1 Timothy 4
Let no one despise your _________. In this letter Paul tells Timothy to let no one despise his youth. What is the blank for you? The thing that may make you a little insecure and afraid to step into your calling? Age, experience, pedigree, personality, education, resources, past mistakes, other opinions?
I believe in all of us are things we want to do – things we feel the Spirit nudging us to do – and we start off so passionate about it, but then doubt creeps in. The whispers of the devil telling us we can’t do it. And we think things like…
When I get a little older
When I get more experience
When I pay off this debt
When I have more support
When I graduate
When I get married
When we get that house
When I get that better job
When the kids get older
When the opportunity falls in my lap
If only I started sooner
If only I were younger
If only I didn’t have all these commitments
If only I didn’t make all those mistakes
We are paralyzed by the “when” and “if only.”
“Do not neglect the gift you have.” (1 Timothy 4:14) Paul’s advice to Timothy is for us too. These gifts… things we are passionate about, places we want to see change in the world, ideas we can’t get out of our head, experiences we have had… these gifts are from God. Don’t neglect them. Don’t let them gather dust and never bloom into what God gave them to you for. And you don’t have to do it all at once. Take a small step today in that direction. Make today the day you say, “I will no longer neglect the gift I have!”
Paul continues, “set the believers an example in SPEECH, in CONDUCT, in LOVE, in FAITH, in PURITY.” Do your thing. Do it even if you are scared. Do it even if you think others will mock you. Do it even if you don’t feel experienced enough. God will equip you for what He calls you to. And when you do it, do it with integrity of speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. I’m rooting for you.
1 Timothy 2
PRAY for ALL people.
That’s the header inserted in my Bible to usher in 1 Timothy 2. And 1 Timothy 2 is a doozy friends. The bottom line for me is there is a lot I don’t understand, but I believe the Bible is truth and God’s way is always best. I choose Jesus. Every. Time. And honestly, I think I’m just tired and weary and heartbroken over the divisiveness that seems to be spiraling out of control.
With that said, I’m clinging to the first half of the chapter. Oh, for us to take this to heart and put this in practice...
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4
God, let us love more than we hate. Let us show grace more that contempt. Let us give the benefit of the doubt more than giving our opinion. Let us seek you more than self-proclaimed experts. Let us seek peace more than division. Let us pray more than pontificate. Let us love like you love.
1 Timothy 1
Our God is so big and merciful and indescribably good.
My interpretation of what Paul tells his young protégé, “Timothy…look at me! Look at what God has done through me and KNOW that nothing is impossible. No one is too far gone for God to reach. Me -- the blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent of Jesus – God judged ME faithful and appointed me to his service. It is simply incredible. Hear me, Timothy, this good news is trustworthy and true: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. We are all worthy because He is worthy for us. Jesus took me – the most aggressive person fighting against Him – and called my name. He saved me. And if that wasn’t enough, He allows me to be His ambassador. If God worked through me, He can work through anyone.”
God is so good to us. Some of us are unsure about God; some are outright hostile to Him. Some of us hide in the shame of our sins; some seem to delight in them. God sent Jesus to die for it all and to restore us. Some believe it and receive it; some continue to fight it vehemently. He is patient with us. No one who still has breath is too far gone for God’s love and mercy to reach. Nothing is impossible for God. No one’s sin is bigger than our God. The blood shed on the cross is for us all.
If you have a loved one or friend who seems so lost and far from God, or even hostile to God, don’t lose hope. Paul’s message to Timothy is to you too. No one is too far gone for God to reach.
2 Thessalonians 3
Before there was anything, God was at work... creating light and colors and sunsets and mountains and flowering plants and shooting stars and animals that swim, crawl, walk, hop, and fly. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the WORK OF HIS HANDS.” (Psalm 19:1).
As God looks around after the first several days of creation, He sees there is no one to work the ground. So, He sets out to creates man; a being in His image and likeness. And unlike the other created things, He breathes into the nostrils of the first man and brings him to life. Then God took His new creation and put him in the garden to work it and keep it. We were CREATED for work.
God could have created self-sustaining beings having no need to refuel with water and food. He could have made us to sit around and stare at His creation, feet propped up with no responsibilities. But He didn’t. He designed us with drive and purpose. To use our hands and the creativity that was breathed into us by our Creator. To have a passion for the things He has a passion for. He created us to be part of His unfolding story. We GET TO work.
The Thessalonians Christians find themselves an oppressed and persecuted people. Life is hard, and work is even harder. They believe Jesus is returning any day. As a result, some people decide to quit working. They may even brush it off as a spiritual waiting and watching for Jesus. But we weren’t made to be idle. And as long as we are able, we are to work. When we aren’t living out the calling of God on our lives – whatever our “work” looks like in a given season– we find other things to fill the time. The Thessalonians that have stopped working have started meddling. Paul calls them busybodies. They fill their time concerned with how others are filling their time. And while they’re at it, they ask to be fed and cared for by these same people. Paul admonishes them saying things like, “if anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” and “…work quietly and earn your own living.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10,12)
Paul knows that people will take advantage of the generosity of others. And among an already persecuted crew, he knows this can add to the suffering and discouragement. So, Paul is quick to encourage them saying, “do not grow weary in doing good.”
Do you sometimes feel like your work is getting you nowhere? Like you give and give with no returns? Do you sometimes feel taken advantage of? Unnoticed, unappreciated, unrewarded? Don’t give up, friends. Your work is good. There was great need among the Thessalonians thousands of years ago, and there is great need among us today. Never grow weary in doing good. There is a priceless reward awaiting you.
2 Thessalonians 2
Jesus is coming back and all believers will be gathered with Him. Things will get crazy with rebellion and the “man of lawlessness” proclaiming to be God. And then this, “...the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8)
We don’t fully grasp the extent of what is to come, but we know God wins.
Paul is writing to the believers in Thessalonica, who are awaiting Christ’s return. It was roughly 20 years after Jesus’ death on the cross. They were sure Jesus would come in their lifetime. It has now been more than 2,000 years–and we are still waiting.
Waiting is hard! Have you ever waited for something you were sure would come soon? At first, it was probably easy. You were filled with excitement and anticipation. But as time passed, you began to lose hope. You doubted it would ever come to pass. You even second guessed all that you believed. You lost your attention and focus.
Paul reminds us we must STAND FIRM during times of waiting. We must hold to the truths of the gospel. We must look to God’s Word to be our guide, and not what impressive icons, slick advertisements, and celebrities of the day might be telling us with their smooth words and enticing promises.
Our culture is set on steering us away from truth and righteousness, but we must stand firm. God’s truth is the only truth that will lead to life, peace, contentment, and joy. Everything else leads to ultimate suffering and torment. Sweet friends, Jesus is so worth the wait.
God, in the daily grind of trials and troubles, please help me stay focused on You and Your promises. Help me to not be deceived by those wishing to steer me away from Your truth. Help me to stand firm!
This post taken from my post on the @thouartexalted app for tweens/teens going through the New Testament! Such a privileged and honor to be a part of this ministry.
2 Thessalonians 1
In this follow-up letter to the Thessalonians, Paul is giving thanks for several things:
- Their faith is growing abundantly.
- Their love for everyone and one another is increasing.
- The result is their steadfastness and faithfulness in the midst of great persecutions and afflictions they are enduring.
Growing faith + increasing love + ability to remain steadfast in the storms of life. Who doesn’t want that? So, how do we get there?
Charles Spurgeon says, "Do all you can, and then do a little more; and when you can do that, then do a little more than you can. Always have something in hand that is greater than your present capacity. Grow up to it, and when you have grown up to it, grow more."
We don’t have to look at the faith and love of others and think that we could never get there. We don’t have to instantly have great faith and great ability to love well. We just have to do a little now, then a little more. We can strive to start where we are and grow from there. Like a muscle in training, each stretch of faith and act of love makes us stronger for the next bigger one.
Growth doesn’t happen by taking the easiest road. It comes from making hard choices and doing hard things. And then doing it again. Showing up, practicing, repeating, stretching farther each time. It doesn’t happen overnight; it takes work and practice.
It’s easier to sleep in rather than wake up 30 minutes early for quiet time. It’s easier to go home or to happy hour than to go to that Bible study after work. It’s easier to say no to that prayer group invitation than to step into the uncomfortable. It’s easier to worry and try to control than to trust God. But easy doesn’t lead to growth or transformation, and it isn’t very rewarding.
We have to shift our thinking from a destination where we one day achieve faith or love for others; instead, it is a slow and steady growth process. We don’t just have faith and show love. We grow in it, always striving for more through little steps and acts of obedience along the way. Each step gives us the courage to aim higher next time. And as our faith and love muscle grows, so will our ability to stand strong and steady in times of suffering and trials which are sure to come.
The easy thing is to read this, nod in agreement, and then move on. What if instead, we pray earnestly about it, decide on our next faith and love workout – a specific, tangible thing we can do – and then get to work strengthening those muscles?
1 Thessalonians 5
As I’m reading through the New Testament slowly, one chapter a day, some are so full of All. The. Things. This last chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is one of those chapters, so I’m just going to leave this all here…
WHAT TO EXPECT:
The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
People will be thinking there is so much peace and security, and then SUDDEN DESTRUCTION will come.
Those in the darkness – those that chose not to believe Jesus or thought they had more time to decide later – WILL NOT ESCAPE
WHO WE ARE AS BELIEVERS:
Children of light.
Children of the day.
HOW TO WAIT:
Be awake, aware, sober.
Put on the breastplate of FAITH and LOVE.
Put on the helmet of the HOPE of SALVATION.
ENCOURAGE one another.
BUILD one another up.
RESPECT those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord.
Be at PEACE among yourselves.
ADMONISH the idle.
ENCOURAGE the fainthearted.
HELP the weak.
Be PATIENT with them all.
See that no one repay evil for evil.
Always seek to DO GOOD to one another and everyone.
PRAY without ceasing.
Give THANKS in all circumstances.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything.
HOLD FAST to what is good.
ABSTAIN for every form of evil.
God has not destined those of us who put our faith in Jesus for wrath, but to obtain SALVATION through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The God of peace Himself will SANCTIFY you COMPLETELY.
He will make our whole spirit and soul and body BLAMELESS at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is FAITHFUL.
HE WILL SURELY DO IT.
So much goodness in one small chapter. God, let it be so with us. Selah!
1 Thessalonians 4
Paul’s plea to the Thessalonian church, and TO US, “You know how much you love one another; how you have been taught by God to love one another? Do that! And then do it MORE and MORE.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, my paraphrase)
You might be surprised how Paul says to go about this Gospel-sharing, people-loving, soul-saving life…
Mind your own affairs.
Work with your hands.
And if you know Paul at all, you know this in no way is an exhortation to forget the plight of those suffering, compromise truth, or silence the Gospel message. Paul is all about the needs of others, proclaiming truth, warning of false teachers and cultural traps, and above all sharing the Good News. But this is a check on how we are living it out. And truthfully, looking around, this isn’t a popular stance in much of our culture today. But then again, when have the ways of Jesus ever been popular? I think back at some of my Christian heroes and they spoke truth, loved well, cared deeply for the oppressed...and lived a quiet life, minded their business well, and worked so very hard with their hands.
What is the opposite of living quietly? Seeking All. The. Lights. And. Sparkle. And. Fanfare. And. Praise. Loud, obnoxious, attention-seeking, panic-inducing, fight-picking and nit-picking. It is the flipside of a posture of peace and oneness with God who is in control. Matthew Henry says, “Satan is very busy to stir us up, and also in our own hearts we get stirred up, therefore let us study to be quiet.” Paul says we should make it our AMBITION – our job – to live quietly. Not ineffectively or silently or unproductively, but quietly. Humbly.
What is the opposite of minding our own affairs? Getting all up in everyone else’s business when you have no business being there. Meddling, comparing, critiquing, tearing down, gossiping, speaking for. Paul says we should mind our own business. Focus on our own affairs; on the mission and work in front of us.
What is the opposite of working with our hands? Laziness, idleness, entitlement. Paul says we should work with our hands. God works through our working. Do the beautiful work you were created to do.
And remember it is all in the name of love. Loving God and loving others SO MUCH we want more than anything — our platform, our voice, our right to be right — for them to know and love Him too. Because love does win.
1 Thessalonians 3
Things are not easy for this newly planted Christian community in Thessalonica. Only a few short weeks after establishing the church, Paul is run out of the city. He agonizes over the fate of the new brothers and sisters in Christ he left behind. And not worried in a sense that they are in physical danger and harm – because he knows they are – but worried about their steadfastness; their souls.
Paul is worried that this present affliction will shake their faith; will cause them to retreat back to what is comfortable and acceptable in the corrupt culture they find themselves in.
“I hope they remember. God, please let them remember,” I imagine Paul praying on his calloused knees in refrain.
Praying they remember his words that suffering and affliction are part of the story. He told them time and again so they would not be surprised when it came; so they would know to hold fast to their faith.
No, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the tempter – the evil one, Satan – sits just on the edge of the sidelines, slithering closer, hissing in anticipation, waiting to pounce when the suffering comes. He knows we will be weak and let our guard down in the suffering. Unless…unless the opposite happens and we run to -- cling to -- Jesus. He wants to get there first. It is the age-old battle Satan knows he will ultimately lose, but for now, until Jesus returns, he still has some power and he isn’t about to waste one ounce of it.
Paul can no longer take the agony of the wondering and waiting so he sends Timothy for two purposes: to ESTABLISH and ENCOURAGE them in their faith. Because this is what we need in times of suffering and affliction. We need to know deep down in the depths of our soul that God is in control; that He is good; that He loves us.
The trials are part of the story and they have purpose. They teach us perseverance, compassion, deeper abiding, endurance, dependence on the One who holds it all in His hands. We need to establish and encourage our faith to press on through them. The end is coming and it will be worth it. It will be glorious.
Don’t be surprise or caught off guard, child of God, when suffering comes. Press on and lean in. Do the things you need to do to deepen and strengthen your faith in who God is. Let Him carry you through it with eyes and a heart wide open for every ounce of transforming that comes from it. Joy is coming in the morning.
1 Thessalonians 2
Though Paul only had a few short weeks teaching the Thessalonians before being run out of the city, his impact was anything but short-lived. And I think in this chapter we see such a beautiful example of the foundation for true, lasting, and impactful ministry. Because the truth is, as believers, we all have a ministry….to our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. We are all called to share the Gospel and make disciples.
What we don’t do is often as important as what we do. Paul starts with the “did nots” – the things he DID NOT do.
They did not…
Come with erroneous words, impurity or an attempt to deceive.
Seek to please man.
Try to win them over with words of flattery.
Come with a pretext of greed.; making it all about them.
Seek glory from people.
And the “did nots” are crucial because they are the things that all too often hinder us. The things that blemish our testimony. The things that create conflict, skepticism, and cynicism. The things that ultimately tear down, rather than build up, the body of Christ. They are the seeds the devil sows to throw us all off track.
Instead, Paul came with…
Boldness IN God.
Seeking to please God.
Desirous of them to know God.
Sharing not only the Gospel, but themselves; loving, serving.
Toiling and laboring, working night and day to not be a burden.
Charging them to walk in a manner worthy of God.
Reminding them that God calls them into the kingdom of God.
Think of what could be accomplished for the kingdom with this purity in message and delivery. When it is all about God and others, not us. When we love and submit and serve others rather than ourselves. God, let it be so in my life for always.
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