Sermon – July 5, 2020
We always have much to learn from Paul’s life and ministry. There is treasure in his theology, his grasp of the Old Testament, and his understanding of the church, to mention only a few. Yet, we have much more to learn from Paul than simply what was stuffed in his head – we ought to also learn about that which filled his heart. Paul lives consistently: his confession matched his practice. But he doesn’t do this simply out of shear duty; serving the churches, ministering to new believers, was his profound joy. He loved them deeply. Let us show that our own affections are consistent with the gospel by matching
1. Paul’s heart
Paul stresses, in language stronger than he uses almost anywhere else in his letters, his earnest and strong desire to see the Thessalonians again. Being ripped away from them, he yearns to be present with them, and is frustrated by Satan’s hindrance. We ought to feel the pain and the goodness of Paul’s words. Earlier this year we were prevented from meeting – do we love doing so now? It is something that we long for?
2. Paul’s hope
Paul continues the strong use of language when he says that the Thessalonians are his hope, joy, and crown of boasting. Shouldn’t he only say this of Jesus? Why are these applied to the Thessalonians? I think that the key is knowing that Paul has been given a mission by his Lord – and the Thessalonians are the proof of his faithfulness to that mission. They are his hope of proof that he has run the race well; they are his song of joy before the presence of the Lord; they are the wreath given to him as a sign of his achievement. What do we see as the reason for Christ to tell us “well done good and faithful servant?” What are we banking on? Look around, friends, at those who sit next to you and in front of you. These are the ones you are to love, exhort, encourage that they might be your hope, joy, and crown!
3. Paul’s honesty
Further, Paul loved the Thessalonians enough to be honest with them. He knew that afflictions were coming, and didn’t hide them, but prophesied clearly that the storm that broke was always coming. Paul knew better than anyone – you are either at war with God or at war with the world. Saved from the coming wrath by Jesus, the Thessalonians would face the wrath of the world. Do we think that we can side with worldly powers and not be trampled by them? Such thinking is futile and simple. The world is not our friend; it does not seek our best interests. Let us, therefore, cling closely to the church, for the bride of Christ has a great and faithful husband who lays down his life for his bride.
Further, Paul doesn’t hide his anxiety. He clearly believes in the sovereignty of God, yet worries about the fate of those who believe. Do not let your theology be a cover for your heartlessness. Worry, pray, and act for your fellow believers. And trust God!