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.
1 Thessalonians 1
Paul gives thanks to the Thessalonians, praying for them constantly and remembering their WORK OF FAITH and LABOR OF LOVE and STEADFASTNESS OF HOPE in Jesus.
Faith, hope, and love. The foundations of their community.
WORK OF FAITH
Their faith brought about a work in them. They turned to God from idols. They didn’t merely believe, they changed. They turned from dark to light and lies to truth.
This community loved by God. Chosen by God. God has chosen them and God chooses us. Ray Stedman says, “How do you know that God chose you, out of the millions who have lived on earth? The answer is, you began to be drawn toward God, to sense a desire for him. The calling of God by means of the Spirit awakens a hunger within. If you are longing to be different, if you want to be more than you are now, you have tried to change and you cannot, but you want to change, you find the words of the gospel, the songs of hymns of Christians attractive, you are being drawn by the Spirit!”
The Gospel comes to us in word. We hear truth declared, Scriptures preached with a very real and compelling power, the Holy Spirit penetrating our being. And we open the door to receive it.
In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and will open the door, I will come into him and live with him and he with me.”
Stedman continues, “Until you have actually received Christ, you have not exercised faith. You can believe the story to be true, but until it moves you to receive the Lord you have not exercised faith.”
They heard. They believed. By grace, through faith, they were saved. They said, “Yes! I want that! I accept that!” And they began the transformative life and work that results from this gift of salvation and redemption.
LABOR OF LOVE
Though suffering, the Thessalonians chose love. Though persecuted, they shared the good news with others. Their life became a labor of love for their neighbors around them and beyond.
PERSISTENCE OF HOPE
Finally, they have hope and assurance• in the return of Christ. Hope for full restoration. Hope for eternal life with God. Hope for the day where there will be no tears, suffering, pain or death. The muscle of persistence is strengthened when hope is at the core. There is something to fight for and the fight is so worth it.
Faith, hope and love. In this, Paul rejoices and gives thanks. In this, he knows this precious and loved church he planted will thrive.
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