Fear and Faith

As we read the letters to the Thessalonian believers we see a continued message of “do not fear” and “strengthen your faith”.  Fear and faith. 

The early church had much they could fear: persecution, jail, lack of understanding, lack of trained teachers available daily, lack of access to scripture, misinformation, lies and outright attacks by Satan.  But Paul again and again strives to set their mind on one thing – the goal – the second coming of Christ.

I recently read a small book called The Shark and the Goldfish by Jon Gordon.  It is a motivational book targeted to help people who are going through major life changes (such as loss of a job).  The basic message is that what we sometimes see as falling off the edge of a cliff is nothing more than one side of a wave picking us up and putting us somewhere else that God needs us to be. 

The reason I bring it up is this dialogue between Sammy (the mentor) and Gordy: 

“Do you know what fear and faith have in common?” asked Sammy.

“The letter F,” answered Gordy.

“Nice try,” said Sammy.  “What fear and faith have in common is a future that hasn’t happened yet.  Fear believes in a negative future.  Faith believes in a positive future.  Interestingly enough, both believe in something that hasn’t happened yet.”

An interesting thought that living in fear requires just as much belief as living in faith.  But for fear the power behind that belief is from within man’s nature and darkness that dwells there.  We even say, being afraid is just human nature.  Whereas the power behind the belief in faith – in a positive future –  is God’s Holy Spirit. 

Fear isn’t something to be battled and overcome.  It is a wrong perspective to be replaced with the correct one: Faith.  You don’t need more belief to have faith, just different belief.

BSF Acts: Week 15, Day 5: 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11

Summary:

Do not lose hope or mourn the dead.  The promise of Jesus’ return and the reunion with him is not only for living believers, but for all, living and dead in a trumpet shout and majesty.

Questions:

12. a.  The Lord’s return is for all believers, living and dead.  Jesus’ promise of reunion is for all and, in fact, those who pass from this life experience the reunion first.
b. The magnitude of the reunion and yet that it will be a personal experience.  The power of the trumpet call of God and the eternity that it begins.
13. Belong to the day, wear faith and hope as armament, as something we physically put on each day for protection and strength.

14. a.  Give two points with verses (chapter 5). To light and to salvation (v5 and v9)
b. To suffer wrath
c. Encouraged because as I spend more time with God and in His love I grasp more fully the wrath that I so rightly deserve.  The fact that God who is loving and fair understand this so much more immensely and deeply than I do, yet, appoints me to receive a gift of salvation.

Conclusion:

What does it mean to belong to the day?  I think there are 2 aspects to this.  The first and most obvious is to live a life of transparency, as if all we do is in public, in the light.  In other words, if we are doing something we don’t want others to know about or see, then we are not living in the light, but in darkness.  However, it also means that we belong to the day of the Lord.  That everything about my life today should be pointed at and longing for today to be the day that the trumpet blows and Jesus comes to claim him believers from this world for an eternal reunion party.

BSF Acts: Week 15, Day 2: 1 Thessalonians 1 with Acts 17:1–10

Summary:  Interesting that we left last week discussing encouragement.  1 Thessalonians is a book overflowing with encouragement for a growing church.  You’re doing great, stay the course.  Stay true to what we modeled and taught you.  Challenge yourself to do more, grow more, love more, give more.  Stay assured and true.  There is also a repeating message of hope, hope for the family of believers, brothers and sisters, and hope for a reunion with Christ upon His return.

3.

1 Thes 1:10″and to wait for his Son from heaven”

2:19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?

3:13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

4:15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

5:2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Their strength came from the gospel, which they received and lived out withe the power of  the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.
5.  1:3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.   Because this is the perfect eulogy.  What better thing could anyone say at your funeral

Conclusion: 1 Thessalonians is such a notable and encouraging book because it is so multi-faceted.  It provides a stable base to build on.  It provides a vision of what is to come.  It reinforces and strengthens the existing foundation and structure.  It encourages and admonishes continued growth.  It warns of pitfalls and concerns.  It beams love.

BSF Acts: Week 15, Day 4: 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12; 5:12–28

Summary

Faith is not just words that we say or a oath that we take.  It isn’t just an intellectual endeavor.  Faith is a changed life.  Faith is being brought into a new family.  Faith is being filled with the spirit and love of God and immediately beginning an eternal life, different that the ways of this world.

Questions
10. a.  The way we live our lives.  To be sanctified. To avoid sexual immorality.  To be holy and honorable.  To lead a quiet life, mind your own business, work with your hands. To acknowledge those who work hard and hold them in high regard.  To live in peace.  To warn those who are idle, encourage the disheartened, help the weak and be patient.  Strive to do what is good for everyone.  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.  Reject evil.
b. They are opposite.  Current culture says focus on yourself only, look out for number 1.  Do what is fun and enjoyable.  Gossip and rumor and leisure are the entertainment of the day.
c. To warn the idle, encourage the disheartened and help the weak and most importantly – to be patient.  I very much need more patience with people.
11. a.  To give thanks in all circumstances.  Paul is such a great example of extreme persecution and extreme joy and rejoicing.
b. Through the holy spirit, through prophecy (the word of God), through God himself and the peace he provides.  Through God’s faithfulness.  Our responsibility is to not quench the spirit, to test the messages provided to us and hold to what is good.  To accept God’s strength.

Conclusion:

There are significant rewards to living a life pleasing to God.  Not something earned by this work, but in the same way that a father shows praise and encouragement to a good report card.  The love doesn’t come from the work, but it provides an opportunity to demonstrate it.

BSF Acts: Week 15, Day 3: 1 Thessalonians 2–3

Summary:  These central chapters of this book focus on the specific, personal, loving connection the authors have for the recipients of the letter.  This is family.  This is and overflowing love.

Questions:

6.

2:2 with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel

2:4 speek as thos approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel

2:7-8 cared for as a nursing mother, shared not only gospel but lives as well

2:9 Not a burden

2:10 holy righteous and blameless

2:12-13 As a father: encouraging, comforting and urging

3:10 Night and day we pray earnestly
7. a.  We are destined for trials and persecution.  But greater angst is in concern for other believers and greater joy comes from encouraging reports of them.
b.  Whenever I begin to feel that I stand strong on faith, challenges occur, discipline ebbs, energy wains.  My spirit is strengthened by the gospel and family of Christ, but that does not mean I don’t suffer temptation, weakness, doubt and fear.
8. a. 3:1 When we could stand it no longer.  3: 12 make your love overflow for each other and for everyone else as ours does for you.
b. Both are true, but in comparison, I am so reserved in my love for others.  I feel the love for fellow believers, particularly those I share with through BSF (especially the kids), but does it overflow?  Do I reach the point that “I could stand it no longer?”  I’m much more reserved and would love to be more free.
9.  A strong heart, strengthened by God, overflowing with love and waiting in anticipation for the return of Christ.

Conclusion: I am amazed by the love Paul felt.  I have felt homesick and longed to be back with family.  This is the closest I can relate to the feelings that Paul is expressing.  He not only calls the Thessalonian believers brothers and sisters, but he longs to reconnect and commune with them exactly like a mother or father longs to be with their family.