1 Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians Chapter 5

This chapter is bursting at the seams with application and hope. The end of the chapter says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.” This is easy to say but hard to do.  Often times our rejoicing diminishes, our prayer is only requests to make life better for us, and our thanks is hard to find. When these times come, and they will, verse 24 reminds us that the One who calls us is faithful and He will be with us through and through.  When times seem hard and fear creeps in remember to rejoice, pray, and be thankful because God has sanctified us through His son Jesus Christ. 

The reason we do not need to be afraid of these hard times  is because God has not chosen us to suffer His wrath but to receive salvation through Jesus Christ. God calls us children of light. We are not to be like the others who are unaware of His return. He tells us that we need to be vigilant and persevering. God wants us to be ready for His return. He also wants us to encourage others with this hope. 

1 Thessalonians Chapter 4

This chapter encourages us to live lives that are pleasing to God. Paul explains to us that God wants us to live pure lives and be obedient to Him. God reminds us that we are not just ignoring instructions, but ignoring God. After the warning about sexual immorality the focus is on love for one another. Within this chapter it says to live lives pleasing to God and to do this more and more. This is encouraging to me because it implies there is a process here. God calls us to live holy lives but the beauty is that we are not holy on our own accord. We need God’s help in order to accomplish this. God gives us His Holy Spirit in order to be able to fight against the things of this world.  He warns us of the trouble and then reminds us that He has equipped us with Himself.

The second part of this chapter is also an encouragement that gives us hope. It reminds us that we will be with our family members who have passed once again and that the Lord is coming again. This is awesome and something we can encourage one another with. It reminds us of who it is we serve, that He has not forgotten us, and that He is coming for us. 

1 Thessalonians Chapter 3

Have you ever been asked to do something that caused you great anxiety and fear?  If so, you know the feeling of angst and wonder  how you'll get through that which causes such nervous tension.  And yet, in this chapter, Paul writes about sending Timothy to Athens to spread the Gospel of Christ as a way to strengthen and encourage others in their faith, and he does it even knowing he and others who were sent would be persecuted.  Let's not forget that there  is also the fear that Satan would try to tempt him, others and even ourselves from doing that which our Father desires.                                                                           

For me, it would seem much easier to agree to talk to people who already have faith than to try to talk to others who know little or none of what faith is about because faith is simply believing in something that we don't actually concretely "see". 

As other's see and hear about our  deep and committed faith, despite all the trials and tribulations life throws at us, it's that sense of calm that draws people in and wondering how they can have that too.  So like Paul and Timothy and all the other Apostles,  God's desire is for us to share the love of God and that often means, that sharing with non-believers brings more angst and anxiety than we are comfortable with.  So how does one work through being comfortable spreading the Gospel of Christ when this is not your spiritual gift?

I've always found that praying for the person that you are sharing with, is the best way to start and then sharing your faith in hopes that their hearts are open to receive your words.  Over time, you can share parts of the Bible and the stories told and even provide different resources where they can learn more about Jesus or even invite them to join you at church or a bible study or a presentation.  In time, they may make a conscience choice as to whether they want faith or not and if they do, they can simply ask God to give them the faith they need to believe.

1 Thessalonians Chapter 2

 Paul, with Silas and Timothy, continues his letter to the church in Thessalonica, where people had received the message of Good News with joy but are suffering severely because of their neighbors and countrymen.

For me, Chapter 2 contains Paul’s words of encouragement to his beloved church because Paul remains separated from them despite his efforts to rejoin them.  From Paul whose words are prompted by the Holy Spirit, we too can take courage and heart to persevere despite sufferings and opposition we will face.

First, as encouragement from Paul’s letter we are reminded that in our trials and sufferings, our purpose remains to please God and not people (v. 4).  A basic human instinct is the need for praise and the acceptance by others which can drive us to behavior that veers from truth and good.  But God frees us from this human need and calls us to focus our attention on Him and His purpose in the middle of our sufferings. Think of the implications for us in our human behavior and how much freedom results from pleasing the never-changing God instead of trying to please human beings whose needs can change daily.  With the refocus and perspective, we view our trials in a different light.

Secondly, our service encourages us.  As we serve and care for others, we do not keep a score of all our good deeds for others so that someday we can expect a payback from those who benefitted by us. Our purpose is to share the Good News and our own lives (v. 8) to others so we constantly “pay forward” to others because of Christ’s love and forgiveness for us.  Our service to others in the midst of suffering will require work “night and day” so we do not become a burden to others.  There is no free pass from work in the Lord’s service as Paul acknowledges.  Our service to the Lord keeps our minds and hearts occupied on meaningful work, fills us with joy for others, and reduces the isolation and impact of the trials and sufferings we experience.

Finally, and most importantly as encouragement, we should remember our blessings and remain thankful to God that we accepted Christ’s love and forgiveness by God’s grace. Paul reminds us that as believers in Christ, we will suffer even at the hands of our own families, friends, and neighbors.   Jesus had told his followers to expect this because He had been persecuted.  But the greatest encouragement of all in this chapter is the blessing of hope and joy of Christ in our lives and looking forward to the reward at the end when Jesus stands next to us before God to speak on our behalf.

It gives me great comfort and hope for the future when I look back at how God protected and provided for me and gave me a family, friends, and a roof over my head and food on the table.  As the Great Provider, God can be trusted to provide in the future even as He has provided for each of us in the past.  There is no greater encouragement than having God walk hand-in-hand with us each day of our lives.  God’s blessings of the past encourage us to look forward to God’s blessings in the future.

1 Thessalonians Chapter 1

Do you have a favorite sports team?  Perhaps you love The Warriors or the San Francisco Giants…..What happens when your favorite team wins a big game? You respond like this: “WE DID IT! WE WON!” You may run around the living room high-fiving, chest-bumping, and doing a little jig.  Now my question is: What role did you play in this victory? Maybe you bought a jersey or a cap, but the truth is you didn’t do anything that contributed to your team’s success. Yet, you feel intense ownership because this is YOUR team.

If you and I can feel this strongly about our favorite sports team, how much more intense should our feelings be for our local church?  We need to think of the church as “we,” not “they.” Although churches are made up of individuals, we are the church!  In the book of 1 Thessalonians, we learn about a church that we can get excited about. Although there are no “perfect” churches, the church in Thessalonica is a model church. 

What struck me was Paul’s long “thanksgiving section”.  He is pumped about this church!  In 1:2-3 he writes, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.” It’s been said, “You can tell a man’s values by what he appreciates.” In these verses, Paul expresses his deep appreciation for the spiritual maturity of the Thessalonians.  These verses are challenging. They call you and me to pray for our church, specifically.  Not just a generic, “Lord, bless our church,” but specific expressions of gratitude for individuals in our church. It challenges us to pray for our life groups, for our pastors and leaders, for our Sunday school classes, or youth or college group. Cry out to God for individuals in our ministries. 

Something else that stood out to me and made this a healthy church is that the church waited for Jesus’ return (1:10).  Paul writes that these believers who converted to Christ responded by “wait[ing] for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” The word wait means literally, to wait up. The Thessalonians were waiting up for the Lord’s return!

 Looking for the Lord to return at any moment will change our lives. It will transform our way of doing things. It will change the way we deal with temptations. It will alter our priorities. It will lead us to do something about broken relationships.  It will make us invest our precious days in what truly matters.  All possessions we have worked so hard for will be destroyed and only what is eternal will last.  What a difference it would make if we truly believed His coming is near!!

This Thessalonian church was a baby church and we can learn so much by this letter from Paul! My prayer is that God continues to bless COTC and that we strive to follow the model of this church in Thessalonica.