12: 7 (NIV)
God is aware of how easily we can become conceited. How quickly we can think more of ourselves and thus, less of Him. We must test everything we come up against in this life by measuring it against God's Word. We must be vigilant against putting out the fire of God that burns within us. When we are first saved we are often described as being "on fire". As the fire burns low we find ourselves described as "lukewarm." The fire is still there but it is going out slowly. As we continue to quench the Holy Spirit we run the risk of backsliding to the point where we fall away from the teachings of Christ and the church. That is often described as someone whose "faith has grown cold." With the fire of the spirit quenched, it is no surprise!
While the end result may appear similar there is a difference between grieving and quenching the Spirit within us. We grieve the Spirit when we do something. It is an action issue. We are angry. We are bitter. We slander someone. We quench the Spirit when we fail to do something. It is a failure to action issue. We don't rejoice and praise God. We fail to give proper thanks for all God has done. We do not seek God in prayer. We fail to measure things in our lives against the Word. These are both progressive issues. Everyone fails. Everyone falls. But when we continue in this manner we begin the progression of grieving or quenching the Spirit. That is a progression we must avoid at all cost. For while we may not have to fear like David did that God will take His Spirit from us we must realize that our own actions or inactions, can essentially have the same effect in our lives.
Reverend Anthony Wade July 14, 2011