Thankful Living [11-13-22]




Paul mentions the word, gospel, four times in the first sixteen verses of 1 Thessalonians 2. What is this gospel of which he speaks? Simply put, the gospel is God's Word and God's salvation in Jesus Christ. To respond to God's Word and God's promise of salvation in Jesus Christ is glory and joy and reward. God has said, from the beginning of creation, "Here is the way." For those who accept this gospel there is life. There is a dividing line running through all of human history. It separates the sweet from the bitter…the glory from the shame…the blessing from the cursing…the reward from the punishment. And this dividing line is drawn by that which Paul mentions four times - the gospel.


As we move to today's passage, here's something you might want to write remember:

PAUL IS WRITING TO THE REDEEMED.


Now, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-16:

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 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. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 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. 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 from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, 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.

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. For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved - so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!


First, before we get to the wonderfulness of this passage, let's look at its context.


Paul, Silas, and Timothy only stayed in Thessalonica a short time. It was a

very pagan city. Both a seaport and major trade route, there were all kinds

of influences and worldviews hustling in and out of the region. It was filled with the worst kind of wickedness. It was a hotbed of religious fakery, quackery, and empty promises. In many ways, you could say it was not dissimilar from our culture today.


A church sprang up in that culture. Believers met in the synagogue and in homes. Paul was only there a few short weeks, so their opportunity to hear the gospel was quite limited. Yet even in that short amount to time, they believed. As Paul wrote in verse thirteen, "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." How beautiful is that? I thank God everyday for the people of Covenant Church, and how deep and sincere is our walk with Jesus Christ.


The news about Thessalonica was all good. They had all the evidence of genuine faith. As Paul thanks God for them, his heart is filled with gratitude. I love how one author put it…they were a people to be glad for. I cannot not think of those words when I think of our church. Paul will

later write about them:

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you - for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.

- 1 Thessalonians 3:6-7

It is blessing beyond measure to be part of a church of sincere believers who are growing in their faith. Again, a people to be glad for.


Life ought to be a constant cycle of thanksgiving. It's what Paul does. And it's what we do. A common refrain from Paul is thanking God daily for the people in his life. We thank God for what He has done for us in Jesus Christ. We thank Him for the faith He gave us. We thank God for other believers. We thank God for choosing us to follow Jesus. We thank God for nurturing a growing faith in our lives. We thank God for our place of worship. We thank God for a community to love and serve. We are a church to be glad for. This is the work God is doing for us and through us

and in us. How could we ever not be thankful?

God is working in us in big ways. That's why we live lives of thanksgiving.


Here's what I've found works in my life, to maintain an attitude of thanksgiving. It's such a little thing, but when done daily, it keeps me focused on gratitude. I call it the "Chick-fil-A" protocol. When people thank me, I almost always say, "My pleasure." It fixes your mind on an attitude of gratitude. Never, "No problem." That phrase out to be banished from one's vocabulary. On Halloween, every kid who said, "Thank you," {which was almost every single one} got a "My pleasure," or, "No, thank you" back in reply. One little dude, when I said, "My pleasure," said to his dad, as they walked away, "He didn't say 'You're welcome.'" To which dad replied, "He did, but in a different way." We all need to be out there, working our attitude of gratitude.


With that in mind, let's now look at the three primary reasons Paul is thankful.


First, and this was the starting point of his gladness, Paul was thankful for their reception of the Word. The Word of God performed its work in them. It grew them in faith. It informed what they did and believed. Now understand, these believers were harassed and persecuted because they refused to embrace the pagan culture. They wouldn't go along to get along. That's how much they cherished God's Word. The word Paul used for received, "paralambano," refers to an outward appropriation of something heard. They heard what he had to say as something from God. So it was incorporated into the lives. They lived out of what they heard. And so, because of that, they stood firm within a wicked and corrupt culture.


I love, love, love how faithful Covenant Church is with the Word of God. In conversations and Bible studies and feedback I receive throughout the year, I see how we put nothing above the Bible for faith and practice. There's another word Paul uses in verse thirteen, "dechomai." It means to kindly welcome, to approve, to embrace, to follow, to receive through learning. These people were so sincere in honoring God's Word, it was written on their hearts. I love that so much about our church. When we read of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - those aren't

just words to you. They are lifestyle choices. Amen?


Here's the second cause for Paul's gladness:

They Became Imitators of What Other Believers Were Doing.

In other words, they followed the godly example of others. For Paul and Timothy and Silas, it was leading by solid teaching and example. And not only the example of Paul and Timothy and Silas, but also word of believers from other churches must have made its way to Thessalonica.


We can look back to verses three through five to see one of the main reasons the Thessalonians knew they could trust the example set by Paul and others:

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 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. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor

with a pretext for greed - God is witness.

There was honesty and integrity in what Paul was teaching.


How many of you know who Thomas Sowell is? He's a political and economic writer who, at the age of 92, is still productive. Anything you read by him, your worldview will be embiggened. Here's something he recently wrote:

"WHEN YOU WANT TO HELP PEOPLE, YOU TELL THEM THE TRUTH. WHEN YOU WANT TO HELP YOURSELF, YOU TELL THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR."

That's the point Paul made 2,000 years ago. Then, and now, there were plenty of scammers and grifters whose words tickled people's ear. Selfish motivation can bring in the crowds and the dollars. But Paul was all about gospel truth.


Here's something worth remembering. Rather than the newest shiny thing, we need:

Solid Biblical teaching and examples of faithful living from generations past.

Simply put, it is honest interpretation of God's Word and faithful living. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.


To make this point, the word Paul used in verse three, translated as deceive, originally referred to catching fish by using bait. To put it another way, Paul said he didn't reel in any suckers who foolishly swallowed the bait of a deceitful message hook, line, and sinker. We know all too well of that approach today.


First, the Thessalonians were receptive to the Word of God. Second, they followed the example of other believers. And third:

THEY PERSEVERED IN SUFFERING.

We've already touched on that a bit in how their pagan community made life miserable for them. And they knew of the suffering of other believers in other places, and that inspired them to stand firm.


Here's something crucial for us to understand. In verse fourteen, when Paul says, "For you suffered the same things…as they did," he is reminding us that when we suffer, we're not the first to ever suffer. All people suffer loss or hardship or set-back or pain or difficulty or dark, gloomy times. Suffering is common to the human experience. Others have gone before you who set the pattern for perseverance in suffering. And you get to do the same for others. That's why the Bible says, "In all things, be thankful." Also, there's this:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

- Philippians 4:4-7


Here is real Christianity. Devotion to Jesus Christ, regardless of the cost. Faithfulness to God's Word, despite cultural pressure to conform and fit in. Willingly entering the narrow gate in order to walk the narrow path. Daring to be different from the culture around you. Every day we thank God for what He's doing in the life of Covenant Church. We cherish the truth of God's Word. We honor the saints by learning from them how to endure difficulties. We are glad for who we are and how God continues to work in our lives. Every day I pull into this parking lot, I thank God for the people of Covenant Church.

Let's Pray:

FATHER, THANK YOU THAT YOU HAVE MADE US A PEOPLE FOR REJOICING, NOT A PEOPLE FOR SORROW. LORD, INCREASE OUR HUNGER FOR YOUR WORD. GROW US IN LOVE FOR EACH OTHER AND OUR COMMUNITY. INCREASE IN US OUR COMMITMENT TO ENDURE AND PERSEVERE IN SUFFERING SO THAT WE WILL BE A CHURCH THAT HONORS ALL YOU HAVE DONE FOR US IN JESUS CHRIST. SOLI DEO GLORIA! AMEN.