Love Like God

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. – 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 ESV

Paul has just reminded the Thessalonians that they have been sanctified or set apart by God. According to His divine will, God has consecrated them for His use. And Paul added the clarification that “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7 ESV). In other words, God had set them apart to something: holiness, and from something: sexual immorality. Paul is not saying that sexual immorality was the only thing they needed to avoid, but it was obviously a problem among them.  They had been raised in the Greek culture where sexuality permeated everyday life. There were few taboos regarding sex and, therefore, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, and sex outside of marriage were a normal and expected part of life. There were even cases where the worship of their gods involved what Yahweh had deemed sexual immorality.

All kinds of immoralities were associated with the [Greco-Roman] gods. Not only was prostitution a recognized institution, but through the influence of the fertility cults of Asia Minor, Syria, and Phoenicia it became a part of the religious rites at certain temples. Thus there were one thousand “sacred prostitutes” at the temple of Aphrodite at Corinth.1

The Greek culture was steeped is sexuality and it was not considered immoral for one to fulfill their natural physical passions. So, the Thessalonian believers found themselves juggling God’s call to set-apartness and the siren call of society to compromise their convictions.

For Paul, God’s call to sanctification was not to be viewed as a list of things not to do. Yes, he clearly states that they were to abstain from sexual immorality. But notice the context. They were to control their own bodies and manage their passions so that they would not transgress and wrong their brother. This was really about brotherly love. Adultery is a lack of love. It is an expression of lust, envy, and greed; taking what does not belong to you. Sex outside the God-ordained boundaries of marriage is not love. It’s little more than lust, a willing surrender to physical drives with little regard for the other individual’s needs or wants.

But Paul commends the Thessalonians for their brotherly love. They had “been taught by God to love one another” and they were doing it. But that did not mean they were immune to the temptations all around them. That’s why Paul urges them to love more and more. They were to grow in their love for one another, expressing that love in tangible ways. And those expressions of love can take both positive and negative forms. They could love by caring for the needs of one another. But they could also love by not taking advantage of one another. Their love could show up  in the form of an act of kindness or a decision to not spread a false rumor.

Paul provided the believers in Galatia with a sobering list of actions that emanate from a life driven by the sin nature.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.  – Galatians 5:19-21 NLT

Look closely at this list. Every one of these characteristics are selfish in nature. They are expressions of a loveless, self-centered life where any care for anyone else is absent. These are the actions of someone who loves self more than anything else. But compare this list with the one that describes a Spirit-led, Spirit-controlled life: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT).

These attributes are other-oriented, not self-centered. They are expressions of love because they are the fruit of the Spirit of God. God is love and we love because He first loved us. We have been set apart for the purpose of expressing His love to one another. And Paul provides the Thessalonians and us with three concrete expressions of what it looks like to love others.

First, he says they are “to aspire to live quietly” (1 Thessalonians 4:11 ESV). This is an interesting one, because it could be translated, “strive to live a non-frantic life.” Sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it? But the Greek word translated “aspire” is philotimeomai, and it can also mean “to be fond of.” The first half of the word is philos, and it means “friend.” The second half of the word is timē, and it means “to honor.” So, Paul is telling the Thessalonians to honor their friends by living quiet, peaceful lives. It is not a call to isolationism, but an encouragement to live in a way that brings the most good to others. It is a life of selflessness, not selfishness.

Secondly, Paul says, “to mind your own affairs.” In other words, manage your own life well. Don’t attempt to fix everyone else’s life by controlling or correcting them. It is not love when you find fault in others. It is not love when you constantly criticize and complain about others. Jesus warned, “why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 NLT). 

Paul is calling them to a life of self-examination, where they are slow to judge others, but quick to assess the condition of their own hearts. Because, as Jesus said, “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander“ (Matthew 15:19 ESV). How easy it is to focus all our attention on the faults of others, while ignoring the condition of our own hearts. And when we do, rather than love others, we judge, envy, slander, and take advantage of them. In other words, we fail to love them.

Finally, Paul tells the Thessalonians, “to work with your hands.” This is not a call to hard work and industry. Keep it within the context. He is calling the Thessalonians to grow in their love for one another. And a big part of what they are called to do is express that love by doing the things God has called them to do. Remember what Paul wrote the believers in Ephesus:

…we are his [God’] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10 ESV

Earlier, in the very same letter, Paul had told them: “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love…” (Ephesians 1:4 ESV). Notice those last two words: in love. That’s the key. Love is to be the greatest proof of our holiness and blamelessness. And later on, he gave them further instructions “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV).

As God’s children, set apart by Him for His use, we are to emulate His character. We are to bear His image by behaving according to His will for us. And as Paul stated earlier, God’s will is our sanctification, our holiness lived out in everyday life. And the greatest expression of that holiness is our love, because God is love. This is what Jesus meant when He told His followers, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV). And the apostle John so rightly states, “We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19 NLT).

Paul summarizes his statements, telling the Thessalonians that their adherence to these three things: to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, will allow them to “walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:12 ESV). The image Paul paints is that of brotherly interdependence that mirrors for the lost world what it means to be part of the body of Christ. There is a love that is expressed in selflessness and mutual care and concern for one another that is like nothing the world has ever seen. And it should result in a lack of need among the family of God. But not just a lack of physical need. This brotherly love should create a overflowing sense of acceptance, significance, worth, and purpose in life.

The love we express for one another as fellow believers in Christ is the greatest proof of God’s existence. When we love as He has loved us, selflessly and sacrificially, we demonstrate the depth of love with which He loved us. And in doing so, we make God known. And the apostle John calls us to lives lives marked by that kind of love:

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. – 1 John 4:11-12 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

1 Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) 64. All abbreviations of ancient literature in this essay are those used in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3d ed. (OCD).

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2 Chronicles 1-2, 1 Thessalonians 5

Smart Enough To Know Better.

2 Chronicles 1-2, 1 Thessalonians 5

Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?2 Chronicles 1:10 ESV

Solomon was a bright young man. In fact, he was smart enough to know that, when God offered him a chance to ask for anything he wanted, what he really needed were wisdom and knowledge. And God granted both. So Solomon wasn’t just book-smart, he was God-ordained, off-the-charts intelligent. But he was going to learn that all the wisdom in the world won’t stop you from doing some pretty unintelligent things. It’s interesting to note that the chronicler takes special care to follow up the story of Solomon’s anointing by God with wisdom and knowledge with a very telling side story. It seems that Solomon had an appetite for fast wheels, precious metals, and, eventually, foreign women. “Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. And the king made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah” (2 Chronicles 1:14-15 ESV).

So what’s the problem? Everything listed here is in direct violation of the will of God. Over in Deuteronomy 17, we read, “Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold” (Deuteronomy 17:16-17 ESV). Solomon failed his first aptitude test. He flunked Obedience 101. And it would prove to be a pattern in his life.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God expected His king to be obedient. He had made it perfectly clear and had commanded that each king was to keep a copy of the Law close at hand at all times. “And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:19-20 ESV). God’s Law was to be a constant companion to the king, guiding him, teaching him to fear God, and helping him to remain faithful to God’s will. The wisdom Solomon received from God was not to have replaced or substituted from his knowledge of God’s will as revealed in His Law.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Solomon was just a man – a very smart man, but a man nonetheless. Like all men, he suffered with a sin nature that caused him to listen more to his passions than to his God. For Solomon, the trappings of kingship were highly attractive. Chariots and horses, gold and silver, wives and concubines were all symbols of a successful reign in his day and age. Even when Solomon got around to building a house for God, he would be sure and build an even bigger one for himself. Materialism and the trappings of sovereign success were constant temptations to him. In his letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul writes, “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22 ESV). it seems odd that he would have to say this to a group of Christ followers, but evidently, this was much-needed information for some of them. They needed some basic instruction in how to live godly lives in the midst of an ungodly world. Paul went on to say, “may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV). He wanted them to know that a faithful walk with God was more important than anything else. Their greatest need was for God to finish His sanctifying, life-transforming work in their lives.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God gave Solomon exactly what he had asked for: wisdom and knowledge. But it didn’t prevent Solomon from doing something stupid. It would appear that Solomon had not yet taken God’s command seriously and made the Law of God a part of his daily reading schedule. Perhaps he thought he could survive off his intelligence. But it could have been a case of Solomon knowing what to do, but simply failing to do it. How often have I been guilty of the same thing? Real wisdom shows up in faithful obedience to the will of God. And because I have the Spirit of God living in me and the Word of God available to me, I should be smart enough to know better than to disobey God.

Father, I want to be faithful. I want my wisdom to be lived out in practical ways that impact the everyday nature of my life. I have no excuse not to live wisely and obediently. May I not overlook Your will in an effort to satisfy my own desires. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Chronicles 29, 1 Thessalonians 4

Godliness Is Impossible Without God.

1 Chronicles 29, 1 Thessalonians 4

O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. – 1 Chronicles 29:18 ESV

Over in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul writes, “God’s will is for you to be holy” (1 Thessalonians 4:3 NLT). In other words, it is God’s deepest desire that His children live lives that are set apart and distinctly different than the rest of the world. The lifestyle of the believer in Jesus Christ is to reflect their relationship with God as His children and the reality of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in their life. Peter writes of this. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT). It is God’s will that we experience His ongoing sanctifying work in our lives, and He has provided the means necessary for this to happen. The key is that we must recognize our own inability to transform our own lives in our own strength. But as Jesus said, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 ESV).

David, the great king of Israel and the man after God’s own heart, knew that the people of Israel were totally dependent upon God for their well-being and ultimate success. He also knew that his young son, Solomon, who was ascending to the throne of Israel in his place, would need the help of God to be the kind of king God desired him to be. Which is why he asked God, “Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision” (1 Chronicles 29:19 ESV). Solomon was going to need God’s help just to be faithful and to accomplish all that lie ahead for him as the king of Israel. David could provide Solomon with all the resources and plans for building the temple of God, but God would have to provide the internal fortitude and spiritual stamina necessary to accomplish the task in a God-honoring and holy way.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is fully aware of man’s weaknesses. He knows that we struggle with faithfulness and are ill-equipped to pursue a life of holiness. Which is why He has always provided the means by which holiness can become a reality in our lives. Holiness, in its most simple form, is set-apartness. It speaks of a character of life that is radically different than the norm. When God had called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees and promised to make of him a great nation, His intention was to create a people who would reflect His character and live according to His righteous standards. They would be set-apart for His service, and would be His prize possession. As such, they would be expected to live differently. God told them, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6 ESV). God had provided them with His Law, making it abundantly clear just what His standards of conduct were to be. Then He provided them with His sacrificial system, because He knew that they would find it hard to live up to His righteous standard. The sacrificial system was a means by which they could be restored to a right relationship with Him, receiving forgiveness for their sins through the atonement made possible through the shedding of blood.

God did not call His people to holiness, then leave them on their own to pull it off. He did call them to live obediently and faithfully, but He knew that they would struggle to live up to His standards. So He provided everything they would need to receive His forgiveness when they sinned and enjoy His ongoing presence and power in their lives. The key was that they remain fully aware of their total dependence upon Him. They were helpless and hopeless without Him.
.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man has a strong independent streak. Ever since the fall, we have been wired to act independently and fend for ourselves. We want to be in control of our own lives and do things our own way. But as God’s people, we must constantly remind ourselves that the only thing that sets us apart is our relationship with Him. In and of ourselves, we are nothing. We have no strength of our own. We have no wisdom of our own. We have no righteousness of our own. All that we have and all that we are, we owe to Christ. Jesus Himself reminds us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). Paul wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV). The key is dependence. We must recognize our non-negotiable need for God in our lives. Even Jesus Himself lived in complete dependence upon God the Father. “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30 ESV). This does not absolve us from responsibility or mean that we have no role to play in the process. It simply means that we must recognize our need for God in our lives and constantly turn to Him for the strength, wisdom, and resources we need to live holy lives in the midst of an unholy world.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Trying to love the godly life without God’s help is like trying to drive your car without gas – it’s impossible. Not only that, it’s ridiculous and a total waste of time. Yet how often do we as believers find ourselves trying to pull off godliness without God’s assistance. Too often we attempt to replace the Spirit’s power with a bit of elbow grease and a good work ethic. David spent years preparing for the construction of the temple. He drew up the plans (with God’s help), he appointed all the workers, he assigned all the duties of the priests, he collected all the materials, and he willingly and generously gave out of his own pocket the financial resources necessary to make it all happen. But David knew that nothing he had done was really his doing. David admitted as much to God: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (1 Chronicles 29:14 ESV). David was simply giving back to God what was rightfully His in the first place. Any gifts David had given had first been given by God to him.

We are completely dependent upon God. He must save us, because we cannot save ourselves. He must sanctify us or continually transform us into the likeness of His Son, because we are totally incapable of doing it on our own. He must also one day send His Son to come back for us. We can’t earn or work our way to heaven. We can’t climb our way into His presence. Jesus Christ will come back for us. Paul reminds us, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 ESV). God has provided for our salvation, sanctification and, ultimately, our glorification. It is all His doing. We are completely dependent upon Him. But what a great place, what a safe place, what a totally worry-free place to be.

Father, may we learn to lean on You more. May we learn to be content being dependent upon You. Life lived in our own strength is exhausting and disappointing. But when we willingly rest in Your strength and live according to Your power, we find the rest and peace that Jesus offered. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Chronicles 27-28, 1 Thessalonians 3

Seek the Lord.

1 Chronicles 27-28, 1 Thessalonians 3

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. – 1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV

David’s days were numbered and he knew it. He was fully aware that his time on earth was coming to an end, so he was doing all he could to prepare his son, Solomon, and the people of God, for his eventual departure. His greatest desire was that Solomon would fulfill his dream of building a house for the Lord. David had taken painstaking care to ensure that everything was ready, from the actual plans for its construction, to the division of the responsibilities for the priests, musicians, gatekeepers, guards, administrators, singers and everyone else who would help care for and protect the temple. But David also knew that none of this would come about if his son, Solomon, did not stay faithful to the Lord. The temple would never see the light of day if the people of God did not remain faithful to the Lord, keeping His commandments and rules. After all, the temple would simply be a building. It would be nothing if the people of God did not faithfully follow and worship God. As impressive as David’s plans and preparations for this structure may have been, he knew that it was little more than bricks and mortar if the people failed to seek the Lord and “serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind” (1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV). “For the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9-10 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

David knew he had been chosen by God to be king over Israel. He had not doubt in his mind that God had promised to establish his throne and make him “king over Israel forever” (1 Chronicles 28:4 ESV). David had every confidence that Solomon was to be his successor and that God had chosen him “to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel” (1 Chronicles 28:5 ESV) and that God would “establish his kingdom forever” (1 Chronicles 28:7 ESV) as long as he continued to keep God’s commandments and rules. So God charged Solomon to “know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind” (1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV). He begged him to be careful, because he had been given the tremendous responsibility of building the temple in which the God of Israel would dwell. But David also comforted and encouraged Solomon by reminding him to be strong and courageous, to not fear, because “the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished” (1 Chronicles 28:20 ESV). David knew that God would be faithful. The real concern was whether Solomon and the people would be. David knew there would be distractions and temptations along the way. He knew that the people had a track record of unfaithfulness. He also knew that Solomon, like all men, regardless of his wisdom, was predisposed to half-hearted worship of God. He would find all kinds of reasons to neglect the building of the temple or, worse yet, forsake the worship of God altogether. And David was painfully aware that if Solomon or the people forsook God, He would be forced to forsake them. God would fully expect Solomon to seek Him and serve Him wholeheartedly. The temple would not serve as a substitute for man’s undivided allegiance.

What does this passage reveal about man?

David was a good judge of character. He knew his people well and he understood the risks associated with turning his kingdom over to his young and inexperienced son. This is the second charge David had given Solomon. The first one was in private. On that occasion, David had warned his young son, “may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:12 ESV). David knew that Solomon was going to need God’s help in remaining faithful. David could provide Solomon with the plans for the temple, the workmen to build it, the financial resources to pay for it, and the material to construct it. But Solomon was going to need God’s help in accomplishing it. The greatest threat to Solomon’s successful completion of his task was going to be his own heart. Which is why he told Solomon, “Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. Arise and build the sanctuary of the Lord God” (1 Chronicles 22:19 ESV). The ability to build a house for the Lord would only be possible if Solomon recognized his need for the presence and power of the Lord in his own heart and life. He would need to seek the Lord diligently and faithfully.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It is so easy to forget that fact that I can accomplish nothing in this life without the help of God. I must constantly remind myself to seek Him because I need Him. I can’t live this life without Him – at least, not successfully or as He intended. Paul knew this fact all too well. Which is why he told the believers in Thessalonica, “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish you hearts blameless in holiness before our God and father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus, with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 ESV). Their ability to love one another was dependent upon the Lord. Any hope they had of standing before God as holy and pure at the second coming of Jesus was totally up to God. Which is why their lives needed to be marked by a constant seeking after God. Paul wanted them to stand fast in the Lord – to stand firm, persevere or persist in their hope in and dependence upon God for all their needs. We are nothing without God. We can do nothing without Him. Which is why we must consistently and constantly seek Him with all our hearts, souls, mind and strength. Our faithfulness to Him must be based on our awareness of our great need for Him. We even need His help to remain faithful. We need His Spirit’s power to accomplish the life to which He has called us. David told Solomon, “if you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV). Seeking Him begins with an awareness of our need for Him. We search for what we believe to be of value. We seek for what we long to find. If we truly believe God is all that we need, we will be motivated to search for Him with all our hearts.

Father, like Solomon, I am sometimes tempted to believe that there is something other than You that can meet my needs. I am easily persuaded that there are other things that can bring me fulfillment and happiness. But without You, nothing else matters. This life is incomplete without You. There is nothing in this life that can fulfill or complete me like You. Give me an increasing awareness of my desperate need for You, so that I might seek You more diligently and wholeheartedly. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Chronicles 25-26, 1 Thessalonians 2

Pleasing God, Not Men.

1 Chronicles 25-26, 1 Thessalonians 2

…but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. – 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ESV

As followers of God, we are always facing the daily choice to live our lives in submission to His will and in obedience to His commands – in other words, to live in a way that pleases Him. But there is always the temptation to become man-pleasers – living our lives in fear of rejection and ridicule, and in search of the acceptance and adoration of men. The proper worship of God always involves obedience. It is never enough to simply go through the motions and involve ourselves in the activities associated with the worship of God, if our hearts are not in it. God would later accuse the Israelites of this very thing. “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13 ESV). You see in this passage, quoted by Jesus in His day, that the people of God were far more concerned about pleasing men than pleasing God. They would rather obey laws created by men than those given to them by God Himself. But to live a life that truly pleases God requires that we make Him our highest priority and His Word our only authority. Jesus had strong words for the religious leaders of the Jews in His day. “Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God” (Matthew 15:9 NLT). They were burdening the people with rules and rituals that were man-made and not God-given. So the people ended up trying to please these self-proclaimed models of righteousness and live up to their standards, all the while thinking that they were worshiping God. But Jesus warned that their worship was in vain or fruitless.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The worship of God is about so much more than an event that takes place on Sunday morning. It is about an attitude of the heart. It emanates from within and flows out through all our attitudes and actions. The worship of God is to be a lifestyle that encompasses every facet of our lives. We are not to compartmentalize it or relegate it to a specific day or an occasional event. Our goal in life, as God’s people, should be to make Him the focal point of our lives – even if it puts us at odds with the people around us. When David was bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the city of Jerusalem, he did so with much pomp and circumstance. There was singing and dancing. There was rejoicing and praise. There were musicians playing and sacrifices made. Samuel writes that “David danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14 ESV). Here was the king of Israel throwing caution to the wind and disregarding his own reputation, out of praise for God and in an attempt to please God with his life. Interestingly enough, David’s wife, Michal, was appalled. She “looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart” (2 Samuel 6:16 ESV). But David was not concerned about Michal’s feelings about him. He was determined to please his God and properly praise Him for all He had done for him. This same David would spend countless hours preparing all the elements necessary to build a house for God. He would also appoint musicians, singers, gatekeepers, treasurers, officers and judges – just to watch over the house of the Lord when it was built. As far as David was concerned, God deserved the best. He was deserving of honor, glory, praise, and the best efforts of His people when it came to establishing Him at the center of their lives and community.

What does this passage reveal about man?

The apostle Paul lived to please God. He wanted to conduct his life in such a way that it always brought pleasure to God through his obedience to God’s call on his life. He told the Thessalonians, “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed – God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or others…” (1Thessalonians 2:5-6 ESV). Paul’s desire was to please God while, at the same time, expressing the love of Christ to men. His job was not to please men, but to share with the love of God made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He attempted to live his live in such a way that it would please God. “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:10 ESV). Because Paul was living his life in order to please God, there was no accusation that men could make against him. He didn’t attempt to flatter the Thessalonians or use persuasive words in order to impress them. He simply told them the truth about God, the reality about sin, and their need for God’s saving grace made available through His Son’s death. He told them exactly what God had commanded him to say. “We exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12 ESV). This wouldn’t always win Paul a lot of friends. But he was far less concerned about his popularity than he was about living his life to please God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

For David to hire 24-hour guards to station at the gates of the temple and to employ the finest musicians and singers, would have cost him a great deal of money. And he did all this before the temple had even been built. He would not even live long enough to see the temple completed. And I am sure there were those who looked at all his efforts and questioned his sanity and wisdom. They wondered about why he would waste so much time, money and effort for the construction of a house that God had denied him the privilege of building. But David loved His God. He wanted to please Him and wasn’t concerned about what men thought about it all. Likewise, Paul lived his life in such a way that he could lay his head on the pillow at night, knowing that he had done what God had called him to do. He had been obedient. He had been faithful. Rather than seek glory or praise from men, he sought to bring pleasure and praise to God through the way he conducted his life. “We had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict” (1 Thessalonians 2:2 ESV). His life was not easy. Pleasing God did not come without its fair share of troubles and conflicts. There was always the not-so-subtle temptation to listen to the words of men and to seek the praise of men. Popularity and acceptance are strong urges in every human being. We want to be wanted. We desire to be accepted. But as children of God, our greatest desire must be to please God – not in an attempt earn His favor or to try and stay in His good graces. We can do nothing to make God love us more or force Him to love us less. His great love for us has already been expressed in His Son’s death on the cross in our place. But our desire to please Him must flow from grateful hearts for all He has done for us. Pleasing men is a futile game to play. Men are fickle and their friendship can come and go. But God’s love for us is everlasting and unfailing. He deserves our willing desire to live obediently in response to His Word and in submission to His Spirit, not to please men, but to please Him.

Father, I want to please You with my life. I want to live in such a way that my life brings you honor and praise. Help me to worry less about what men think and more about what You have commanded for me to do as Your Son. Remove the fear of man and replace it with a healthy fear of You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Chronicles 23-24, 1 Thessalonians 1

Serving God.

1 Chronicles 23-24, 1 Thessalonians 1

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God… – 1 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV

Serving and worshiping God should be our primary objectives as His people. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that the chief end of man, or his primary purpose in life is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” As David’s grew older, he began to prepare his son to carry out his dream of building a temple for God. David had a desire to provide a place of worship for his God, in which sacrifices could be made. David divided up the Levites and gave them specific responsibilities, one of which was to “stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening” (1 Chronicles 23:30 ESV). Their praise and thanksgivings were also to be regularly offered to the Lord on “Sabbaths, new moons, and feast days” (1 Chronicles 23:31 ESV). A big part of what was to go on in the temple was the worship of God, expressed in praise and thanksgiving to Him for all that He had done for His people. David desired to build a temple in which His God would dwell and in which the people of Israel would honor their God through obedient sacrifice and ongoing praise.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Over in Psalm 145, we have the words of David written concerning his God: “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:1-3 ESV). David went on to write of God’s graciousness, mercy, patience, kindness, and steadfast love. He declared that “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4 ESV). They were to talk about God’s majesty. They were to meditate on His wondrous works performed on their behalf. They were to speak of His might and declare His greatness. They were to sing of His righteousness. For David, serving God was not just about doing things for God. It was recognition of His glory, majesty, holiness and greatness; and a outward expression of that recognition in praise and worship. David said, “My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever” (Psalm 145:21 ESV).

In the old hymn, When We All Get To Heaven, Eliza Hewitt wrote the following lyrics: “Sing the wondrous love of Jesus, Sing His mercy and His grace; In the mansions bright and blessed He’ll prepare for us a place. When we all get to heaven, What a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, We’ll sing and shout the victory!” Even in heaven, we will find ourselves praising, singing, rejoicing, and worshiping God for His greatness, goodness, and glory. But David knew that the praise of God was not something to be reserved for heaven, but was to be the regular lifestyle of those who understood and had experienced God’s amazing grace and mercy in this lifetime.

What does this passage reveal about man?

In his letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul spoke of their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV). He said that their “faith in God has gone forth everywhere” (1 Thessalonians 1:8 ESV) and how they had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 ESV). Their lives had become living expressions of their belief in and worship of God. They were serving God, not just through doing good things and living right kind of live, but by expressing unfailing hope in Jesus and faithfully waiting for His return from heaven. Rather than put all their stock in this world, they were counting on the promise of God for eternal life made possible through Jesus, “who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10 ESV).

We see in the Thessalonians an example of what it looks like to serve God faithfully. They had “received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6 ESV). Their faith in God had become visible and well-known to all those around them. It was not secret, hidden, or some kind of personal, internal thing, but an outward manifestation of their faith in God that was easily seen and acknowledged by all those around them. Their lives were different than they had been before. Others could see that they had turned away from idols and were now worshiping the one true God. They were serving Him and it showed in how they lived their lives. It was evident in how they talked about God and placed their hope and trust in God. They were waiting on the return of Jesus and living with an eternal mindset. But in the meantime, like David, they were singing of the wondrous love of Jesus. They were telling of His mercy and grace. In the midst of all their troubles on this earth, they were counting on the reality of heaven and the promised return of Jesus Christ.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

My service for God needs to be more than just outward acts of goodness and righteousness. It must stem from a desire to praise and worship Him for who He is and for all He has done. Too often I can become just like the Pharisees, of whom Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8 ESV). Like David, I want to be able to say, “My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord” (Psalm 145:121 ESV), and I want to mean it. It begins with a recognition of just how great He is. Then it shows up in verbal expressions of praise and thanksgiving. I must learn to tell of His greatness, goodness, graciousness and ongoing love. I must place my hope in His Son’s eminent return. I must live my live in faithful obedience to His will and in loving submission to His Word. That is true service to God.

Father, I want to serve You with all my heart. I want all my devotion to be focused on You, but so often I find myself in love with the things of this world. I find it so easy to praise temporal things and find satisfaction in objects that have no lasting value. Teach me to sing of Your wonder and grace, to talk of Your glory and majesty, and to praise You for all Your incredible activity in and around my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

God’s Will – Part 2.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT

Earlier in his letter, Paul had told the Thessalonian believers that it was God’s will for them to be holy. then he gave them a practical example of what that kind of life looked like. They were to avoid sexual sin at all costs. They were to control their own lustful passions and live holy lives, not impure lives. They were to love and honor one another. They were to live their lives in such a way that they honored and pleased God. And now, at the close of his letter, Paul gives them another practical application of what a holy life looks like – a life that reflects God’s will for all believers. It is a life marked by joy. Not a giddy, unstable happiness based on changing circumstances, but a deep joy that is founded on the knowledge that we have a right relationship with God, our sins forgiven, our eternity secure and a God who loves us so much that there is nothing we can do that would ever cause Him to fall out of love for us. He is constantly out for our best interests and our circumstances, whether good or bad, are not an indicator of God’s love for us. His love is expressed in our spiritual transformation, that was made possible by His Son’s death on the cross. And that transformation is ALWAYS taking place within us, because of the indwelling presence of His Spirit. Which should bring us joy.

We are to pray without ceasing. In other words, prayer should be a constant part of our lives because God is a constant part of our lives. Prayer is not just petition, or asking God for things. It is also expressions of thanksgiving and praise. Prayer is the intimate communication between the Father and His child. And He wants to hear from us as much as we want to hear from Him. Prayer includes spending time listening to God, which is difficult, because we can’t hear His voice audibly or out loud. He speaks to us through His Word and His Spirit. God is always speaking to us, but the problem is that we seldom take time to listen. So we are to pray or communicate with Him constantly, unceasingly.

And we are to live lives that are marked by thankfulness – not just for the good things that happen in our lives – but even for the trials and difficulties. Why? Because as believers, we should know that God is at work in our lives at ALL times, using even the difficulties of life to transform us into the likeness of His Son. And we can live our lives with the assurance that He ALWAYS loves us – at all times – even when our circumstances seem to shout otherwise. And we can be thankful for that love and express our gratitude back to Him. None of this comes naturally. It isn’t a normal reaction for most of us, because it runs contrary to our sinful nature. We are wired to complain, not express thanks. We are prone toward dissatisfaction and discontentment, not gratefulness. Prayer is the ultimate expression of dependence on God, and we tend to be far too independent to have to rely on God. And since joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and not a byproduct of our human nature, it must be produced by the Spirit in our life. We can’t manufacture it or even fake it well. As we live in tune with and in obedience to the Spirit, He produces within us a joy that goes far beyond mere happiness. It is not based on circumstances, but on the certainty of God love for us.

God’s will for us is that we live holy live. But holy lives are practical lives. And ultimately, Paul tells us, God must make us holy. That is his prayer for the Thessalonian believers and, by extension, his prayer for us. “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every Way and make your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ returns again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 NLT). It is not only God’s will that we be holy. It is His mission. And one day He will complete that mission. There is a day coming when our holiness will be complete. Sin will be eradicated. Our transformation into the likeness of Christ will be finalized. We will be holy and blameless, because God is faithful and true.

Father, our holiness is of great importance to You, so it should be of great importance to us. Not that we should try to make ourselves holy, but that we should see it as our highest priority. We should view the circumstances of life as Your laboratory in which You are refining and perfecting us. You are always at work within and around us. Your ultimate goal is not our temporary happiness, but our eternal holiness. Give us that divine perspective. Help us to see our lives from Your viewpoint and with Your ultimate goal for us in mind. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Be Ready.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. – 1 Thessalonians 5:8 NLT

We don’t know when Jesus will return, but we are to live in a constant state of readiness, as if it could happen at any time. Paul reminds his readers that the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. But if they are always ready for His return, they won’t be surprised. They were to be ready. They were to be on their guard, alert and clearheaded. As far as Paul was concerned, there was no question as to whether or not the Lord was going to return. It was a matter of when. And since no one knows the date or time of His return, the best plan is to live as if it could be today.

The Thessalonians were concerned about what was going to happen to those who had died prior to Christ’s return. Paul assures them that there is nothing to worry about. “Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever” (1 Thessalonians 5:10 NLT). But those who remained alive needed to live with a constant mindset of preparedness. They needed to live in the light, not the darkness. As Paul had stated earlier, “God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives” (1 Thessalonians 3:7 NLT). The Thessalonians, like all believers in every age, were to live lives that pleased the Lord. They were to be holy, living distinctively different lives, set apart from the rest of the world. Their lives were to be characterized by love. They were to live in obedience to the Holy Spirit, not giving in to the desires of their own sinful flesh. While the rest of the world lived in ignorance and darkness, they were children of the light, having had their sins exposed and their salvation assured by placing their faith in Christ as their Savior. That faith was to act as a kind of armor, protecting them from the attacks of the enemy and allowing them to survive in hostile territory until the Lord returned. Their confidence in their own salvation would be like a helmet, protecting their minds from doubt and fear, and preventing them from giving in to the lies of the enemy. Their knowledge of and confidence in their salvation would protect them, providing assurance of their future, whether they were to die or live to see the day of the Lord’s return. Death was not to be feared. And difficulties in this life were not to be a cause for doubt or disappointment. Christ died so that we might have eternal life. In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul writes, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death not life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NLT). The ultimate expression of God’s love for us is the death of His Son in our place. And His death took place so that we might have eternal life, lived in perfect relationship with God the Father forever. It’s assured. It’s guaranteed. So we are to live as if it could happen any day.

Father, help me continue to learn to live in a state of readiness. Show me how to live in this life, but with my eyes on eternity. Don’t let me fear death or become distracted by the cares of this life. Whether I die or live until Your Son returns, I will enjoy the same unbelievable future. My eternity is secured. My future is settled. I want to be alert and clearheaded, prepared and ready at all times. And I want to help others do the same. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Words of Encouragement.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. – 1 Thessalonians 4:17 NLT

The Thessalonian believers to whom Paul was writing this letter were wrestling with something. It’s important to keep in mind that, not only were these people new to faith in Christ, but the Christian faith was still in its infancy. The Gospel was being spread around the known world, but it was still a relatively new teaching. And apart from the apostles, there were not a lot of seasoned teachers, pastors, elders or other spiritual leaders. There was no New Testament yet. There was no established or written doctrine to speak of. These new believers had only what Paul and Silas had been able to share with them on their first visit there. And most of what they knew revolved around the basic message of the Gospel – that Jesus had died on the cross as their sin substitute, and had risen from the dead in order to provide them with forgiveness of sin and the assurance of eternal life. Through belief in the saving work of Jesus, these people had been made right with God and given the hope of a restored relationship with God the Father.

But that’s where the confusion came in. Having accepted Jesus as their Savior, they had assumed that they were now part of God’s Kingdom and would enjoy eternal life. And yet, along with suffering and persecution, they had watched as some of their fellow believers had unexpectedly died. Of course, these events triggered questions in their minds. Why had they died? Where had they gone? What would happen to them when Jesus returned? This was all new territory for these new believers and Paul had received word about their confusion and distress. So he wrote them to let them know what to expect. He gave them assurances regarding their deceased brothers and sisters, and comfort about the return of Christ. These people had been grieving. They were sad and confused. They were wondering what their own fate would be, because each of them had fully expected to be around when Jesus came back. Paul had even alluded to it earlier in his letter. “May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people” (1 Thessalonians 3:13 NLT). So it was no wonder they had questions about the state of those who had died since accepting Christ as their Savior.

So Paul tells them, “we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NLT). Paul assures them that Jesus is going to come back, and when He does, He will bring with Him all those believers who have died prior to that point in time. Paul clearly states, “when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died” (1 Thessalonians 4:14 NLT). This event is what we call the Rapture. It is not the Second Coming of Christ, but the return of Christ for the Church, His bride. In this event, Jesus does not return to the earth, but He comes in the clouds, accompanied by angels and those believers who have died. “Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17 NLT). The words, “caught up” literally mean to be snatched up and are where we get the word Rapture. All believers who are alive at this point in time will be suddenly removed from the earth to meet Jesus in the air. Another important part of this event is that the bodies of those believers who have died will be raised, renewed and reunited with their souls, which have been with Christ in heaven. Then we will all return to heaven, where we will spend eternity with Him.

Paul says, “So encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18 NLT). Why? Because this is our hope. This is our future. Death is not the end. One of the reasons this passage is frequently used in funerals is because it provides us with hope regarding those who have died. If they were in Christ, their souls have gone on to be with Christ. They are no longer with us physically, but they are far from gone and forgotten. And one day, they will return with the Lord to come get us who remain on the earth. That day is coming, We don’t know when. We don’t know exactly how it will all work, but it is going to happen. We can count on it. We can rest in it. We can encourage one another about it. One of two things is going to happen to every single believer. Either we will die and go to be with the Lord, or we will live to see the Lord’s return. So there is no reason for us to grieve like those who have no hope. We know how the story ends, and it ends well.

Father, thank You for the assurance of Your Son’s return for the Church. Thank You for the assurance of our place with You at death. We have nothing to fear and everything to hope for. Don’t let us lose sight of that reality. Our future is secure and settled. Death has been conquered and the eternal security of our souls has been guaranteed by Christ. May we constantly encourage one another with these words. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13

Standing Firm.

1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13

So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles, and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. – 1 Thessalonians 3:7-8 NLT

You can sense the love that Paul had for the Thessalonian believers. He longed to be with them. He had tried on numerous occasions to visit them, but had been prevented. We don’t know what kinds of circumstances kept Paul from making the trip, but he believed Satan had played a role. He understood the reality and significance of spiritual warfare. He knew that the enemy was always trying to destroy the fruit of Paul’s efforts and the work of the Spirit taking place around the world. The various letters of Paul reflect that kinds of spiritual conflicts that had risen up in the churches that had sprung up since Pentecost. Legalism, syncretism, factions, false teachers, errant doctrine, and a host of other issues had made their way into these local fellowships, causing all kinds of problems. As one of the few qualified leaders available to minister to these fledgling fellowships, Paul had a strong sense of responsibility for their well-being. He knew they were under attack, just as he and Silas were. He knew their faith was being tested and wanted to encourage them to remain strong and stand firm. Unable to make the trip to see them in person, Paul and Silas sent Timothy to visit the Thessalonians in order to assess their condition. His report when he returned was positive and encouraging. Paul and Silas had sent Timothy to encourage and strengthen the young believers in Thessalonica, but what he found ended up being a source of encouragement to Paul and Silas. In spite of their difficult circumstances and the troubles surrounding them, the Thessalonians were strong in their faith. The Spirit was at work in their lives.

When he had been with them, Paul had warned them of the difficulties to come. He had not left them wide-eyed and innocent, unaware of the difficulties that accompany a life committed to Christ. “Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come – and they did, as you well know” (1 Thessalonians 3:4 NLT). Rather than leave these young converts with an impression that the Good News meant a life devoid of bad circumstances, Paul and Silas had told them the truth. “We are destined for such troubles” (1 Thessalonians 3:3 NLT). They come with the territory. When we come to faith in Christ, we become enemies of this world. We become targets for Satan to destroy. Our very existence stands opposed to him and his plans for this world. We should not be surprised by trials or struggles. We should not be shocked by difficulties. We are immersed in a spiritual battle, surrounded by the enemy, and under constant attack. But we have the Holy Spirit to strengthen and empower us. We have the body of Christ. We have the unfailing promises of God to trust in and the unquestionable assurance of our salvation to stand on. We can and will endure to the end. And our faith in the midst of difficulty should be a source of encouragement to us. When we see one another standing firm in the face of difficulty, we should rejoice. When we see another believer struggling with trials, we should come alongside them, strengthening and encouraging them. Then when we see them come out the other side stronger and firmer in their faith, we will be strengthened as well. Paul was encouraged by the faith of the Thessalonians. He was strengthened by the news of their steadfast commitment to the cause of Christ. And he prayed that their love and faith would continue to increase. “And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows” (1 Thessalonians 3:11 NLT).

Father, may my life be an example to all those who know me. May they be strengthened and encouraged by the way I handle and face the inevitable adversity of life. Trials are inevitable. They are part of life on this planet. But give me the faith to remain strong. Give me love for others so that I will stand by them as they struggle and rejoice with them when they come out the other side stronger in their faith. Keep us going and growing, Lord. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org