1 Thessalonians chapter 5

Faith. Hope. Love.

Those three words are our antidote for surviving in the midst of a sin-filled culture where the darkness of moral depravity surrounds us. We are sons of light and sons of the day, yet the world we live in loves the darkness. Jesus Himself was “the Light of men” (John 1:4) and He came to shine in the midst of the darkness, but “the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5). Jesus would later tell His disciples, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus also warned His disciples that, “for a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light; so that the darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light” (John 12:35-36).

Paul reminds us that we are sons of Light. So we are to be alert, awake, sober, and diligent – living our lives in the light as sons of Light. And how do we do that? Faith, love, and hope. Paul says that we are to equip ourselves with a breastplate made up of faith and love. Those two qualities are like iron and ore that when heated in the furnace of life produces an alloy of incredible strength and durability. You cannot have one without the other. Love that is not based on and mixed with a faith in the grace-filled love of God is merely human sentimentality that will prove insufficient when put to the test. Faith that is not accompanied by and expressed in love for God and others is nothing more than a mental assent to the reality of God, but without any real expression in our lives. Paul warned that ” if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2). My faith must be expressed in love. My love must be grounded in faith.

But if I want to truly survive as a son of Light in a dark world, I must have hope. But not just any hope. It must be the hope of salvation – that what God began at my conversion, He will complete. Paul says, “for God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (Vs 9). Salvation is out destiny. It isn’t a past event, but a future reality. Yes, I was saved, but I am being saved every day. And I will one day be saved when God calls me home or His Son returns. My hope is in the certainty of my future salvation – when I will obtain or gain possession of my salvation in its final form. Hope is what protects my mind from despair, disappointment, thoughts of defeat, or the temptation to give up. That is why Paul refers to it as a helmet. It is what surrounds my mind and protects it from the blows of the enemy that attempt to destroy and incapacitate us.

Faith, love, and hope. They are essential for life in this world. They are the qualities of the sons of Light. They prepare us for the battle in which we find ourselves. Paul describes them as military armor. We wear them because we know we are at war and cannot survive without them. They protect us and preserve us. So we should never leave home without them.

Father, may my life be increasingly more characterized by faith, love and hope. All centered and based on the cross of Christ – the greatest expression of all three. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Thessalonians chapter 4

…that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.– Vs 1

The NET Bible translates the last part of this verse as “that you do so more and more.” Paul uses this phrase twice in this chapter. Here in association with the manner in which they walk or live their faith out on a daily basis. They are to excel still more — they are to live lives that please God and to do so more and more. The commands of Christ and their obeying of them are to be increasingly more a part of their lives. Why? Because God’s will – His desire or purpose for their lives – is holiness that is becoming increasingly deeper, greater, more pervasive, and influential over their day-to-day lives.

And Paul is speaking to us as well. He gives us practical, everyday examples of what this progressive, aggressive sanctification or growth in holiness should look like. He says it should impact the morality of our lives, especially sexual morality. As we increase in holiness, our desire to live sexually immoral lives should decrease. My holiness should impact how I use my body, including my eyes, hands, and mind. Because God did not call me to lives a life of impurity, but holiness.

Paul says that as we excel still more we will love more. Both our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as those who are outside the family of God – our lost neighbors, friends, coworkers, and all those with whom we share this planet. Paul gets really practical when he says, “we urge you … to aspire to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and tow work with your hands” (Vs 11). It seems according to 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, that there were some who were not doing this. Paul says this kind of practical, progressive holiness will show those outside of Christ what it means to live a decent, quiet, godly life. One that is characterized by diligence, faithfulness, and responsibility. As we increase in holiness we don’t become “other worldly” but instead we show what kind of life mankind was meant to live prior to the introduction of sinn and the effects of the fall.

Excel still more! Do so more and more. So how are we doing? Is our holiness increasing? Paul is not saying we need to get more holiness. Because in Christ, we have been made holy. We were set apart by God as holy at salvation. But we are to increasingly live out who we already are in our daily lives. It is to become increasingly more apparent that we are indeed holy by the way we act, react, think, talk, walk, live, and relate to others. Not in our own strength, but through the Word of God and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. I can live an increasingly more holy life because I am a holy person possessing the presence and power of God. Holiness is in my new DNA. It is my nature. It is who I am!

Father, I want to excel still more in my holiness. I want to live out of who I am – according to my new identity in Christ – not my old sinful nature. I am not just a “new and improved” me, but a whole new creation in Christ with a brand new nature – the nature of Christ Himself living in me. My heart is new because Christ is there. I live under new management with a new power available to me I didn’t have before. I live by faith in the Son of God. According to His power, not mine. Living His life, not mine. Help me to live a life of personal integrity, grace, and courage – more and more everyday of my life.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Thessalonians chapter 3

We were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.– Vs 7-8

Paul is obsessed about the condition of their faith. In fact, he mentions it five different times in this chapter. He says he Timothy “to strengthen and encourage” them in their faith. He was anxious to “find out about” their faith, because he feared that Satan might have tempted them to fall away. He rejoiced over the “good news” of their faith and love brought to him by Timothy. Even in his trials and sufferings Paul found comfort through the news of the ongoing faith. They had stood firm. But Paul continued to pray “night and day” that he could see them again and “complete what is lacking” in their faith. Their faith was more than simply a belief in Jesus and His death, burial and resurrection. It was a living, active faith that continued to express itself in the face of persecution, trials, the attacks of the enemy, and sufferings of all kinds. Faith is dyanamic, not static. Their faith was being tested and Paul acknowledges that it had deficiencies. It was not complete or finished. It never is this side of heaven. Paul even expresses his desire that their faith “increase” in verse 12. In verse 10, he says that their faith was lacking, but then he says, “may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all people.” The increase refers to their faith. Paul is asking that the Lord Himself cause this to happen so that their faith would grow and be accompanied by a tangible love for one another.

Our faith should be increasing daily. And one of the ways God causes this to happen is through the “heat” of everyday life. People, circumstances, and situations all test our faith. Paul knew that their faith, if weak, would let them down and cause them to give in to the temptation to respond in their flesh instead of faith. They could be tempted to get angry, give up, grow weary, take matters into their own hands, doubt God, and start believing the enemy. But Paul says that they stood firm (Vs 8). They didn’t cave in. They grew up in their faith. They grew stronger. Faith tested results in a stronger faith, because it proves the reliability and trustworthiness of God.

It is less a revealing to God of the quality of our faith than it is a revelation to us of the dependability and power of our God. It is the object of our faith that gets proven, not the quality or quantity of our faith. But as we learn to trust Him (faith in action), our faith grows. So let’s thank Him for the opportunities masquerading as trials that will show us just how great a God we serve!

Father, thank You for increasing my faith daily by bringing into my life situations, circumstances, and people that test just how much I am leaning on You, how much I trust You, and how dependent I am in Your strength versus mine. Thank You that You regularly prove your faithfulness to me. You have never given me a reason to doubt You.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Thessalonians chapter 2

For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.– Vs 19-20

Over in 2 Corinthians 10:17, Paul said, “But, let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” In 2 Corinthians 11:30 he said, If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” In 1 Corinthians 1:31, he said, Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” But now, as he writes to the Thessalonians believers, he talks about receiving a “crown of boasting.” Sounds like a disconnect, doesn’t it? Paul seems to be saying that he is going to be able to boast about the people he has led to the Lord at His second coming. He refers to the Thessalonians believers as his crown of boasting or exultation. In the NET Bible study notes it says, “Paul uses boasting or exultation to describe the Christian’s delight in being commended for faithful service by the Lord at his return.” Paul specifically refers to the role he has been able to play in their coming to faith in Christ. Being able to stand before the Lord and see those whom Paul has helped introduce to Christ was what was bringing him joy and giving him hope right now! He had his eyes on the future and decided any hardship or suffering he had to go through in order to take the gospel to the Gentiles was well worth it because one day he was going to get to stand before the Lord and see all those who came to Christ because of his faithful service.

What about me? What drives me to teach the Word of God day after day? What motivates me to tell others about Jesus and potentially face rejection or even ridicule? Is it the hope I have in that future day? Is it the joy I feel in knowing that I am playing a small part in their spiritual new birth and growth? Even in the face of Satanic opposition, Paul wanted to see the Thessalonians again, so that he could be a part of their lives. He was willing to suffer so that they could grow in their faith. It brought him joy. In fact, Paul tells them, “you are our glory and joy.” They make him proud, like a father watching his child walk across the stage at graduation. They bring him joy, like the joy of a parent at their child’s wedding day. For Paul, playing a role in the spiritual lives of others was everything. It was why he existed. It was what he lived for. It was his purpose for life. And when he was in the middle of doing it, he was in his sweet spot.

Shouldn’t that be true of you and me? Isn’t that why we are here? Yet we spend so much time finding our glory and joy in other things. But God has given us the same job as He had given Paul. Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:18: “And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him.” That is our job. That is our commission as believers. To bring others back into favor with God. To help them restore the relationship that has been lost because of sin. We do that by introducing them to Christ. And when we do, like Paul, we will discover it to be our greatest joy and delight. And nothing will motivate us more than thinking about standing before Jesus some day and seeing the faces of those who have come to know Christ through our efforts standing there with us! Now that’s motivation.

Father, forgive for letting other things, the things of this earth, to become my joy and glory. They are worthless and valueless. They will not even be around when I stand before Your Son. But people will be. They are the only thing that lasts. So help me see that doing my part in the ministry of reconciliation is the reason for my existence. It is why I am here. May I daily discover the joy of helping others come to Christ and grow in Him. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Thessalonians chapter 1

“For they themselves report … how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.” – Vs 9

What’s the report on me? What would people who know me have to say about me if they were asked about my faith in Christ? I’m talking about the people I work with, live with, rub shoulders with in everyday life. Would they be able to report that there has been a change? Would they testify that they had seen a marked change in my behavior, my words, my lifestyle?

As Paul begins his letter to the believers in Thessalonica, he commends them for their faith. He tells them that he is constantly praying for them and thinking about their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Vs 3). He says they became “imitators of us and of the Lord” (Vs 6) and “an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (Vs 7). These people had undergone a dramatic change. These were converts from pagan religions. They were Gentiles who had walked away from their faith in false gods and turned to the one true God. They exchanged lifeless gods for a living God. And it had made a dramatic change in the way they lived their lives.

So what are the dead idols in my life? They tend to be those things I worship or find worth in that can’t deliver what I want from them. Things like success, money, material things, recognition, popularity, and entertainment. All the things this world offers up on an everyday basis. All I have to do to find the idols in my life is see where I spend my money and my time. They are the things in my life that I wake up worrying about or that I find myself thinking about. They occupy my time and invade my thoughts. I fear losing them or dream of attaining them. I desire them and pursue them. I expect of them what only God can deliver.

And that is what makes them false gods. They can’t deliver. They’re not real, so they can’t bring real satisfaction. They are lousy replacements for the one true God. So the Thessalonians “turned to God.” They literally turned around and changed their direction from pursuing false gods to God Himself. And the people around them could see it. So what if we began to turn from all those things we still worship in our lives? What if we began to turn to God and away from our obsession with material things? What if we looked to Him for our satisfaction and sense of identity instead of in our career, the size of our home, the make and model of our automobile, or the size of our bank account? What if we began to find time in the Word more entertaining and satisfying than the mindless trash on TV? What if we began to turn from all those things that we hold so near and dear and can’t seem to live without and began to understand that our hope is in Jesus and Him alone?

I think the world would sit up and take notice. They would report that there has been a change in us. They would see it in our actions and in our affections. We would truly be imitators of the Lord (Vs 6) making it our highest priority to pursue the things of His kingdom first and making the attainment of His righteousness more important than anything else in our lives (Matthew 6:33). And that kind of living is hard to ignore. So let’s do it. Let’s turn from the lifeless, little gods of this world and turn to the living, true God and make Him our sole object of adoration and attention. When we’re down, let’s turn to Him instead of some temporary form of entertainment. When we’re feeling unloved or under appreciated, instead of trying to boost our self-esteem with another purchase, let’s remember that we are loved by the God of the universe. When we’re worried about our finances, let’s turn to God before we turn to the bank or some other lending source. They may help with your fiscal situation, but only God can help with your spiritual one.

They themselves report…. What will they report about us?

Father, I want the report about me to be a good one. I want those around me to see You in me. I want them to report that I daily turn from the gods of this world to the one true God. That I am not looking for the false gods of money, materialism, popularity, and prosperity to satisfy my needs and desires. Instead I am turning away from those things and turning to You. I want You to be my greatest desire and the object of my time and attention. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men