My father in law served as an assistant fire chief during his career in Northern California. I am always intrigued with the many stories that he has shared with me. From massive building fires to forest fires, he has fought them all. What I found interesting was that there was a method to putting out fires. You see, they didn’t go into those fires and just shoot the water haphazardly at the fire. They had a strategy for putting out the fire.
Reversely, we want to have a strategy and plan to prevent the quenching of the Spirit. First Thessalonians 5:19 commands us to, “Quench not the Spirit.” To quench the Spirit literally means to extinguish the flame of God’s work, whether in your life or in that of someone else. We are to be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We must be receptive to His conviction, yield to His control, and walk with Him every day of our lives.
The command of 1 Thessalonians 5:19 is followed by a strategy you can implement to prevent quenching the Spirit, and it involves discernment. Let’s see what 1 Thessalonians 5:21–22 says about discernment: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
1. Prove All Things
The word prove means to “examine” and is translated from a very common and familiar word. It carries the idea of testing something in order to ascertain its true character or nature.
Ancient stone masons would go through quarries and examine rocks. On those stones that passed the examination was painted a delta or letter “d” for approved. Those stones that failed the inspection were labeled with an alpha or “a” for unapproved.
So this verse means that we are to inspect our lives to see what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong.
We need to examine our entertainment. I always ask myself, “Would I feel comfortable if Jesus was sitting on the sofa beside me and I had control of the remote?”
We need to examine our worldview. Are your political views tied to your understanding of Scripture or are they tied to party loyalty?
We need to examine our motives. If we are honest, we often do many things to the glory of self. Examine your heart. Why are you doing what you are doing? What is your motivation?
2. Hold Fast that Which Is Good
Have you ever participated in a tug of war? You get a good grip on the rope and try not to let go. What things do you “hold fast” to in this life?
For me, I “hold fast” to my wife and children, children-in-law and grandson. Beyond my relationship to the Lord, they are the most precious on earth to me. Shelli and I have been through trials and struggles in thirty years of marriage, yet we are still committed to one another. Even when everything is not perfect, we still cling or “hold fast” to one another.
I also “hold fast” to the ministry of the Word of God. The Word of God consumes my life. I know its power, I want to embrace its truth. I want to be bound to its command. I want it to occupy my mind. I want to possess more and more of it.
We are to “examine everything carefully” and when we find things that are good, we are to get a firm grip on them.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there by any praise, think on these things.— Philippians 4:8
3. Abstain from All Appearance of Evil
Abstain is a strong word. Literally, it means “to shun away from.” It is the idea of being repulsed by something gross. Imagine walking across a field and encountering a rotting animal carcass infested with maggots… well maybe that’s a little much.
Of course you would shun away from the putrid sight. Let’s try another approach, imagine walking across the same field when you hear a rattlesnake rattle (we have a lot of those here in Tucson). What do you do? You shun away from it. You get as far away as you can as fast as you can! Paul is saying in the strongest possible terms that we should shun away from every form of evil.
Appearance means type, shape or kind of evil. Evil comes in all shapes and types. When we carefully discern and discover something is evil, we are to run away from it, shun it.
Paul is basically saying, “Look, evil is going to come at you from every direction so you need to pay attention!”
We need to have a strategy for godly discernment. Paul lays a specific strategy out here in first Thessalonians. Let’s put it into practice and have Godly discernment!