Apr 19 2020 1 Thess 5 - How to Stay Faithful in Difficult Times
19th April 2020
Pray for our leaders…
You might know someone who is struggling – pray for them
Lord, we do pray for our nation and this world – as economies are re-opening and moving slowly back to business – we ask that You would give wisdom to our leaders – to those who are making decisions – for our governor, for our president, that You would give wisdom and understanding to get the advice they need to get the help they need from here. For those who are losing their jobs – provide.
For those who are sick – for Joe and Gigi – grant Gigi a speedy recovery. For those who are suffering from this virus, we pray for healing. We pray for healing for our land. May we become a different people. In Your name we pray.
1 Thess. 5:1 Now on the topic of times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. 2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come in the same way as a thief in the night. 3 Now when they are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape.
The Thessalonians have been preoccupied with the Second Coming. For good reason they felt this way: They felt like the whole world was coming against them. If we felt that we were being persecuted, we would focus on the end times. As a result of COVID-19 – we have all been impacted. Socially – economically – and for some – our health. Think of the things that have happened because of the virus though – remove the virus – and consider that it only happened for followers of Christ – Could no longer work – no access to support – and that is what is happening in Thessalonica. This has happened to Christians throughout history.
4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would. 5 For you all are sons of the light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of the darkness. 6 So then we must not sleep as the rest but must stay alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night and those who get drunk are drunk at night.
So Paul draws a sharp contrast between Christians and the world. This is important: he is not using this as an us vs. them. Paul is not interested in that – even though many in the world are today. Paul is interested in identity – not competition . Paul is trying to say who they are and who they should be as followers of Christ. His concern was that some were not being who they should be.
Remember, the world is the world, and we expect more from them – but the god of this world is Satan – and the world will be the world until the world is created new.
Light --> Darkness
Day --> Night
Awake --> Sleep
Sober --> Drunk
We have a tendency to talk about how bad the world is – As Christians, Paul is saying we are like the ones on the left. Paul’s concern is that some of them are living on the right – and Paul wants to make sure they are living on the left. In Christ, we have a new identity – and the left side is what this identity is.
Paul gives practical application on how we can live as Light, Day, Awake, and Sober:
1 Thess 5:8 8 But since we are of the day, we must stay sober by putting on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet our hope for salvation.
If I were getting down to it – I would probably say, read your bible, pray, and serve! But Paul goes to the things that are foundational – you can read your Bible, pray, witness and serve – and you are just doing stuff – but if you have faith, hope, and love at the core of your life, you will naturally do what you are supposed to do when at the core of your souls we are focused on these three characteristics – faith, hope and love.
Paul lays out defensive pieces of armor – Breastplate and helmet:
Ephesians 6:10 11 Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
Stand against the schemes of the devil. When he is talking about ‘standing against’ – he is not talking about conflict and antagonism – and that is important, because we love conflict and antagonism! To stand means to remain faithful witnesses of God’s love in Christ in times of opposition and difficulty.
The one who is standing is the one who is faithful when everything is falling around them.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.
He says up front – the struggle is not against flesh and blood (people!). We think our struggle is against people – but it is NOT – it is against these rulers of darkness. In order to stand – we must know who the real enemy is – the structures of this world under the power of the evil one – and the forces of darkness in this world.
Our experience is very different from the Thessalonians – there are still a number of applications we can take from this passage.
TO help us to remain faithful witnesses – the first one is this – the breastplate of faith – as we saw – knowing who the enemy is – but also knowing HOW he plans to attack.
Football players watch HOURS of film, so they know the other team’s game plans.
Those labs and scientists trying to create a cure for this virus – they need to know how it works in order to attack it.
In the same way – we need to know Satan’s game plan.
I think his first plan is to attack the nature of God.
Back in the garden – referring to the tree of knowledge of good and evil – and the serpent attacked by attacking God’s character – He is withholding good – he does not have your best in mind. The enemy wants us to doubt God’s mercy and grace. And when we fall for that – we become susceptible to every form of temptation. When we believe in God’s grace – we are strong when the temptations come.
When we are doubting – we are weak.
Lust/greed/gluttony stem from our wrong relationship with God with respect to these things.
Second – the serpent attacks our trust in God’s word.
“Did God really say that you would die?”!
It is easy to doubt that God will provide for us in difficult economic times. It is also difficult to doubt God’s protection for our safety and health.
There were many lyrics this morning relating to fear – Sheltering in place – not seeing people – has compounded all of that because nothing feels normal.
Now everything is much bigger – those economic struggles – health – trusting God is difficult because, and we know this to be true – like in Thessalonica – Christians were dying.
As people are dying from the disease – Christians are part of that – but to think that by trusting God that nothing bad will ever happen, well, we know that to not be true. It can affect our faithfulness and becoming faithful witnesses.
Hebrews 11 is the great chapter of faith – all the people of the Old Testament – and all they did – and we think none of us could ever be like them. But at the end – he talks about others – who starved, lost their homes, who died – they were all people of great faith and they suffered all these things because they were looking to a better world. In times like these – this takes us to the second quality of verse 8 – HOPE
It is critical that our hope is not in this world only. Things can go wrong in this world – we have to have our ultimate hope in the resurrection.
The next attack is an attack on the gospel itself.
It goes like this: It says that Jesus’ death is not enough to rescue us from sin. We think we need extra help to be rescued, redeemed, and forgiven. We think we need to add things – good behavior/church attendance – victory over sin – but it is clear – the cross PLUS anything human is a false gospel.
We must understand that Jesus gave himself freely on the cross – and He rescues us freely. It is by grace you are saved and rescued – by grace through faith – not of anything we can offer or can do. God has done this freely – and all we must do is to believe on Him and trust Him.
Second way he attacks the gospel: The assurance of our salvation – we have not been doing well – and we think maybe we have lost it. Jeff mentioned that there is nothing that can snatch us from His hand -Even when we are faithless, He is still faithful. In those times, it is not the time to run, but to draw near.
Third – with this attack on the gospel – our future hope – the resurrection and eternal life. It is easy to focus on the here and now, but God wants us focused on what is coming.
With Love – we don’t get a weapon! It is not defensive – in Corinthians – Faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. It is the foundation of all other characteristics – and if we are to remain faithful witnesses through difficulty – love must be the core of who we are.
By this all will know that You are my disciples – if you love one another.
The church remains a faithful witness when our focus is on loving one another as Jesus loved us.
As we look at 1 Thessalonians 5:9
9 For God did not destine us for wrath but for gaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that whether we are alert or asleep we will come to life together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing.
Encourage one another – in this hope of an eternal future in God’s kingdom. The whole world is hoping for a cure for this disease. We need to be hoping for our future in God’s kingdom. Then we need to learn to minister to those who are having a difficult time – to those who are grieving – to those who are struggling.
We all have our things – that struggle might be hard to address in another’s life. Some might be good at grief – some might not be good at being patient with others who struggle with a sin. But we need to be especially patient – and careful not to create rules and measurements for them.
Peter – Jesus is talking about forgiveness – How many times shall I forgive? Seven? I’m into it, but let me make some rules around it! When does it run out?! I can only go so long with this!
Peter, you have it all wrong – it NEVER runs out!
We might say to someone – that shouldn’t be a big deal to you! You’ve sure been grieving a long time! We measure our personal struggles as the most difficult and others’ as less so. One might have self-control issues with food. Others might have anxiety issues – one might say – that is irrational! You shouldn’t struggle with that! My struggles are REAL though!
Whatever someone else struggles with is every bit as difficult for them as yours are for you.
Build up one another – this goes for comforting - helping others receive grace, mercy, and forgiveness, and we do this by being an example of that – and we walk with them into grace, mercy and forgiveness – and THEN – this building up moves into helping people move forward – to grow – and for that to happen – we need to walk together in that growth.
Not to just teach – but to walk with them in that.
One final word of encouragement – I had a Zoom pastor’s conference cal talking about how to minister in the future – With all of the streaming and watch parties and inviting people – our service and others – all of these churches are experiencing people joining their service who would not normally go to church.
There is one megachurch – on Easter – had all kinds of people watching – and they did a gospel invitation and had 39,000 people respond through Facebook and YouTube to it! Even though things are difficult – God is at work.