Faithful Living In Fearful Times

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  2 : 1-13
Subject: Christian Living; Hardships, Christian; Trials

Faithful Living In Fearful Times

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

1 Thessalonians 2:1-13 ...

"For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. 3 For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. 4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 9 For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. 13 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." NKJV

Why do God’s people go through sorrows, hardships, illnesses, crimes, difficulties, depressions, and many other problems? We can’t answer that question fully, but we know that these trials come to the very best of God’s children. They descend upon those who have given their very best to God. Why? Many Christians ask that very question.

Trying to communicate clearly is a difficult task, especially when we are dealing with complilcated subjects. Bible writers addressed the subject of hardships in the lives of the righteous but even then it was a complex task to put these thoughts into words - even as God prompted them to do so.

Let me share a story that is told as a true and I don't dobut for a moment that it is an incident that actually took place. A preacher told of an incident in his ministry. He had a lady come up to him one day after church and say, “You sure are a good preacher, it’s too bad your wife has been married before.” The preacher said, “What, my wife has not been married before!” The lady said, “Well, I heard you clearly say that the person you had the most trouble with is your wife’s first husband.” The preacher said, “Dear, I am my wife’s first and only husband, and the person I have the most trouble with is ME!”

One little child went forward in a service to hear the children’s sermon. The preacher was talking about nature and God’s creation. He said, “I bet you kids can imagine what I am describing this morning. It sits on its hind legs, has a long bushy tail and eats a nut it holds in its paws. What is it?” One little boy blurted out, “I know I am supposed to say Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!”

Communication has its problems. Paul had the responsibility to clearly state important truths about principles required for staying true to the Lord in fearful and difficult times. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, he has given us a perfect word today on this subject. It is a subject which cannot be misunderstood when viewed simply by faith.

So, let's look at the scripture I read from 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13 today and discover truth about how to live faithfully in fearful, fitful and frustrating times. Paul tells us how he lived victoriously in the face of viscous attacks upon his body, character, ministry and motives. If you and I would live a victorious Christian life, we need what Paul tells us in this scripture.

I. The Confidence He Had

1 Thessalonians 2:1-2a

A. Confidence in the Power of God

In our passage today, Paul speaks of what he endured at Philippi. Let's recall that by looking at Acts 16:20-30 ...

20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” 22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” 29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Paul knew what God could do, for he had experienced it firsthand. If we are to face life's trials correctly we must remember what God has done for us in the past. Doing this increases our confidence in His power and love that will assist us in that which we face today.

B. Confidence in the Purpose of God

Paul knew that he could trust God to guide him and to protect him as long as he was seeking the center of God’s will and purpose. How do you know this is true? Because Paul noted that he suffered in Philippi, yet he came to Thessalonica and did the same thing that caused suffering in the previous city. Why would Paul do that? Why keep doing the same thing if it brings suffering to you? Paul did it because it was God’s will and purpose for his ministry.

Paul had a sense of peace and protection in the will of God. Listen, my friend, look at your life. When times are hard, ask if you are in God's will. If you are, He will use it for His glory and your good. If you are not in His will, He will use the problem to bring you back to His path for your life.

You remember back in Acts 5 and verse 41, the wonderful testimony there, "So they went on their way from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for his name and every day in the temple and from house to house they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."

What offended the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem was that the disciples preached Jesus as the Messiah. The religious leaders had killed Jesus as a criminal. Then these Christians came along preaching Jesus as Messiah and that was very offensive to the religious leaders in Jerusalem. So, they sent people to stop the Chrisitans wherever they were preaching Christ, and that included terrorizing Paul. Thus, those who preached Jesus were made to suffer by those who were offended at the message. The more they made them suffer, the more the disciples preached the message because they knew the message was touching the right nerve.

Listen, my friends, remain in God's will. Often the problems you face are God's way of overcoming Satanic purposes.

Then notice ...

II. The Conflict He Faced

1 Thesslonians 2:2b

The word conflict comes from a Greek word “agon.” This word is quite expressive. Paul used this same word in 2 Timothy 4:7 when he wrote, “I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished the course.” This word expresses something about the battle we face, the conflicts we all deal with in order to be faithful to Christ.

A little girl told her friend that her dad liked to sit in the den. She then asked her friend, “Does your dad have a den?” The friend replied, “No, my dad does not have a den, he just growls all over the house.” The little girl misunderstood the question. But you and I can be sure we will be thrown into some lion’s dens from time to time as we seek to live for Jesus. Like Paul, we have to know how to fight the good fight. Exactly what kind of fight is it?

Conflicts in the Christian life come in many forms and Paul was able to deal with all of them - so can we, if we trust that Jesus has a plan in every situation. We can totally serve Jesus faithfully if we are aware that He never leaves us.

Note the different directions from which our conflicts come in Christian living.

A. An Outward Conflict

Paul fought a good fight against the forces Satan used in this world to defeat him. No one said the Christian life can be lived without a fight; in fact, the very opposite is true. We are told to put on the whole armor of God in order to stand against the wiles of the devil. Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking those he can destroy. He is the "prince," with a little "p," of this world. He has a system set up to do all he can to thwart the Christian life, testimony and faithfulness. Paul faced this and so must we.

B. An Inward Conflict

Paul kept the faith - he overcame the inward conflict - the internal battle. He had to hold on to faith at all times and in all circumstances - not matter how difficult life became. Faith in God’s Word, faith in God’s people, faith in God’s work, yes, and even faith in himself was part of Paul's life and walk, and must be a part of ours also.

I have talked with a number of Christians, including pastors, who have gone through great periods of depression. I spoke with someone recently who told me that he was so depressed at one time, even though he was a dedicated Christian, that he thought about suicide. Trust me, you cannot get through this life without facing some inward conflict. You may not be as deep in conflict as my friend who once considered suicide, but you may well go much further down than you can imagine.

When Christians face inward conflict, they often seek to hide it. They feel that admitting depression or doubt reveals a failure as a Christian. My dear friend, the failure comes when you don't face the truth. If you are having a problem, seek help. God places people in our lives to help us, but they can't do so if they don't know our needs.

Paul spoke openly about his conflicts and hardships. He overcame the inward conflict with trust in Christ and with help from his friends. Read Paul's life and see how often he mentions the appreciation of his fellow workers and fellow Christians.

C. An Upward Conflict

Where did Paul get the strength to go on in tough times? What does he say in Ephesians 6:10? “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Our strength is in God. And Paul believed his God to be mighty and powerful when it was necessary in his life.

Christians can be guilty of relying on their own strength and not resting in the Lord. It is true that God desires that we do what we can with what we have right where we are; however, we can't succeed in our Christian life without having His abiding power within us. We are to always be continually filled with His Spirit. Don't ever become proud, arrogant of self-sufficient in our Christian service. Christ alone has the power you need to serve Him victoriously. 

Then, notice ...

III. The Commission He Received

1 Thessalonians 2:4

The Gospel had been entrusted to Paul. All of us have things that God has entrusted to us in our Christian life. For example, we have marriages, families, church llife, incomes, possessions and other things entrusted to us by the Lord. We are commissioned by the Lord to be faithful in those areas of our lives.

Also, we must view the Gospel as something God has entrusted to those of us who are saved. We are to be true to our commission. Paul spoke of being responsible to God and answering to God for we handle God's Word and truth. He spoke of God testing his heart.

We need to live with a since of commission from God. When we do that, hardship will not hinder us and difficulties will not hamper us. We are ambassadors for Christ - soldiers in His army - we must not desert Him. That is what kept Paul going in fearful times.

Consider also ...

IV. The Caring He Revealed

1 Thessalonians 2:5-12

A. Humility

Paul was an humble man. In another place he calls himself the chief of sinners. To care properly for others, one must remove selfishness and self-centeredness from our hearts. Proud believers are condescending and thus they are seldom useful in caring for the needs, hurts and burdens of others. Paul's humility made him aware of the needs of others and made him useful in God's service, no matter how difficult life was for him. One thing that will help you in times of trouble is to care for someone else who is dealing with hardships.

B. Sensitivity

Note also that Paul was sensitive to others and their needs. He was so sensitive that he acted toward them as a father or mother. As a father, he acted toward them with seriousness. As a mother, he acted toward them with gentleness. What a tremendous example Paul uses here to describe his heart toward the people in the Church at Thessalonica.

Are you sensitive in dealing with others? This is an important part of the Christian life. We can get so caught up in our own problems that we fail to see the needs of others. Paul faced many trials and hardships, but he never lost a tender heart toward others, their hurts and their needs.

C. Integrity

Paul speaks in our passage today of how he lived among the people at Thessalonica. He acted honestly and uprightly in all his dealings with them. It is important for us to remember that there is no substitute for being truthful and faithful, even in times of greatest hardships. To do otherwise, is to jeopardize our usefulness to Christ.

Paul says that he never used flattering words. He did not try to be suave and debonair. He had not read a book on How To Win Friends And Influence People.

One salesman asked another, “Why are you so successful selling from door-to-door?” The successful salesman answered, “When the lady of the house comes to the door, I just ask, ‘Miss, is your mother at home?’”

Paul would not resort to using falsehood and deceit in his service for God and God's peop;le. He knew God would not bless it. He was never deceptive in his behavior. This gave him strength in times of trouble.

You will discover that it is impossible to please everyone no matter what you do or how hard you try. There is a story about a man, his son, and their donkey walking along one day on a journey. Someone stopped the man and said that it was wrong to have a donkey and not to ride it. So, the man put his son on the donkey and walked on. When they came to the next town, someone stopped the man and said that it was wrong for him to walk and his son to ride. It showed disrespect for the fatherly position. So, the boy was removed and the father rode. When they came to the next town, someone stopped the man and told him that it was cruel to ride while his son walked. So, the man and the boy mounted the beast and they rode on to the next town. Someone stopped them and told them that it was not proper to be so cruel to a donkey as to have two people on its back. So, the father and son dismounted. The last time they were seen, the boy and father were carrying the donkey! Seriously, you can’t please everyone. You must seek to please God.

D. Priority

He put a priority on Christ and this caused him to care for people by loving them and serving them. This is a must for someone who wishes to live a victorious Christian life. In fearful times it is possible to turn from God to something else for strength. Many have turned to drugs, alcohol and other things for comfort - our priority in good times and bad is to be faithful to place a priority of being faithful to our Lord.

Finally, let's look at ...

V. The Credit He Expressed

1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

Even through all experienced, he gave the thanks to God. He the most difficult times, Paul was praising God and thanking Him. When something went right, God got the credit. When something went wrong, Paul called upon God to bring about a divine purpose. This is a sign of true servanthood. Paul did not take the credit when someone was accomplished, nor did he turn his back on God when things were trying and difficult. Paul once said that he boasted in nothing but the Cross of Jesus. That is the path to victory in all circumstances.

Conclusion

Every Christian is either a thermometer or a thermostat. You are either controlled by the things around you, or you change the surroundings by your presence. Paul changed things everywhere he went. He was a thermostat. Which are you? Which am I? Too many of us let the circumstances control us. Our world has enough of that. We need to allow Christ to change the world through us. That is what Paul was doing and that is what God desires to do through us - in all circumstances. After all, we are not "under the circustances," we are to be "standing on the promises of God."

An anonymous poet penned:

Others may be stained glass of rainbow hue;

I would be a windowpane for the sun to shine through.

A clear glass, a clean glass is what I would be,

Unconcerned with temperament and personality

I would have the sun shine through, so my friends would say

Not "What a lovely pane!" but "What a lovely day!"

Would it not be wonderful, if we were windows for God, not drawing attention to ourselves but simply allowing Him to reveal Himself through us? Yes, that is what Paul was doing, and that is what he wanted them to do as well. That is what we must do also!

You cannot reflect what you do not have. It is possible, even probable, that someone in this service today has never trusted Jesus to be your Savior. Paul’s life was not changed by what he did for God but because of what God did for Paul through Jesus. You can experience abundant life and eternal life this very moment if you will turn to Jesus!