Ready for the Future by Remembering

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  1 : 4-10
Subject: Remembering; Church; Faithfulness
Series: Ready to Live - Ready to Leave
Introduction

We continue our series of messages from 1 Thessalonians with the second message. In the first sermon we learned that Thessalonica was a city on the Egnatian Way, a major Roman highway which linked all of Greece. Thessalonica was a major port city on this highway. Paul came to Thessalonica on his second missionary journey, began a church, was chased out of town by those opposed to his gospel message, and wrote back to the church giving us this wonderful letter.

Last week we learned from the first three verses of chapter one that the members of the church at Thessalonica were well equipped to face the difficult political and religious climate in which their church had to exist. They had a:

i. Work Engendered By Faith

ii. Weariness Endured Through Love, and

iii. Waiting Enlivened With Hope.

Thus, we can say that they were Ready to Live, or Ready to Leave. They were equipped for the times and generation in which they lived. If Christ delayed His coming, the saints at Thessalonica could go on faithfully and fruitfully serving Christ. If the Lord returned, they were saved and ready to go home to meet Him.

We live in difficult times in the Twenty-First Century. In our schools, every child is taught that he or she is an accident - just a mere evolutionary, biological thing that has arisen out of some primordial ooze. They learn this from the beginning of their education all the way through college and university training. Often, professors mock the ideas of creation and the fact of a Creator God. It is any wonder that so many of us act like animals - that is what we have been taught for the last 75 years. The heroes or our day are rap singers who curse profusely throughout their presentations. Some are actors or actresses that participate onscreen in lewd and lascivious acts. The internet has opened up pornography to young children. Though it isn't fit for anyone, it is tragic that it is available to so many young eyes. Only God knows what this will produce in the next generation. Alcohol and drugs are rampant, and some parents allow their teenage children to have beer parties at home with the notion that it will keep them from getting into trouble some where else. Gangs fill our cities, and shootings take place daily in some city in America in gang/drug related warfare. Here is the question: Are we equipped to live for Jesus in this generation? We can be. The people in Thessalonica were equipped to do so, and they lived in times as bad or worse than our won. What do we need to do in order to be prepared and ready to live faithfully, witness fully, and serve honorably for the Lord in these days. Well, you can be sure of one thing, God chose you for "such a time as this." You were saved in this generation and God meant for you to be right where you are. He is able to do all things, and you "can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!"

As Paul continued writing his first letter to the Thessalonians, he pointed out some things which the Thessalonians Christians needed to remember if they were to be ready for any Century, any consequences, and any challenge. I can tell you that we, too, can be ready to live for Christ in any generation, any culture, any time, if we can remember the truths which Paul wrote about to the church at Thessalonica.

Remembering is a very important part of life. One man said that he wrote down everything he was supposed to remember. That way, instead of trying to remember lots of different things, he could spend his time looking for the one piece of paper on which he wrote all the things he needed to remember. Another man said that a filing cabinet is where things get lost alphabetically. We can probably all identify with that. In fact, I can even lose files on my computer. Oh, they are still there, I just forgot exactly which file they are in!

Remembering is a very important part of a believer’s life. God uses the word remember many times in the Bible. It is so easy for us to forget, especially to forget spiritual things. We need to rejoice that God never forgets important things. Throughout the Bible God is reminding us that He will not forget us, He will not forget His covenant, He will not forget His promises, and He will not forget His people. But God has long been concerned about our forgetfulness. In one of the Ten Commandments He said, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.” Occasionally in the Old Testament, the Lord would have the people set up an object of remembrance so as not to forget how He brought them to victory in some conflict. In Ecclesiastes He said, “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, when the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.” Jesus knew of the forgetfulness of His servants, thus He instituted the Lord’s Supper as an ordinance of the church saying, “This do in Remembrance of me.” Thus, the word "Remembrance" is etched on many Communion Tables just below the pulpit. It is there to serve as a constant reminder of our propensity, predilection and inclination to forget.

So, as Paul writes commending the saints at Thessalonica, He seems to be reminding them of what the Lord has done and will do for them. You and I will be ready to live in any the midst of any changes, if we remember five things that Paul brought to the remembrance of the Church at Thessalonica.

I. Remember the Love of God

Paul reminds the Thessalonian believers that they are loved by God, and chosen in Him. Friend, you must not diminish the importance of the statement Paul makes in verse 4. The people to whom Paul wrote were living in very difficult and dire circumstances. Persecution was widespread against them. Political forces, religious forces, domestic forces, cultural forces, economic forces, and psychological forces were all marshaled against them in a great satanic assault. They were to remain faithful through it all.

When everything nailed down in your life seems to be coming loose, you can be propelled to the precipice of doubting the love of God. Paul told the Thessalonian believers not to jump off that cliff of doubt, but to remember that they are loved. How can we know with certainty the love of God for us outside the measurement of circumstances? Paul told them they were to be certain of His love because they were chosen in Him. He chose you, didn’t He? He called us to Himself, didn’t He? Having loved us enough to send His Son to die for our salvation, you and I must never doubt His love. Paul said that we must never doubt in the dark what God has revealed to us in the light!

The word for loved in this passage is wonderful, and it is fitting that we take a moment to understand it. The word is believed to come partly from a Greek word 'endomesis'. Now, you are familiar with this word even though you may not think so. The Greek word is made up of a couple other words. For example, the first part of the word is 'en', which is the same as our English word 'in'. The second part of the word is 'doma', from which we get our word 'domicile', or structure, or house. Together it means 'throughout the structure'. A word many of you are familiar with is the word 'endometriosis'. That word means 'an infection inside the structure of the body'. So, the word means something that infects the entire inside of a person. Paul used a word that let the Thessalonians know that they had within their entire body, soul and spirit, the love of God in Christ - and this is evidenced by the fact that they were chosen.

Christian, let the love of God permeate your being. You are ready to live, and if necessary, ready to leave, whenever you fully realize just how loved you are in Christ. The fact that He chose you for salvation is enough to let you know that He can and will provide all you need to endure and enjoy the life He has given you.

II. Remember the Power of God

The word Paul uses here for power is the Greek word 'dunamis', which gives us in English the word 'dynamite'. Paul told the Thessalonians that God’s gospel is pure dynamite. But God’s dynamite is different from man’s dynamite. The explosives of man tear things down, but the dynamite of God’s Gospel puts things back together. Man’s explosives blow things up; God’s powerful dynamite picks things up and makes them right.

God’s power is revealed in many ways, but the one Paul referred to here is the power of the Gospel of Jesus. In essence, Paul was speaking of the power of the Word of God.

One rabbi told his students something fascinating about Deuteronomy 6:6. The passage states, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” The rabbi said that we are to keep God’s Word upon our hearts so that any time our hearts are breaking, the Word of God will fall into the broken part to heal and help us. Yes, there is power in the Word of God.

Paul wanted the Thessalonians to remember how powerfully the Gospel had come to them. The Gospel had changed everything in their lives, and had marked out a place for them in God’s eternity. With power like this available to them, they were not to fear or fret. Paul spoke something similar and even more direct to the Church in Philippi when he penned, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). The word strengthen in that verse is from the same root word as the word power in our text. It refers to dynamite power inside life of the believer.

The Thessalonian believers might appear to be weak and impotent in the face of the many and strong enemies that were working against them; however, with God’s power working in and through them, all things were possible for them. That is a message we need today. Many forces are working against our faith and beliefs, but do not fear, the same God that empowered the Thessalonians is still on the throne today. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

He led Noah to build an Ark; He can lead us to safety in difficult times.

He opened the Red Sea for Moses; He can open the way for you when you are against a rock and a hard place.

He brought water from a rock when His people were thirsty; He can open the floodgates of provision for us.

He brought down the walls of Jericho; He can knock down the obstacles in your way.

He brought fire from heaven to the altar of Elijah; He can send the fire on the cold, wet altar of your fainting heart.

Yes, child of God, look up - our God reigns! The songwriter was correct when he penned,

“What a mighty God we serve,

What a might God we serve,

Angels bow before Him,

Heaven and earth adore Him,

What a mighty God we serve!”

III. Remember the Joy of God

Here is a paradox, suffering and joy existing at the same time in the same person. The world cannot understand this principle, but the people of God need to know it well. Life for the believer is not absent of pain, sorrow and hardship. But God has promised us overcoming joy. Jesus spoke of this in John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Jesus spoke of His joy. Yet, at the time Christ spoke these words just before going to the cross. Did he have joy then? Yes! Look at Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus had a joy which was strength to Him even in the moments of horror that accompanied Him at the Cross! Oh, God, help us to have this joy as we have to bear our cross daily and follow you!

James put it yet another way in James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Yes we can have a joy that outshines the sun, that breaks through the clouds of hardship and trouble and chaperons us through this life. How can we have this joy?

Paul said that the joy came as a result of accepting the message of the Gospel. I think Paul is referring here to the believer accepting the Word of God, the promises of God, the pledge of God to be with us, to lead us, to give us victory in every circumstance. I can’t tell you the times that Romans 8:28 has been my friend in an unfriendly world. That passage has been like medicine to my soul when life’s seas have come over the retaining wall and burst upon my life like a giant tsunami.

Paul went on in the next verse, 1 Thessalonians 1:7, to tell the believers that their acceptance of the message, with the resultant joy, had made them a model church to all other churches. What a thing to say about a church. They were a model of what a church should be! Only a church filled with God’s joy can serve as such an example.

IV. Remember the Work of God

Their are many tasks assigned to the church of our Lord, but none so great as proclaiming the message of salvation to a lost world. Paul reminds the Church at Thessalonica that they had been faithful in ringing out the message of Christ, loud and clear. The word used here in this text is the word from which we get our word 'echo'. In other words, they so clearly made known the message that it was like a great echo rolling down through the valley of man’s existence calling people up to the higher ground of the Lord.

One thing that we must ever be conscious of as the people of God is our duty to proclaim Him to the hurting people around us. That is our greatest and highest work. That is the reason Jesus came: “To seek and to save that which was lost.” Making this task a priority is one way for us to live in victory. Why? Victory is found in proclaiming His gospel because our Lord promised to be with those who make His salvation known (Matthew 28:18-20). He will not fail us as we take seriously the task of not failing Him in this matter.

V. Remember the Promise of God

Last, but not least, Paul reminded the saints at Thessalonica that they were recipients of a promise - Christ coming again. They were waiting for Him. That was a great motivation to them. They were to keep on waiting and watching, and they were to be faithful till He appeared. No matter what they were going through at the moment, there was a victory to be won, a crown to be worn, a song in heaven to be sung, a Savior to be met face to face one day in the near future. This thought, this truth, was to keep them going on with enthusiasm. And so it is with us. He is coming! Let us go on faithfully till we meet Him.

Extra Illustrations:

Forgetting and Fighting

Have you ever noticed that sometimes we get angry and remain bitter with people, but actually forget why we're so upset? Take, for example, the notorious Hatfield-McCoy feud. It hit newspaper front pages in the 1880's, when the Hatfield clan feuded with the McCoy clan from across the border in Kentucky. Historians disagree on the cause of the feud -- which captured the imagination of the nation during a 10-year run. Some cite Civil War tensions: McCoys sympathized with the Union, Hatfields with the Confederacy. Others say it began when the McCoys blamed the Hatfields for stealing hogs. As many as 100 men, women and children died. In May 1976, Jim McCoy and Willis Hatfield -- the last two survivors of the original families -- shook hands at a public ceremony dedicating a monument to six of the victims. McCoy died Feb. 11, 1984, at age 99. He bore no grudges -- and had his burial handled by the Hatfield Funeral Home in Toler, Kentucky. - Peter Johnson, USA TODAY, 4-14-88.

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Poor Theology

An elderly churchwoman was becoming increasingly distressed with all of the changes and additions that were happening in her congregation. She complained one day to a friend, “If God were alive today, he’d be mighty upset at what’s going on around here!”

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Rough Spots To Climb On

When they first manufactured golf balls, they made the covers smooth. Then it was discovered that the balls would travel farther in the air after they had been roughed up a bit. After this discovery, manufacturers started making golf balls with the dimpled covers with which we are familiar today.

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Seeing Things in a New Way

A gentleman was observed wearing a pair of eyeglasses which clearly had been designed for a female. When a friend inquired about the matter, he quickly responded, “Oh, they’re my wife’s glasses. She wants me to see everything her way.”

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Changing Times - Confused Farmer!

An old farmer and his wife had lived their entire lives in an extreme rural area, and were largely ignorant of cultural trends. One day they decided to visit the big city, so they boarded a train and headed off. To celebrate their new sophistication, they decided to try a Coca-Cola for the very first time in their lives. The farmer took the first drink—and, just as he did, the train roared into a dark, long tunnel. Immediately, he reached over and grabbed his wife’s arm, and cried out, “Don’t drink it, Martha—it’ll make you blind as a bat!!”