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His partner – a look at 2 Thessalonians

So in 2 Thessalonians, why do you think that Paul is going on and on about work; and the importance of work?

Why?

Well, because the Thessalonian church has the wrong ideas about the second coming.

And so in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tried to resolve the question. He said in Chapter 5 verse 2 the last day will come quickly, as a thief in the night. Jesus says essentially the same thing in Matthew 24:36 “no one knows the day or the hour.”

But the Thessalonians became convinced that the end was imminent and so then why do anything? Why work? They thought that the last day was right around the next corner..

And a lot of people get mesmerized by end time predictions. Some Christians even dangerously seek information outside the Bible. Others read things in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Daniel, and Revelation that, quite frankly, aren’t even there.  End times preaching and study seems to fascinate people who often are amazingly somewhat illiterate when it comes to the rest of the Bible; and so what happens is – that many people end up focusing unhealthily on the second coming  instead of the gospel.

And so the Thessalonians had salvation, but they didn’t know what to do next. They thought it was all over, and I can understand why they’d think that. As Christ-followers we place a lot of focus and attention on winning the lost, we celebrate and cheer when someone makes a decision to follow Christ… but then what? Where is the next marker, what is the next step? Are we finished? And some Christians are reserved to put their feet up and wait… after all, “one fine morning when this life is done, I’ll fly away.”

But you see, there is still transformation for the Christian, there is still discipleship. Before his rant about work, Paul tells them that he has hope for them. He says,

2 Thessalonians 3:3-5

the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.  4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

You see for the believer, there is more to salvation than just saying the sinner’s prayer. Paul says God establishes us – He directs our hearts. The church calls it discipleship, John called it the path, and Jesus called it following him.

Discipleship is about growing in Christ, being imitators of Jesus – yes, we still sin, yes we still fall short, but we’re learning – and we’re growing.

In Philippians 1, Paul says the church in Philippi has a “partnership in the gospel.” That’s a great picture. God’s in the liberation business, he is in the freedom and salvation business and we – we get to be his partners.

And how do you get made partner in business?

By working hard.

The idea of partnership depicts people, working together towards mutually desirable goals.  Employees of a firm are involved in the business, customers of the business are involved as well but partners, partners are committed.

And see that’s really the bottom line isn’t it?

Paul sees the Thessalonian church and he doesn’t see their commitment. He worked to build their church, he broke his back to be a good example for them, but when he left – they just rode on his coat tales and relied on the grace of others.

But the Christian life, and the life of a disciple, is not one of lethargy and stagnation. Jesus tells the Church in Laodicea

Revelation 3:15-16

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

Jesus says, “I’ve seen your work,  it’s not exciting or busy, it’s just kind of eh…” Its nothing to write home about. In fact, it’s so bland and flavorless it makes me want to puke.

Jesus doesn’t want hitchhikers he wants heroes. He doesn’t want pushovers he wants partners; and a true partnership means commitment. Partners stick together and stay committed – Your investors might jump ship when the going gets tough or when there is a more lucrative deal someplace else. Your employees might quit if things get rocky. But Partners stick it out – Partners share the vision.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:17, 23-24

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

This is what it means to be a partner, this is what it means to be a disciple. Disciples work heartily, disciples serve Jesus, because disciples share God’s vision.

Paul says God gave the church partners and they’re called….

Ephesians 4:11-15

… apostles….prophets …. evangelists, … shepherds and teachers, (to do what?) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

Disciples in the church realize that we all have gifts given for works of service so that the church is built. Disciples realize that it’s extremely important to train and equip others for ministry. Partners know that they must mature in the faith and encourage others in faith by teaching and/or mentoring. Disciples minister to the needs of other disciples.

At my home Church we say, “every member is a minister.” And that’s not an outsourcing of my job, it’s how God designed His church. The truth is, God never intended his church to be run or led by superstars or celebrities.

That’s exciting! Think about it,  every person, no matter where they are in their walk has the potential to be a partner. Let me tell you, you won’t see that same opportunity anywhere else.

Paul knows this better than anyone. What did he do before he planted Churches and wrote scripture? He killed Christians. He was an enemy of the Church – and listen, if a man like Paul can move from the Crowd to the Core – anyone can.

1 Corinthians 9:24-26

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. … So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control

Discipleship requires sacrifice, discipleship requires study, discipleship requires work. But don’t hear the message that we work for salvation, or that we work so God will love us – don’t hear that. Paul never said the Thessalonian church wasn’t saved, he just said they were lazy.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works

Disciples don’t work to be saved, rather they work because they were saved.

We don’t work to impress God, we work because God has already impressed on us – his character.

Neither do we work so that God will love us more – we work because He already loves us so much – and we’re just so excited to be his partner.

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When others quit – a look at 2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 3:13-15

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.  If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.  Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Paul says, “Persist when others quit”

In other words even if everyone else around you gives up – keep going.

Paul says in Galatians 6:9 Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Sure it’s easy to take a break when you see others take a break around you and it’s easy to give up if your teammates give up, but Paul says losing momentum is losing focus – we should never grow tired of doing the right thing.

In fact, he warns in 2 Thessalonians 3:14 If anyone does not obey… take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him

In other words, stay away from idle people, stay away from those slackers and those gossips and busybodies. They aren’t a good example for you.

Paul uses the Greek words for withdrawing here and it’s actually a sailing term. It was used for furling the sails on a boat. When the wind would come up they would unfurl the sails, or open them up. But when the wind died down, they would furl them, or pull them back in. Likewise, Paul says we’re to ‘pull back’ from believers who ‘walk in idleness,”

Idleness is a word from the military that means to be out-of-step or out-of-rank.

For Paul, those who are idle are disorderly and have gone AWOL from their God-given responsibilities.

And I think this might sound a little severe to go so far as to say “cut off ties with people who are lazy and busybodies” but remember this letter comes after Paul visited them and told them to get to work, and after they had ignored his advice and he wrote them a first letter and now he hears that they still are not working, but are continuing in this lackluster behavior.

And I don’t think Paul says this to alienate anyone, rather I believe he says this for their own good.

Parents do this all of the time, how do you teach a lesson to a materialistic spoiled child?

Cut them off.

No more allowance, no more credit cards, Daddy’s not buying your gas anymore, no more free rent…. why?

Because we want them gone?

No, because we want them to learn, we want them to grow and mature and be responsible, we want them to develop a healthy work ethic.

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Hard Working Heroes – a look at 2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 3:7-9

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.  It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.

Paul says night and day we toiled and labored. The Greek word for toil, sometimes gets translated as pain. In other words we worked until it hurt, until we had blisters, until our muscles ached.

During their visit, Paul, Silas and Timothy were building a church, and as leaders, they also knew they were setting an example. He says, “remember when we were there? We worked for our meals and we weren’t a burden to anyone.”

Once a year my church does the Dave Ramsay seminar on debt and wealth building and the one thing Dave Ramsay says will earn you money – is work – he says “hard work is a sure-fire money making scheme.”

I remember moving out of my parents house and getting my first apartment, and do you know what I learned right away? I had to pay rent, and pay bills, and eat! And suddenly I didn’t like looking at the schedule and seeing time off, I went into my manager’s office and I begged him for more hours and when I didn’t get them, I did what millions of people do… I got a second job. You want to know toil and pain? I worked at Toys R Us and the mall…. during Christmas. You know what I did when I had time off? I slept.

Paul says get some hard-working heroes – like these:

1. Mark Cuban owns the Dallas Mavericks, while he was building his business they say he worked until 2 am and he didn’t take a vacation for the first 7 years

2. When the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos was in high school he announced that he was going to be valedictorian and when he said that one class mate recalled, “it was then that the rest of us knew we’d just be jockeying for second place.”

3. Tim Cook, Apple’s new CEO reportedly gets up at 4:30 in the morning to start answering mail.

4. Last year the CEO of car manufacture Nissan worked more than 65 hours a week, spent 48 hours a month in the air, and flew more than 150,000 miles.

5. Howard Schultz  who is the CEO of Starbucks puts in a 13 hour day and then continues to work from home.. good thing he makes coffee.

Hard working Heroes have a way of motivating us to get out of bed, don’t they?

Who have been the hard working heroes in your life?

 

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A Healthy work ethic – a look at 2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 3:10

For even when we were with you (meaning the first time Paul visited this church), we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

This was my uncle’s favorite bible verse growing up – in fact, I think it’s the only one he knew and he lived by it. As soon as we got out of bed on his farm ‘If you don’t work – you don’t eat.’ And he was serious.

But even after Paul left that church, reports still came back that the people were taking it easy and so even in his first letter to the church he writes.

1 Thessalonians 4:10-11

But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.

So as you can see, this is at least the third time he has had to tell these people – get off your buts, get back to work.

But why does he care? I mean really, he doesn’t live there – whether they work or not doesn’t really affect him – and the reality is sooner or later, the bank account will dry up, the food will be gone from the cupboard and they’ll learn their lesson on their own, right?

Why is Paul so worked up – over work? Well, as we look at our text today, it’s important to understand that the Thessalonians were influenced by a few outside sources. First, some Jews were raised believing that only those who studied the Scripture (like the scribes) were doing ‘good work.’ They encouraged the idea that there was a division between the sacred…. and the secular.

But, if you grew up in a Greek  household then you believed that work was demeaning and belonged only to slaves. For Greeks, work had nothing to do with faith, but more to do with social status.

And so like we mentioned earlier, for some Thessalonians they believed work was no longer necessary because Jesus was going to return any moment; and so as a result, they withdrew from work and became busybodies.

So I wanted to take a look at Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians and his philosophy on the work ethic and see what he had to say.

2 Thessalonians3:10 says If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

So the first thing is we need to: Develop a healthy work ethic

Psalm 104:23 Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.

Now does Paul mean that if you lost your job, and you’ve been searching for work for months, then you should just go hungry? No, Paul is talking about people who have purposefully removed themselves from the workforce and who have decided to live off others.  There is a organism like this in nature – the leach or the parasite. A life-form that literally exists by taking life from another.

In John 6 Jesus did this massive miracle of multiplying food and he fed 5,000 people and the next day the crowds found him again and sat down and listen to what Jesus says.

John 6:26 “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”

Jesus says, ‘you’re not interested in Holy things, or teaching, you’re just lazy and you want me to feed you.’

Next in v11 Paul says, ” For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” The American Plain English Bible says… “For we hear that there are some among you who walk wickedly and do not labor at all, but are worthless.”

There’s a story that says that a man approached St. Francis of Assisi as he was hoeing in a garden and they asked him, what he would do if he knew that he would die the next day. St. Francis said, “I’d keep hoeing the garden.” Because the reality is, work isn’t just the responsible thing to do, it’s actually a command from God.

We all remember the Sabbath rest is in the 10 Commandments, but there is another part to that verse.

Exodus 20:9 says Six days you shall labor, and do all your work.

So yes, we should preach the Sabbath and yes everyone needs some time off and some time away, but…. God also commands that we work; and we see the word command again in…

2 Thessalonians 3:12

Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

But the command to work doesn’t start there, it actually started in Genesis, its the whole reason humanity was made

Genesis 2:5-7

The Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to (what?) work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Later in v15 (the Bile says that) The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

and after it was all said and done….

Gen 1:28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Plus not only does God command us to work, but he actually models work for us, doesn’t he? God isn’t exempt from working, he isn’t the supervisor who only ‘supervises.’

Exodus 20:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them

Jesus said in John 5

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise…. “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

We worship a God who rolls up his sleeves and gets his hands dirty.

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Sober Up / a look at 1 Thessalonians

In a few short verses Paul is going to offer some “sobering advice.” He says in chapter 4,

1 Thess 4:17-18

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.

So to stay S.O.B.E.R. Paul says there is 5 things to do or be….

1. (be) Sentient – means to be altert, awake, to stand ready… 1 Thess 5:2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come / 1 Thess 5:6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

2. Observe – means to study ask questions, to not take things at face value, but to dig deep.  1 Thess 5:21 test everything; hold fast what is good

3. (be) Blissful – bliss is the state of continual worship, the peace and joy found with being a child of God.  1 Thess 5:16 Rejoice always,

4. Entreat (God in prayer) – entreat means to ask someone with intensity 1 Thess 5:17 pray without ceasing (in other words, don’t give up)

5. (give God) Recognition – Thank God for the blessings of life, give Him credit,

1 Thess 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances;

Paul says, “be sober.” The Coming of the Lord is a call to stay ready… but it is also a source of comfort and assurance because it gives us a view of death that is different from the rest of the world.

Let’s face it, The world lives in fear of death, stories and movies about death and dying are called HORROR. And for many, the subject of death is to be avoided – we just don’t want to talk about it.

Paul says in 1 Thess 4:13 that those people live like that because they have no hope

That’s the reality they live in whether they will honestly admit it or not.

An so Paul knows that people in the Thesalonian church are dying and he says, “comfort one another” – “I don’t want you to be uninformed” – because for Paul – there is nothing FINAL about death!

Even in death – there is hope – we have hope! Those that have passed – we will see them again – and when it is our turn, death is not the end – it is only the beginning.

When we did the Hymn sing, Mike almost did the unforgivable sin of singing Amazing Grace without singing v5. You never do that – everyone loves v5.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise. Than when we’d first begun.

Can you look down the road of life, with the second coming in your sights as not only a promise and a hope, but a certainty? When you sing v5 of Amazing Grace does it give you Goosebumps because you’re so excited?

Listen, there is a bigger future out ahead of us and it’s more than just a new house, or a new job or a new car.

There is more – so much more in store than the possibility of getting married, or retirement. What’s the one thing coming on the horizon that you are most looking forward to? A birthday? Seeing an old friend? A planned vacation? My goodness, are we aiming too low?

In C. S. Lewis’ wonderful books The Chronicles of Narnia, the characters who have lived in Narnia have completed their time and work there; and in a closing chapter Aslan, the lion (who represents Christ) has come for them in order to take them home. They are headed away from Narnia and as they enter Aslan’s territory, one of the characters cries out: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. …Come further up, come further in!”

I believe that when we enter Heaven, we will say, “This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.” And I don’t think it’s a sin to love the Earth or to love our lives, and I don’t think it’s bad to want to stay here or to cling to life for as long as we can – rather I think the reason why we love this world – is because sometimes it feels like the world to come. You know in the book of Revelation it says the future holds a new heaven and a new earth – a restored earth, a redeemed earth and a perfect earth – the place we were meant to live.

And on that day we will say with the Psalmist:

Psalm 16:6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

 

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