Words of Encouragement
Please read 2 Thessalonians 3:13-17 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.
CHURCH FOOTBALL PHRASES
In a never-ending effort to somehow benefit from the popularity of the Super Bowl, we have considered translating the church experience into phrases familiar to football fans. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far: ALL-OUT BLITZ-What happens after closing prayer as everyone rushes for their favorite restaurant. BLOCKING-Talking too long to the pastor at the door and keeping everyone else from exiting. COACH-The children's Christmas program director. ASSISTANT COACH-Every mother who has a kid in the children's Christmas program. DRAFT CHOICE-The decision to sit close to a furnace vent. EXTRA POINT-What the preacher added to his sermon, making it run too long.
ILLEGAL MOTION-Leaving before the benediction. INTERFERENCE-Talking during the organ prelude. SUDDEN DEATH-The penalty to the pastor who preaches more than twenty minutes. TWO-MINUTE WARNING-The point at which you realize the sermon is almost over and begin to gather up your children and belongings. UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT-Usually takes place at a committee meeting to decide on the color of carpet or some other thing. HALFBACK OPTION - The decision of 50% of the congregation not to return for the evening service.
Here’s today’s good news for Christians: we’re members of the winning team! After last week’s delve into the darkness of the MAN OF LAWLESSNESS, this week’s passage is an encouraging word. This passage is the essence of the Good News.
No one who stands for Jesus stands alone.
1. People who are saved stand together. (13-14)
Paul offered four characteristics of saved people. One, we cause others to be thankful. (13) Godly words and deeds invariably cause a grateful response among their recipients. Two, the Lord loves us. (13) Three, we receive the Good News; we don’t make it up for ourselves. (14) This was first expressed by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: THEREFORE, WE NEVER STOP THANKING GOD THAT WHEN YOU RECEIVED HIS MESSAGE FROM US, YOU DIDN’T THINK OF OUR WORDS AS MERE HUMAN IDEAS. YOU ACCEPTED WHAT WE SAID AS THE VERY WORD OF GOD - WHICH, OF COURSE, IT IS. AND THIS WORD CONTINUES TO WORK IN ALL YOU WHO BELIEVE. Four, we have a SHARE IN THE GLORY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. (14) This means that we are becoming more like Him in word and deed.
Paul identified four ways in which people are saved. First, the Lord loves us. (13) Second, the Lord chose us. (13) Literally, “God chose you as firstfruits.” Paul also wrote this about the Romans (Romans 16:5) and the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:15). The Thessalonians were some of Paul’s first converts in Europe. He wrote this to honor and encourage them. Third, the Lord calls us. (14) Salvation starts and ends with God. We mistake to emphasize our part in the process. Fourth, salvation comes in two ways: THROUGH THE SPIRIT WHO MAKES YOU HOLY and also THROUGH our BELIEF IN THE TRUTH. Rejection of the truth is what makes one an unbeliever. Acceptance of the truth is what makes a believer.
2. People who love the truth stand together. (15)
Taking a stand for the Gospel involves two things. First, we STAND FIRM. Paul’s concern was that the false teaching about the Second Coming would destabilize the church. Standing firm involves keeping a commitment to the truth that resists fads and flash.
Second, we KEEP A STRONG GRIP on the faith we have received from the apostles. They were to hold on to Paul’s teaching as the standard of truth and resist all compromise.
3. People who are loved by God stand together. (16-17)
We have received God’s love. (16) As John 3:16 makes clear, God expressed His love for us in sending Jesus to save us.
We have also received God’s grace. (16) His grace comforts us. It is comforting to know everything we experience in this life is temporary. We don’t focus on the good things and allow them to replace God, nor do we focus on the bad things, allowing them to rob our hope. Both are merely temporary.
God’s grace gives us WONDERFUL HOPE. Hope allows us to see something worth waiting for, worth enduring to attain, and it motivates us to do right by God.
God’s grace gives us STRENGTH for EVERY GOOD THING we DO AND SAY. (17) God does not call us to do supernatural things on our own strength. He provides His STRENGTH to enable us to STAND FIRM and KEEP A STRONG GRIP.
No one who stands for Jesus stands alone.
You remember that during the worst part of pandemic people were going out and buying pets? One guy decided that sounded like a good idea. So he went to the pet store but the owner told him they were all sold out, except for one unusual pet. The pet store owner was quite a salesman and the guy left with a South American Centipede, (100-legged bug), which came in a white box to use for his house. It being a South American Centipede made it unusual in two ways; it was very large, and like a parrot, it could talk! The guy decided to show off his new pet by taking it on a walk, so he asked the centipede in the box, "Would you like to go to the park with me today? It’ll be a good time." There was no answer from his new pet. This bothered him a bit, but he waited and then asked again, "How about going to park? Good exercise!" Again there was no answer, so he waited a few minutes more, thinking about the situation. The guy decided to invite the centipede one last time. It was then he realized it being South American, it might now speak English. As some Americans mistakenly do, he thought more volume and speaking more slowly would help him understand English. He put his face up against the centipede's house and shouted, "Hey, in there! Would you like to go to park with me and enjoy a walk?" This time, a little voice came out of the box, "I heard you the first time! I'm putting my shoes on!"
Impatience is one of the things that gets in the way of our faith. We naturally want times of trial to be brief. We are understandably eager for heaven to come.
We need to remember why God keeps us waiting: 2 Peter 3:9. THE LORD ISN’T REALLY BEGIN SLOW ABOUT HIS PROMISE, AS SOME PEOPLE THINK. NO, HE IS BEING PATIENT FOR YOUR SAKE. HE DOES NOT WANT ANYONE TO BE DESTROYED, BUT WANTS EVERYONE TO REPENT.
God is merciful and that’s an important reason why Jesus has not already come. God is patient for the sake of those who haven’t yet been saved. We are His partners in the effort to see to it that as many people as possible get saved.
Football jokes from https://gatewaytojesus.com/funnychristianhumorstories.html, retrieved on 8 February 2023.
Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 16, 1-2 Thessalonians, 2008, Philip W. Comfort
Centipede joke from https://billtammeus.typepad.com/my_weblog/2012/11/11-13-12.html, retrieved on 8 February 2023.