Awake or Asleep, We Live with the Lord

But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. I Thessalonians 5:4-6

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. I Thessalonians 5:8

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:9-11

A child born into, or adopted into, a family has a distinct place within that family; he “belongs together with” other family members. He shares a home, family values and family traditions with other family members while developing his own individual and unique character, personality and interests. Everyone lives and works together in community, yet each one retains his own individuality. The same is true for those adopted into God’s family. Each of God’s adopted children has a distinct place within the family structure and each one belongs together with the others. 

Our goal, individually and as a community, is to grow more Christ-like while advancing God’s kingdom. We participate in family life while simultaneously developing our unique personality and gifts. Awake in life or asleep in death, we belong to the Lord and will live together with Him at His return. Be prepared and ready; help others be prepared as well. Shake off sleep’s stupor. Walk in God’s light as God’s children of light. Mutually encourage and build up one another. Are you stouthearted and strong? Help the weak and the fainthearted. Encourage the unruly. Hold fast to truth.

Staying steadfast in the Lord, especially during persecution, is impossible without the Spirit’s help; allow nothing to quench His fire. Armed with the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of hope, we receive strength to face life’s circumstances. The certainty that in life, or in death, we are the Lord’s possession enables us to rejoice always, allows us to pray unceasingly and makes it possible for us to be thankful in everything. The God of peace Himself sanctities us completely, keeps and preserves us, spirit, soul, and body, blameless at the Lord’s coming. Trust God. Endure. 

A People with a Purpose

from Lynda Lindsey

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you,  and 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 your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. I Thessalonians 3:11-13

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. I Thessalonians 4:1

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you.  I Thessalonians 4:7

Holy God called us from darkness into His marvelous light and set us apart as a people for His own possession for a purpose: that we might proclaim His excellencies. Set apart for the purpose of spreading His light into a dark world, we can no longer live to please ourselves; we live to please God who not only calls us to be holy and to love others, He calls us to increase and abound in love and holiness. To live otherwise is to compromise our credibility as reliable witnesses. God gives us the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to enable us to do what we are powerless to do on our own. 

Holiness involves being simultaneously connected and separated; we’re connected to God, our holiness source, and at the same time we’re separated from a way of life God declares impure and unholy. Paul, reiterating God’s command, demands we conform to God’s standard of holy living in order to please God and to be found pure and blameless when Christ returns. Paul assures us that it is the Lord who establishes the work in our hearts that begins the transforming process. God begins the work; as we cooperate with Him, our actions reveal the transformation He is working within us. 

The work-in-progress that conforms us to Christ is ongoing. Adopted into God’s family, our minds renewed and transformed, we no longer mindlessly accept our culture’s beliefs; we submit ourselves to God and allow Him to conform us to His higher standards. To disregard God’s call to holiness by satisfying our worldly appetites is to reject and turn our back on the One who gave His life to atone for our sin, the One who gave us His Holy Spirit to help us. Live into your purpose. Don’t just embrace love and holiness; increase and abound more and more in love and holiness. 

Victory Crowns

from Lynda Lindsey

Because we wanted to come to you——I, Paul, again and again——but Satan hindered us. 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.  I Thessalonians 2:18-20

And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. I Thessalonians 2:17

For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. I Thessalonians 3:8

The Thessalonians continuance in the gospel and their love for one another and the Lord, despite the shortness of Paul’s original stay, gave Paul great joy. The Thessalonians steadfast adherence to the gospel was Paul’s reward for his ministry among his beloved spiritual children, as if they were Paul’s victory crown. Victorious warriors returning from battle, as well as distinguished athletes, received a victor’s crown as a prize for special achievements. Paul’s utmost hope and joy, his crown, was that his converts would be found faithful to Christ at the Lord’s return. 

Paul didn’t depend on earthly possessions or ease of living for fulfillment; Paul’s life had meaning when his converts stood fast in the Lord. Paul yearned after his newly converted flock and sought to encourage the persecuted believers to remain unmoved in afflictions, because affliction is the destiny of Christ-followers. Soldiers in that day who displayed unusual valor received public acclaim. Besides receiving a victor’s crown, they were excused from performing community service, had reserved places at public events, and people stood in homage as they walked past.

Those honors were a far cry from the shameless treatment God’s heroes received;  they were beaten, publicly reviled, hindered by Satan, mocked, imprisoned, and stoned. Yet, Christians rejoice at the high privilege of serving Christ and advancing His kingdom. Secure in our reserved place in heaven, we seek Christ’s approval, not man’s homage. Christ’s return is our sure hope. Some future day we will receive our reward, a crown of unfading, imperishable glory. Until that day comes, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for labor in His fields is never in vain!

Boldness in God to Proclaim the Gospel of God

from Lynda Lindsey

But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. I Thessalonians 2:2

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.  I Thessalonians 2:13

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 1 Corinthians 9:16

The gospel is worthy of bold proclamation; Paul was up to the task. Paul first came to Thessalonica boldly preaching God’s gospel shortly after his imprisonment in Philippi, where he and Silas had been falsely accused, beaten, and thrown into the inner prison, their feet locked into stocks. Paul’s unshakable commitment to the gospel stemmed from his obedience to God’s call. God entrusted His Good News to Paul and Paul honored God’s trust, being prepared and ready to preach courageously in any and all circumstances.  

In addition to proclaiming the gospel boldly, regardless of circumstances, Paul demonstrated other authentic marks of a true preacher. Paul preached the gospel to honor and please God, not man, and with genuine love and care for those he addressed. Paul shared more than information, he shared his heart and life and allowed his conduct to demonstrate the validity of his message. Paul, not greedy, not demanding, worked hard among the Thessalonians to avoid being a financial burden. Like a father with young children, Paul gently exhorted and encouraged his friends to walk worthy of God. 

The gospel, worthy of bold proclamation, is also worthy of courageous and fearless reception; it requires laying down one’s life. Few are called to preach vocationally, but all believers are entrusted with the gospel, to receive the gospel not as man’s words, but as it is, the living, powerful, life-changing Word of God. Embrace the gospel, imitate Christ, imitate Paul, and spread the Good News. In our own way, in our own communities, the gospel goes forth as we live intentionally for Christ. Walk worthy of God; be prepared and ready. Boldly proclaim, boldly receive the gospel.

Work of Faith, Labor of Love, Steadfastness of Hope

from Lynda Lindsey

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope our Lord Jesus Christ. I Thessalonians 1:2-3

For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. I Thessalonians 1:4-5(a)

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, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. I Thessalonians 1:9-10

Believers are called to work faithfully, labor lovingly, and be steadfast in hope, fully believing and expecting God to fulfill His every promise, especially the fact that once we are chosen by God, we are His beloved possession for eternity. Paul wrote the Thessalonians, in part, to reassure them that he, their spiritual father, prays for them, to commend their hard work in the Lord’s service, and to remind them that they who had turned from idols to Christ, would not face God’s judgment. The young church was  persecuted and afflicted; Paul encourages them to persevere and stand fast.  

The gospel, delivered by faithful preachers and teachers, doesn’t come with mere words; the gospel comes with energy and transforming power from the Holy Spirit to teach, correct, and train us to live in accordance with God. The gospel, delivered and received with assurance and power, convicts of sin and unrighteousness. As we yield to the Spirit’s direction, our outward behavior shows evidence of inward change just as a ship changes direction and comes around at the captain’s orders. Godly change gives evidence of genuine faith. 

Sincere love and faith result in spiritual growth. Like new seedlings, we experience setbacks, but overall we’re moving towards maturity. We were once unloving, without hope; now we’re filled with Christ’s love and hope. We once experienced only fleeting happiness and now-and-then-contentment; now we know deep joy and lasting peace. We once lived impatiently, selfishly grabbing everything for ourselves; now we live for Christ and His kingdom. Filled with faith, hope, and love, we labor steadfastly as servants of the Lord, fully confident of all God’s promises.

The Lord Takes Thought of Us

from Lynda Lindsey

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:20-21

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.  Psalm 40:2

You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with You! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. Psalm 40:5    

As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God! Psalm 40:17

There is never a time when God isn’t thinking about us; we are always in God’s thoughts and on God’s heart. God, always merciful, always faithful, is mindful of our every weakness; moment by moment the Lord takes thought for us and multiplies His thoughts and deeds toward us; it’s impossible to count, or to tell, the vast number of times God has acted on our behalf. The Lord’s steadfast love never ceases; He constantly watches over us and showers us with new mercies every morning. He hears our cries and bends down to rescue us from destruction. 

God multiplies not just His thoughts for us, He multiples His wondrous deeds towards us. He draws us up from darkness into light, out of sin’s tenacious hold and sets our feet on the sold rock of Jesus. God puts a new song in our mouth, a song of praise that spills from lips eager to recount His mercies. There is no evil or wickedness that can ultimately overpower us, for God is our help and deliverer; He will not, He cannot fail. God, knowing our frailty, greatly delights in welcoming and restoring repentant sinners into fellowship with Him; nothing can restrain His mercy.  

God is mindful of our joys and sorrows to the extent that He figuratively captures our tears in a bottle. He loves us so much it’s as if He has our name engraved on His palms. This God who is for us and not against us, will never forget us. So, delight to do His will. He’s given us a new song; sing it! Walk humbly. Do all the good He has ordained. Proclaim His praises at all times and in all ways. Serve others out of the overflow of His love. Seek Him with rejoicing. He who created us, formed us, and knows our name can be trusted.