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‘Living in the light of His soon return …’ Part 3

A series of thoughts from Paul’s
First letter to the Thessalonians

Preached at Blyth Community Church ~ Summer/Autumn 2006 ~ by Brian Allenby

Read 1 Thessalonians Ch3

Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always think kindly of us, longing to see us just as we also long to see you, for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.

Chapter 3

The key thought here is establish although the word does not appear in the text. All new Christians go through times of testing and affliction and unless they are established – Standing Firm in the Lord - they will be knocked about by the Devil.

Paul was not satisfied just have these people saved and nurtured - he wanted to see them established and Standing Firm in the Faith. After all no child walks before he or she first learns to stand firm. So what means did Paul use to establish these new believers in the faith?

Firstly, he sent them a man - Timothy,
Secondly, he wrote them a letter,
Thirdly, he prayed for them, and
Fourthly, he reminded them again of Christ’s return.

Firstly, he sent them a man.

So what about the man, Timothy?

Timothy was a tremendous asset to Paul. Every Paul should have a Timothy to help. A younger person who works along side the older. Paul certainly new how to select and train Christian leaders and Timothy was one of his finest graduates. Acts chapter 16 tells us that he had proved himself in his own local church for a number of years, before Paul enlisted his help. The young Timothy (probably a late teenager) did not start his ministry by teaching and preaching; he was Paul’s ‘minister’ - he helped Paul in his daily tasks and travelling. I suppose that Timothy actually replaced John Mark, who had turned back when the going got tough. Paul’s estimate of Timothy is found in Philippians, chapter 2 verses 19 to 24, and throughout the two letters to Timothy. God uses gifted believers to strengthen the church (Eph 4, Acts 14 & Acts 15). Paul it would seem was willing to be left alone at Athens in order that Timothy might return to Thessalonica to encourage and establish the believers in their faith. If only older and more mature believers would adopt, encourage and teach – and fellowship with - new believers, there would be many fewer spiritual causalities in the churches to day. It is the unequivocal responsibility of older Christians to help, encourage and nurture those you are young in faith. Paul sent Timothy to do just that.

Secondly, he wrote them a letter.

A believer is built up by the Word of God, and if you want evidence of this you only have to look at 2 Thess 2:15-17, or Rom 16:25-27 or 2 Peter 1:12. Note how Pauls reminds them of the Word he had already taught them. He warned them that afflictions were coming, but they seemingly had forgotten what he had taught them. The is NO substitute for the word of God. The Christian who is ignorant of the Bible is prey to every wind of doctrine and conflict and will NEVER be properly established in the Lord. Timothy reminded them of the Word that Paul had taught them and this encouraged and established them.

We read in Acts 17 how Paul preached to these people. He reasoned with them, which suggests debate or discussion; he opened the Word, which implies that he explained the meaning, the AV says that he "alleged certain truths", which means he gave evidence for them and laid them out for all to see and hear, in an orderly manner; and he preached, which means he proclaimed the Gospel. The Pastor or the Preacher today, has to see that he has a balanced ministry of the Word. It is not simply enough to preach and declare the Word, there must be teaching, proving, explaining. The very word allege, in its Greek rendering, is used for setting out the table to eat. In other words when we are proclaiming the Word, we have to set it out like food on the table so everyone young and old can reach it and partake of it. I get quite annoyed – and I know that I shouldn’t – when we are told that there is only one meeting order by Scripture and that meeting is the Lord’s Table. But how else do we edify? Encourage, teach and explain the Word!

Thirdly, he prayed for them

It is the two fold ministry of the Word of God and Prayer that properly establish a church. If there is all preaching and teaching and no prayer there will light, but no power! If there is all prayer but no teaching of the Word, you end up with a group of enthusiasts who have plenty of heat, but no light. Paul set the example for those responsible for preaching, for pastors, missionaries, full time workers and anybody who seeks to present Christ. If we talk to God about our people and then talk to the people about God, we will have a well-balanced and established spiritual ministry. We have the perfect example of Christ. His ministry consisted of the Word and Prayer. In 1 Samuel 12:23, the prophet writes "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you and I will teach you the way that is good and right". What a serious charge that is to any Pastor. Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians was not so much their safety or happiness, but their faith. The word faith is used 5 times in this chapter. Satan is the enemy of faith – if he can get us to doubt God and His Word, he will rob us of our of our enjoyment of the many blessings that we have in Christ Jesus. Paul wants these people who are so dear to him, to be mature in faith. You see, faith is not something that is deposited within us at conversion and then never changes. It is like that grain of mustard seed that looks so small, but contains life and is able to grow. Paul wanted to see these people growing in the faith, love and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, abounding in love, established in hope - FAITH + HOPE + LOVE!

There is NO substitute for a consistent prayer life. Christians are commanded to pray for one another and to pray for the lost. When there is a combined ministry of prayer and the Word, Satan is defeated and the church becomes soundly established.

Finally, he reminded them of Christ’s return

As I have said before, the central theme of both letters to the Thessalonians is the return of Christ – His second coming. There is no truth that establishes the believer better than this one. In the midst of testing and tribulation, these believers could assure and encourage themselves with the promise of His coming. When temptations came their way, as they did daily in those heathen cities (and as they do today) they kept themselves clean by remembering that Christ might come that day – that very moment. If weary of labouring and witnessing, they could take on new strength and courage by simply looking for His return. No truth in the Bible has a greater effect on the believer’s heart, mind and will, that the truth of the second coming – if it doesn’t, then my friend you have a problem, you must really ask yourself where are today. Are you in the Lord’s will our are you in your own? I’d like you to read Luke 12:42–48, because here we see what happens to the servant who forgets the coming of Christ. This man didn’t say anything openly, he merely said in his heart, ‘The Lord has delayed His coming’. He did not love Christ’s appearing. Is it any wonder that this servant backslid and could not get along with the others.

Paul was oh! so anxious that their hearts be blameless. In chapter 5 verse 23, we are reminded that Christians are to be blameless and harmless. Now this does not mean sinless. Sadly no, there is no perfection this side of heaven or indeed until He comes. The little child who writes his name on the blackboard at school, does not perform faultlessly, because he is only a child, but if he does the best he can he is BLAMELESS! If we seek to live a life in the light God has given us and try our very best to grow in Him, then we are living lives that are BLAMELESS in God’s sight. The daily expectancy of Christ’s return will help you and me keep our lives clean and blameless. I conclude by recalling 1 John 2:28 - 3:3 -

And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

(to be continued)

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