Updated: Feb 5
TURN, SERVE, AND WAIT
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 Princeton Christian Church 05 February 2023
Did you, or do you, ever stop to think or ask yourself these questions? What am I doing here?” Or. “What am I supposed to be doing now that I am a Christian? Or we might even ask ourselves, “What is the reason for my existence?”
I think these questions being on the minds of Christians is fairly common. And, because of the Apostle Paul’s writings to the young church at Thessalonica, I believe Paul knew the Christians there were asking these questions and responding in a right manner.
READ 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Thessalonians 2:1-12.
Before we go further, I want you to see something significant. Paul wrote two letters to the Church at Thessalonica. The first was written, probably a short time after its establishment in AD 51. The second letter was likely written a year or so later.
If we look at the greetings at the beginning of each letter, especially the first 4 verses in each letter, we can see some similarities in the love he has for this congregation.
What I want us to see this morning from this passage of instruction to the church at Thessalonica is that Paul provides the Christians there a simple formality for living the Christian life. And, that simple formula is still the instruction we need to live the Christian life in the way God intended us to do it.
First, we must understand that the formula is not a simple number of steps to take and check them off our list as we accomplish them.
And it isn’t the steps we took to become a Christian – you know – the 5-finger exercise we so often quote to others who are seeking salvation – hear the Word, believe the Word, and that Jesus is the Son of God – the Savior of the world; confess our sins; and be baptized, and be raised a new creature. We will never be cleaner, or purer, as we are at that moment.
None of those “steps” can be omitted if we are to become a Christian. However, as we know, that is only the beginning. They are valid for every day of the faithful Christian. But we have to move on to the things which make us grow spiritually as a part of the Body of Christ, as well as in our own individual lives.
So, let’s look at each of these “steps”, as I am calling them here.
First, before he speaks of those steps, he commends the Christians in the church at Thessalonica, in verse 3, for their greatly enlarged faith, and the growing love they have demonstrated toward one another. He even tells them that he shares the kind of love and perseverance, and faithfulness they are experiencing in his travels to other churches in the area. In our way of putting that, he would say, “I go around to the other congregations and brag on you.
Let me just interject a personal note here: I have many close Christian friends who serve in other Restoration Movement Christian Churches. They know why I am not there, worshipping with them, They know I am here, preaching the Gospel. And they know that we are a smaller crowd. So, they always ask me, “How was the attendance on Sunday?”
My answer usually goes somewhat like this: “It was in the mid-’20s, or, oh, last Sunday was Friends and Family Day, and we had 32!” But, I always make sure they know as I say, “the crowd may be small, but those who are there come because they love the Lord, and they want to be found serving the Lord, and spending time with the family of God; they believe in being in constant conversation with our Lord through their prayers, for they believe there is power in prayer to heal our bodies, our minds, and our souls.”
So, Paul begins his instruction in verse 2 Thessalonians 1:4, speaking about the persecutions and afflictions the Christians in the church are going through. He commends them, even more when he says he speaks “proudly” to the other churches of God about their perseverance and faith in the midst of all the persecutions they endure.
Paul speaks of a coming judgment and their perseverance which they will escape while those who persecute them will be repaid with affliction for their part in causing those persecutions.
In the first letter, verse 6, He commends them because they became imitators of him and his companions, Silvanus and Timothy. And they received the Word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit. And, in doing so, they became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia
And the churches in those places where the Gospel is being spread, the faith of the Thessalonica Church goes before them. Apparently, so much so, that Paul hints in 1:8 that because of the report they receive as they travel to those churches that he and his companions have no need to preach before them.
Earlier I mentioned some “steps” Paul presents to the church. Let’s look at them a little more closely.
1. Turning from idols and serving only the One True God.
To have rejected, and turned away from idols is one thing. But, it is not only what we turn away from that is of most importance. Of greater importance is what you turn TO, and what you do after you have turned.
In other words, a great deal of our influence has to do with what we reject.
Idols come in all shapes and sizes, and packages.
Let’s name a few: wealth, accumulation of things; military power; sexual pleasure.
To turn is to reject all idols that have a grip on our generation – and they are many.
Here’s a sobering question for us: “Has anyone asked you lately why you are so different from the rest of the world?”
Turning from idols also means giving up things that detract our attention from where it ought to be. Being caught up by priorities of materialism and me-isms that penetrate our society and eventually our desires.
Another question to ask ourselves is this: Are there things I shouldn’t do, but I am? Are there things that I should do as a Christian, but am not?”
We have to work diligently all day and night long to avoid those alluring sights and sounds which the world wants us to accept.
2. Once we have Turned, now we need to begin Serving.
Paul commends the church in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 as he notes that they turned to God from idols to serve a Living and True God. And they “wait for His Son from Heaven. Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus who rescues was from the wrath to come.”
When Paul talks about their becoming servants, the word “servant” here means the same as a slave. It seems sometimes that nominal Christians living in this time prefer to think of God as a partner, rather than a “slave owner.”
An earthly partner, in today’s business world, may want more power to become the absolute unqualified authority. And that will always meet with resistance.
But the God of the Bible is the God who made Himself known on Mount Sinai as “the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and you SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME! FOR I, THE LORD YOUR GOD, AM A JEALOUS GOD.” – Deuteronomy 5:6-9 I believe God said that in capital letters and that the ground must have shaken as He spoke.
This means simply that God will not tolerate divided allegiance.
It seems, today, that many people, especially those who do not recognize God as God, tend to see Him as their Big Daddy, the senior partner, or our co-pilot. He is none of those. HE IS GOD!, Until we believe that we will find meaning in becoming His servants.
Back to the church at Thessalonica, in contrast to the idols from which they had turned, He is the Living and True God. They were now living in contrast to the dead and false idols.
A common characteristic of ALL idols is that they promise more than they can deliver. They are neither vital to our existence, nor are they true in any sense.
Whether the idol is money, government, sex, self (did you know you can be your own idol?), or whatever it might be, you will discover that flaw in all of the
Only God is Living and True.
So, when we have turned away from idols and are serving God and our Lord Jesus Christ, who is joyful, generous, energetic, and faithful, what next?
3. We Wait.
We wait. Some people don’t like to wait. But God waits. He waits in anticipation that all His creation will turn to Him before it is time to call His children to live with Him eternally.
Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:10 – Paul says we
, who are living a life of service to Him are to “wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”
This waiting period must be hope-filled anticipation of the return of Jesus.
The waiting must involve constant prayer for the fortitude to shun temptation; the zeal to do something in His Name.
This waiting must find us looking upward anticipating that His return could be today.
This waiting must find us serving in the world. Loyal service and patient waiting are necessary preludes to the glory of Heaven.
The final dynamic of the Thessalonica Christians was their view of history. They lived daily with the assurance and the conviction that Jesus would return. That had been the promise since after His resurrection. It was His victory over death that made the promise credible.
This doctrine or teaching of the Second Coming is sadly neglected in many churches today and even rejected in some. Apparently, they believe or want to believe, that this life on this earth is all there is.
On the other hand, in other churches, the Second Coming is majored in the form of men making predictions of when, how, and where this Second Coming is going to happen. The technical term for this view and behavior is “eschatology,” The word comes from the Greek word which means “last” or “last things.”
What is at stake in eschatology is not how to predict the end of the world, but how to understand what history is all about.
The Second Coming of Christ means that history is moving to a particular conclusion. And, that conclusion centers on the coming of Christ the King to establish eternally the Kingdom of God which began with His First Coming. The Kingdom will be complete when, and only when, He comes again.
The inclusion of the concept of deliverance from the “wrath to come” is troublesome to those who are uncomfortable with the idea of a God of wrath. Such an idea is offensive to those who want only to stress the love of God.
But the wrath of God is too prevalent throughout the Bible to be dismissed. God’s wrath is not to be regarded as the anger an ire expressed in our own human temper tantrums.
Rather, His wrath is the other side of His love. It is the necessary proof of His love, reminding us that our choices do indeed have significant consequences.
God’s love and wrath are best seen as two sides of the same coin. And, how we respond to those two sides – God’s love and God’s wrath – will determine how and where we will spend eternity.
How have you responded to God's love and God's wrath? Have you turned from earthly idols and turned to God's provision for your eternity?
How is your service to Him? If you have done all that, the question remains - how are you preparing as you wait for His return? Where will you spend eternity?