Grace For The Journey
No doubt you have heard someone say, “If you ever find the perfect church, please don’t join it. If you do, it won’t be perfect anymore!” Since local churches are made up of human beings, saved by the grace of God, no church is perfect. But . . .
Some churches are closer to the
New Testament ideal than others.
Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says in 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3, “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.”
The church at Thessalonica was in that category. At least four times in this letter (1:2; 2:13; 3:9; 5:18), Paul gave thanks for the believers that made up this church and the way they responded to his ministry.
Several years ago, I preached as series of messages through this powerful Letter. As I sat down to study Paul’s words to the church at Thessalonica, I must confess that my mind was drawn to our church family right here at First, Baptist, Butler.
And as I read Paul’s words of praise,
I could understand the pride and love
That he must have felt for those
Whom he loved and led
In their walk with God.
In this opening chapter we see Paul beginning the letter with unmixed praise. It is a wonderful thing when a pastor can think of his church and say, “I give thanks always for all of you.” Paul loved the church at Thessalonica. These people were on his heart and he was concerned for their spiritual welfare. In this chapter, Paul tells us what kind of a church he left in that wicked city.
The first thing Paul says about the church at Thessalonica was that they were inspired by faith. You see that in verse 3, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith.” These were people of faith.
What makes a church be known by their faith?
What does it mean to be a great people of faith?
If we are going to be great people of faith, six things will have to be involved.
1) There will have to be an undeniable commitment to the Lord.
We see this in verses 3-4, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.” All of these words mean that the believers in Thessalonica were in a deep and powerful relationship with their Lord . . . it was obvious for all to see . . .
They were great witnesses of the Lord.
By faith they witnessed;
In love they labored for Christ;
By their patience they waited upon the Lord.
In other words . . .
They had made an undeniable
Commitment to Jesus Christ
For their lives.
Those people at Thessalonica were people of faith, and love, and patience, as they brought people into the fellowship of a growing church. This is seen in Acts 17:4, “And some of them (the Jews) were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.” They were growing daily in their faith and seeking people for the Kingdom of God.
I am absolutely convinced, when a person is really saved, I mean really saved, they are . .
Going to have a heart to grow.
They are going to have
A desire for the things of God.
And each church has the responsibility
To feed them on the
Powerful and living Word of God.
Therefore, a part of that great faith is a commitment to the Lord.
2) They were also conscientious in their living.
That is what verse 5 tells us, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.” Later Paul emphasizes the same thing in chapter 4, verse 1, “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God.”
These Christians lived in a very evil day where immorality was running out of control. The church that is worthy of God is conscientious in its living.
The church of faith must be prepared
To stand-alone with the Lord against the world.
It doesn’t matter what standard the world has,
The standard of God does not change.
3) They were conquering in faith.
They were conquering in spite of limitations. We see that in verse 6, “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” Even in “much affliction” they conquered.
God is called by many names in the Bible. He is the Lord, our Healer, our Provider, our Banner, our Strong Tower, our Refuge, and our Righteousness. He also promises to be our Deliverer. But . . .
There are many believers who never experience
God’s mighty delivering and conquering power
Because Satan has convinced them
To focus on their limitations
Instead of God’s power.
Sometimes people will talk about what is keeping them from obeying or serving the Lord, and they say, “You don’t understand. If it wasn’t for . . . (and then they will mention what it is that is hindering them – “I don’t have the money” … “I don’t have the time” … I don’t have the ability or knowledge” . . .). My response is always, “But have you considered what God can do?”
If we don’t trust God
And live by God’s promises and power
In spite of our limitations,
We won’t serve at all.
These believers at Thessalonica just gave, and they just worked. Every time they witnessed they got persecuted; many times when they shared their faith they got in trouble with the authorities. In fact, right before Paul wrote this letter, he and Silvanus were stoned at Philippi, but he said, “I want you to know that even though the Jews are persecuting us, and the Gentiles are persecuting you, it really doesn’t matter what price you have to pay, because we have a job to do.” And folks, I want to tell you something, if you and I back up from the dreams and the plans that God has given us, if we back up, I don’t care what the excuse is, we fail. And I am telling you tonight, regardless of whom we have to tackle, and regardless of our circumstances, and regardless of what the excuse is, we must conquer is spite of our limitations.
4) They had confidence in their leadership. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 says, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
Now that is pretty amazing . . .
The believers at Thessalonica
Believed that when Paul
Stood to preach,
That it was actually God
Speaking through him.
They just believed that Paul was God’s “mouth-piece” to their church. And then there are those folks who say, “Well, we just ought to follow God.” That is absolutely right, but God did not show up in Person at Thessalonica. Therefore, the people at Thessalonica believed that when the preacher preached, God spoke. I wrote down a statement several years ago that sums up what Paul is getting at, “If God does not speak nothing worthwhile is going to be said. Folks, ought not to come to hear me, for I don’t have anything worth hearing. But God has a Word through His Word that is proclaimed for every person that has come to hear Him.
The Holy Spirit led Paul to write more about this in his letter to the Thessalonians. In chapter 4, verse 9 the Bible says, “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” And in chapter 5 verses 12-13 the Bible says, “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.” Now there are the qualities of a great, growing, living, dynamic church . . .
They loved the Lord,
They love their pastor,
They loved one another.
4) They were consistent in their loyalties.
We see that in verses 4-8 of chapter 3, “For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you – therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.”
Paul was encouraged
By their steadfast
Faith and faithfulness.
These people were consistent in their loyalties to God, His Word, and their living for Him. That was such an encouragement to him – he was happy to hear and see what God was doing in them as their faith and obedience grew. I can sense a little bit of how Paul felt – I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the active faith and faithfulness of our church family to the Lord!
When I look around, and I see the deadness of the religious crowd, and when I see the hand of God moving so mightily on our church, I cannot imagine anyone not wanting to know the Lord and be faithful to Him
5) There was a concern for what is lacking.
We see that in chapter 3 verse 10, “Night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith.” I have learned a powerful lesson in my years of ministry . . .
It is easy to come and to voice our problems,
But a real mark of faith is when
You and I can get concerned enough
To be obedient to God’s will for our lives
And pray that the Lord will
Perfect what is lacking in our faith.
God has called us to be a people of faith. And as a people of faith, we can make a difference in our world.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”