Introduction: We can sum-up 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13 as Paul’s reminder to the Thessalonians of the effectiveness and unselfishness of his Gospel labors among them. Why did he defend himself in this way? Certainly not to promote himself! He was actually prompted by the Holy Spirit to stir up memories of God’s faithfulness in order to give courage to the Christians receiving this letter. It is always the job of the Holy Spirit to remind the Church of the authentic power and boldness of Gospel ministry and of the Gospel truths which form the basis of her new-found faith. Let us learn this week to celebrate the power of the Holy Spirit to make us bold in our witness, even as prior generations of Christians were empowered by the ministry of the Holy Spirit to take costly stands for the truth in their day. As hymn # 578 puts it in our Trinity Hymnal:
|The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood red banner streams afar:
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below,
He follows in His train.
|A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Savior’s throne rejoice,
In robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of Heav’n,
Through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be given,
To follow in their train.
Monday/Tuesday: read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6 and Luke 21:14-15. In the opening verses of 1 Thess. 2, the Holy Spirit reminds the Thessalonians of what they already knew of Paul’s terrible treatment at the hands of the Philippian government officials, followed (amazingly) by Paul’s boldness to declare that same Gospel “all over again” in Thessalonica. According to 1 Thess. 2:2, Paul declared the Gospel in the face of “much opposition,” or literally “many agonies.”
What does such boldness teach us? Well, we learned last week that such willingness on Paul’s part to persist in preaching when it resulted in such suffering was proof of the authenticity of his labors for Christ. But there is more to it than that. Paul wants to remind the Thessalonians of what little effect the world’s hostility has on the Gospel. In other words, the Holy Spirit remains unmoved by all the threats and abuse which a hostile world pours upon the witnessing church. He will ensure that there are always preachers to declare the truth to a world which does not want to hear it. Just as God protected Noah and by His Spirit enabled him to “preach righteousness” for decades until the flood came (2 Peter 2:5 & 9), so God by His Spirit enables each generation of Christians to hold to and proclaim the truth.
How do we know this? Well, Jesus promised in Luke 21:15 that His followers would not lack the words or wisdom they would need when called upon to witness to their faith in the Lord Jesus – even when on trial for their lives! Church history shows that this promised aid to speak the truth was not confined to the Apostles only. In every period of persecution, God raises up bold witnesses from lowly and unlikely places! From slaves and peasants to noblemen; from children to the infirm and elderly: All sorts of “uneducated” and unimpressive people does God use to confound the hostility and the learning of unbelieving men. Isn’t that what amazed the Jewish leaders who crucified Christ – to behold in Acts 4:13 those unlearned fishermen, John and Peter, speaking with boldness and power? What was and is the age-old answer to such consistent courage to stand for the truth no matter how many oppose it? Acts 4:13 tells us: “They took note that these men had been with Jesus.” God grant that men may say the same of us as the Holy Spirit of God brings the very Presence of our Savior increasingly into our lives.
Meditate and Pray: Lord, please increase the boldness of your church, that we in our day might not waver in our commitment to and witness for the Gospel. Give us grace to depend on you entirely when we are called upon to “give an answer for the hope we have.” We ask for such boldness, words and wisdom. In the Name of Jesus, “the Faithful and True Witness,” Amen.
Wednesday: read 1 Thessalonians 2:4-10. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that there are multiple witnesses to his Apostolic work. Not only are they witnesses to the integrity of his ministry: God is witness as well, as Paul declares in 1 Thess. 2:5 & 2:10. This makes Gospel endeavor much more serious for all of us, doesn’t it? Just as Paul is charged by God Himself to carry out his calling “without error, impure motives, trickery or greed” in 1 Thess. 2:3-5, so we are to be challenged by God’s constant evaluation of our work. Do you remember how Paul charged Timothy “before the elect angels” in 1 Tim. 5:21? Ah, dear Christian, our every word and deed done in Jesus’ Name have a far larger audience than we can see with our eyes! May God make us careful of every word that comes from our mouth and sober as we seek to fulfill our Christian duties!
Meditate and Pray: Use the words of hymn # 602 as a prayerful reminder of God’s watchful eye:
|O God, Thou faithful God,
Thou fountain ever flowing,
Without whom nothing is,
All perfect gifts bestowing,
Grant me a healthy frame,
And give me, Lord, within,
A conscience free from blame,
A soul unstained by sin.
Keep me from saying words
|If dangers gather round,
Still keep me calm and fearless;
Help me to bear the cross
When life is dark and cheerless,
To overcome my foe
With words and actions kind;
When counsel I would know,
Good counsel let me find.
Thursday: read 1 Thessalonians 2:4-12 and Luke 12:32. The fact that God is the observer of all our works of Christian service is exceedingly terrifying when we consider how flawed our deeds done for Christ always are! But that is to treat God as a Judge after our own hearts: hearts which sadly are much more proficient at pointing out each other’s deficiencies than rejoicing in each other’s graces. Jesus’ own words correct our tendency to make God like ourselves in our harsh, criticizing nature when He declares that it is the Father’s pleasure to give us the Kingdom in Luke 12:32. What do such words mean? They mean that, whereas we often give begrudgingly, God gives out of His pleasure and delight. Does this mean that God simply overlooks and weakly indulges us in our lusts and many flaws as Christians? Far from it. He is, after all, the God who is determined to sanctify us “spirit, soul and body,” as 1 Thess. 5:23 says. But it does mean, as Ed Welch puts it in his book, Running Scared, that, whereas…
“We certainly wouldn’t open the treasury to indifferent or treasonous people, even if they were our children, God not only opens the doors to the entire kingdom, He is delighted to do so!”
Meditate and Pray: Thank God again for His willingness to invite not the self-righteous and strong to the banquet of His Kingdom – but the “poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…” (Luke 14:13). Thank Him, moreover, that this invitation to enjoy His grace continues to be given to us (according to 1 Thess. 2:12) all our lives long. In other words, we have a great incentive to holy, bold and even joyful Christian living knowing that God continually calls and recalls us from discouragement and fear to our places of favor in His Kingdom. In terms of Psalm 23, He invites us each day to sit down anew at His royal table of refreshing grace, having prepared it “in the presence of our enemies!” Let us therefore each day cry out in our troubles, “Lord, remember me in your Kingdom.” And each day He will in turn respond with that ever-present invitation and promise: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Friday: read 1 Thessalonians 2:13-14 and John 14:26. No matter how sweet Christ’s invitation or promise to us, we easily forget His words when the intimidating threats of sin, Satan and the world increase. If it were left up to us in our distracted and fearful state, God’s promises would easily leak right out of our recollection. The “flesh” of that muscle we call the brain is indeed “weak” – especially when we face what the Thessalonians faced in 1 Thess. 2:14, namely, suffering from our own countrymen and unbelieving loved ones! How easily even one jab against our faith can cause our grip on the promises of God to slip! In our panic, we are so quick to forget what God has said!
But thanks be to God: His Word continues to “work in us who believe,” as 1 Thess. 2:13 promises. In particular, that Word is frequently brought to our minds because it is the Holy Spirit’s job to “remind” us of everything the Lord has said, as John 14:26 promises. Now, to be sure, there was a direct fulfillment of John 14:26 in the lives of the Apostles who founded the church and wrote the Gospels. They experienced the Spirit’s “reminding” ministry by direct inspiration and were thereby enabled to recall all the Gospel events surrounding Jesus’ life on earth. But there is also no question that the Holy Spirit also works to “remind” us of all God in Christ has said and done! With the Psalmist, we can resolve to recall the years of the right hand of the Most High… (and)… remember the deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 77:10).
Meditate and Pray: Sing about the Holy Spirit’s great “reminding” ministry in our lives with the help of hymn # 5:
God, my King, Thy might confessing,
Ever will I bless Thy Name;
Day by day Thy throne addressing,
Still will I Thy praise proclaim.
Nor shall fail from memory’s treasure
Works by love and mercy wrought;
Works of love surpassing measure,
Works of mercy passing thought.
Full of kindness and compassion,
Slow to anger, vast in love,
God is good to all creation;
All His works His goodness prove.