Mar 22 2020 - 1 Thess 3 - How is Your Faith?
22nd March 2020
Lord, thank You for the opportunity to be together this morning. Thank You for Tim, and Jeff to make this tech stuff go. I pray that You would help us in our thinking – as we seek You – and turn our hearts to You – that we might hear from You and hear Your word.
Be careful to not dwell on the worst-case scenario. Dwelling on it is of no benefit.
Second – limit how much you check on the news and the statistics. I know we need to keep up – looking at the numbers every day, but it might not be a good thing.
Third – recognize the effects that isolation can cause. Please pray for my dad – he lost my mom a couple weeks ago – and now California is on lock-down and he is alone.
We have to find safe ways to connect to each other.
We may go into financial crisis – and it will be important for the church to step up.
And prayer – we’ll commit time to pray.
I subscribe to a lot of podcasts – and things – and all of them have been sharing about how to deal with these times. It just so happens that Paul is talking about the exact same thing exactly where we are in 1 Thessalonians 2.
1 Thessalonians 2: 17 But when we were separated (orphaned) from you, brothers and sisters, for a short time (in presence, not in affection) we became all the more fervent in our great desire to see you in person.
Paul is separated from the Thessalonians – the literal word is orphaned – orphaned from you – just to show the greatness of his despair. Paul is trying to get across his love for these folks and how he is struggling in being separated from them.
We are separated from each other due to this virus – and it is great that we can utilize technology to connect – but each of us has a deep need for human connection.
How can we go about doing that?
In light of all this – this experience must change us.
We have some who can’t come to our church – and they “were able to watch church together live for the first time!”
How should our gathering change as a result of this? When you are used to having something and it is taken away, you learn to appreciate it more. When we are able to get back together again, how will your attitude coming to church be different.
We’ll do that the first week or two, and then go back – but I encourage us not to.
How can the church minister to those outside of the faith? This crisis is going to provide an excellent opportunity for the witness of the church and for Christians.
The key in being effective is to have radically different behavior than what is taking place in the world.
Don’t blame! It is the wrong place to go!
Cindy overheard a conversation – about a Christian leader getting into the news – and this leader was blaming a specific leader for the crisis – and the other person said – “Christians are the meanest people!” – We don’t want to be seen that way! We don’t want to be known by that.
Second – avoid conspiracy theories - The reality – conspiracy theories – even if they are true – are to stir up anxiety, fear, and hate.
Don’t be selfish! There may be needs – the toilet paper thing is mind-boggling. My son lives and works in Austria – the German word for hoarding is – hamsterkauf – hamster buying – I think that is hysterical.
We need to learn to share. This is a time for generosity. That does not mean we don’t prepare. We prepare – SO THAT – we can share – we can be unselfish – can minister to people down the road if necessary – lights in the darkness like a city set on a hill.
That should be our hope and desire.
Finally – we talk about social distancing – maybe we should call it physical distancing because every human needs connection. We need to be creative to find ways to make personal contact with others.
18 For we wanted to come to you (I, Paul, in fact tried again and again) but Satan thwarted us. 19 For who is our hope or joy or crown to boast of before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not of course you? 20 For you are our glory and joy!
Paul connects the opposition with Satan and the powers of darkness. Paul understands that there is this great conflict between the power of darkness and God – yet he never sensationalizes it or gives specific details. He just says he was thwarted, without saying how, he doesn’t go into any detail - Like in Corinthians – when he has a thorn in the flesh he ascribes to Satan – but doesn’t say what it is - I think on purpose, he doesn’t go into detail so we don’t ascribe everything bad to Satan. Say you’re driving down the road and get a flat tire – that may be Satan thwarting you – but it might be that you forgot to check the pressure or ran over a nail! If our focus is too much on trying to find the enemy in the details, we will miss the great spiritual battle being waged on people’s souls.
Paul realized that every inch of spiritual ground is being contested by the powers of darkness – and that battle is over people’s hearts and fate! Not over the little details.
With this virus, the enemy is engaging by trying to create fear, anxiety, selfishness, antagonism, hatred, and to destroy faith.
We need to be aware of that – aware of his true schemes – which is to lead us away from our devotion to Christ – and the battle rages over that. That should be our primary focus – the battle rages over our life with God.
Paul goes on -
1 Thess 3:1 So when we could bear it no longer, we decided to stay on in Athens alone. 2 We sent Timothy, our brother and fellow worker for God in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you and encourage you about your faith, 3 so that no one would be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.
We are to know – as Jesus said – in this world you will have trials and tribulations – we could think why is this happening? It means living in a fallen world – He has overcome this world -
4 For in fact when we were with you, we were telling you in advance that we would suffer affliction, and so it has happened, as you well know. 5 So when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter somehow tempted you and our toil had proven useless.
Faith – there it is again. Paul is concerned about their faith – they are losing their lives – being killed – and Paul is concerned about their faith.
6 But now Timothy has come to us from you and given us the good news of your FAITH and love and that you always think of us with affection and long to see us just as we also long to see you!
There is that need for human connection…
7 So in all our distress and affliction, we were reassured about you, brothers and sisters, through your faith. 8 For now we are alive again, if you stand firm in the Lord.
If we go back a number of weeks – Paul talks about Faith, Hope, and Love – In this section – he only mentions faith and love – hope never comes up – the Christians there have lost hope – and we’ll see that in Chapter 4 – where Paul speaks of the resurrection.
. 8 For now we are alive again, if you stand firm in the Lord.
Paul’s greatest concern is their standing firm. Paul was often under attack – but his greatest struggle was his concern for other people – How are others doing?
I’m going to close a little early – asking the question – How is your faith? What is your anxiety and fear level in this time? It is normal to have anxiety and fear – don’t feel bad about that – but see that the answer is FAITH – that is where the help comes from. We need to be turning to God to cast our anxieties on Him – because He cares for us and He cares for those we love in this time.
Second – it is important to have a couple people you can connect with and get support from. That takes creativity and initiative. It is time to be an initiator – figuring out ways to be doing it safely – We can’t go into our caves - we may have to be in our houses but can’t hide in our caves!
Thank You, Lord, for Your love and we ask that you would help us , like Paul, thank You for his affection for the Thessalonians – and their affection for him – and that we, as Christians can be a light to the people of this world by people of faith, love, and hope – and those three only in this time. Keep us from obsessing over things that do not shine light on your gospel to this world. In Your Name we pray, Amen.