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.

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BSF Acts: Week 16 Lecture: 2 Thessalonians

Imagine that you are a teacher.   You and your fellow teachers learn that your school is going to be recognized as the best school in the nation.  The president is going to come to your school.  All of the TV stations will be there, there will be a parade and everyone will show up to applaud and cheer.  But, no one knows the exact date when the announcement is going to come.

Well, of course, you immediately bring your lawn chair, stop teaching and camp out in front of the school to get the very best seat for the show, right?

Of course not.  But that is what some of the Thessalonians were doing.  They heard Christ was going to come back and call all of His people to a very big party in the sky.  So, they decided to stop everything and camp out to get a good seat for the show.

In Paul’s first letter we heard him tell them to keep their focus on this reunion with Jesus.  But this week, while he is thrilled that they continue to grow in their faith, he is concerned they are spending too much time in the lawn chairs and not enough time doing the work of spreading the gospel.  But let’s get into what he writes:

1st Division: 2 Thes 1

Christ’s return constitutes a huge family reunion.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been on some cool rides at an amusement park, but I don’t think anything is going to compare to getting to surf on a cloud in the biggest party in the sky you ever imagined.

But this is a family reunion and only family members are welcome.  While everyone was invited, only those who chose get to come.  The rest – well – let’s say there is a big difference between clouds and smoke!

Who do you want to make sure is at the party?

Have you sent them a personal invitation by sharing the good news about Jesus with them?

Who do you need to pray for so they will decide to be part of the family of believers?

2nd Division: 2 Thes 2

Have you ever heard the term “sitting on the fence”?  It is not all that different than “keeping your options open.”  God isn’t so big on this.  He is offering the greatest gift anyone can imagine – He is offering to make us a brother to His only son: Jesus!  But some people go, “well, let me think about it – maybe I’ll see if there is anything better.”

Well, in the final days, God gets sick and tired of the fence sitting – he is going to make it so everyone chooses, one side or the other. Period, end.

How close are you living to the fence?

Is every part of your life on the right side of the fence?

3rd Division: 2 Thes 3

God did not make us to sit around – he made us to do work.  We are blobs of jello.  We have muscles and strength.  We have thoughts and words.  We had drive and initiative.  We are made to work.

Now, Paul is clear – we need to work.  That does not mean is against helping people in need.  And he clearly distinguishes between those who can vs those who will.  Someone who is unable to work has Paul’s full support and healing ministry.  Those who choose not to work, get a strict admonishen to do the work God called them to do.

Paul is not simply talking about working with our hands, but being engaged in work with others as the best place to demonstrate God’s message.  It is through mutual labor that we earn the ability to share a deeper work – the work of saving lost souls.

Did you put in a full day’s work today for God?

How would your performance evaluation go if it was time for your annual review?

God makes it so easy, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a part.  He calls people.  He sends us to them.  He gives us the words to say.  He sanctifies them with the Holy Spirit.  He strengthens and encourages us and protects us from the evil one.

Truly, we are nothing but the messenger service – but would you rather hear, “Good job”  or “I’m disappointed in you”?

BSF Acts: Week 16, Day 5: 2 Thessalonians 3

Summary: 3 parts to this scripture: (1) Paul’s request of prayer from the church to God that God’s glory be manifest (2) a warning and instruction to follow the instruction and work, with your hands doing kingdom work as a model to others (3) Closing focused on peace, grace and accuracy

Questions

12. a. Brothers, we ask you to pray and praise God for the work he has given us, the joy of communion with a body of servants of Christ and the opportunity to teach and spread the message unto young children.  Ask God to protect us from sickness and temptation to spend our team in anything other than that which brings glory to God.  And pray for your own strength that we might rejoice in the Lord for his blessings to you.
b. The dads and moms in BSF who bring their kids

13. 2Thes 3:9 – Where in my life do I purposefully abstain from things that are fully within my rights simply to be a model to developing Christians?  This is different than avoiding sin to be an example to others.  It is sacrifice.

14. (Challenge) Rev 13 – In the first letter Paul encouraged the young church to remain focused on our ultimate joy, reunification in body and spirit with Jesus.  He wanted them to understand that this is real and tangible and not some ethereal object.  Having learned that they took this to the extreme and decided to get out the lawn chairs and wait idley for the show to start, he provided further instruction to get back to work, there are some things that will come first.  The second did not change any of the key points of the first: stay focused, this is real and can occur on any day – but it also provided instruction on what to be actively doing in the interim.

Conclusion:

I was sad that BSF skipped the entire section about work in the middle of chapter 3.  I’m reading a book called Toxic Charity, which is akin to the book When Helping Hurts.  Both point out that our current method of providing aid is dis-empowering of those in need and creates dependency instead of support.  When we drop free food on a continued basis into an area, how can a farmer there make a living?  Now, Paul was clear about the difference between will and can.  Clearly the bible speaks to provide for those who do not have the ability to work.  And it does not ever speak against helping a brother in need.  But it does not teach us to take over and do all the work for those who are able.

More on this later, but I wish BSF had at least covered those verses with one question.

BSF Acts: Week 16, Day 4: 2 Thessalonians 2:13–17

Summary:

After a brief training on the “Man of Lawlessness,” Paul picks back up on his message from chapter 1.  Paul is overflowing with thanksgiving to God for these believers.  His longing for communion with them translates into praise to God for the report he has received on how they are growing in the glory of the Lord.  He glorifies and thanks God for them and encourages them to stay the path.

Questions:

9. a. God the Father chooses us.  God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us by becoming present in us.  My responsibility is to believe, have faith and, as a result, begin living an eternal life right now.

b. I cannot fail.  God does all the real work.  He chooses the person, he calls me to them, he gives me the words to speak, he opens their ears and their hearts.  They accept the gift.  I’m just the delivery man.

10. There are two key parts to vs 14, the first is the word share, also written as obtain in some translations.  This means it is personal, it is mine.  It is something given to me and I possess it as my own.  It isn’t loaned, it isn’t an unobtainable state to be sought, it is shared and I take it and not only does it become part of me, but I become a part in it.  The second part of the verse is specifically about what we are sharing, the object, “the glory of our Lord Jesus.”  One of the meanings in Strong’s dictionary for the Greek word Doxa, the word presented here for glory, is: “the glorious condition of blessedness into which is appointed and promised that true Christians shall enter after their Saviour’s return from heaven.”

11. I think there are several:  We are chosen, we are sanctified (transformed into something holy), we share (possess the glory of Christ), we are loved by God and all this is given through grace (not earned, not conditional on anything we can provide).

Conclusion:

I heard the most interesting compliment about one of the women’s group BSF teaching leaders in our town.  The person talking about her said, “she prays more than any person I know.”  What an amazing compliment and example.  We see it here in Paul’s letter as well.  This isn’t just a letter, it is a written document of praise to God.  Look at 2:13.  Paul says, “we ought always to thank God for you.”  He doesn’t say we ought regularly, daily, when we pray, while at church, during quiet time or anything of the sort.  He says we ought always to thank God for you.  I believe that one of the reasons Paul became such a voice to the church is because he was constantly in communication with God.

BSF Acts: Week 16, Day 3: 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12 with Revelation 13:6–13

Summary: 

2 Thessalonians 2:1–12

Paul describes the bold act of the “man of lawlessness” that will precede the return of Christ.   That he will exalt himself and place himself in God’s temple, claiming to be God.  And, he reinforces to them that work has already begin.  Paul does this to reassure the Thessalonians against false teaching and to not lose sight of Christ’s triumph.

Revelation 13:6–13

The time that the beast is given authority over the earth.  A time when there is no more agnostics, everyone takes a side – either God or the beast.  Then the second beast, the dragon comes out of the earth and performs great and miraculous signs.  All preceding the Day of the Lord.

Questions:

6. That day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction

7. He is a deceiver.  His authority is only that allowed to him, not anything he has of his own power.

8. a. Their refusal to love the truth and be saved.  A delusion, they believe the lie and delight in wickedness, bringing condemnation

b. Entering the gate of righteousness is a choice that is revealed to us to choose.  Other choices are abundant, there are thousands of other things we can serve and fall into depravity, but only one gate (Jesus) leads to God

c. A favorite hymn:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Conclusions:

The revelation of the gospel is not just for our curiosity or enjoyment, like an action movie, but it is there so that we are not deceived as we stand with Christ at the narrow gate, bringing the called into the house of God.  Paul’s emphasis is well noted, though. It is important to understand the events that will occur, but the important place to focus your eyes is not on the activities but on the outcome – Christ rules forever.

BSF Acts: Week 16, Day 2: 2 Thessalonians 1

Summary:

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians opens with prayer, praise and thanksgiving.  Paul also, as always, keeps the focus on the object of our faith, our reunion with Christ on the day of the Lord.

Questions:
3. a. Paul is grateful that their faith is growing, their love is increasing.  They show perseverance and faith in the face of persecution and trials.  Paul thanks God for these things because he understands that all of this comes from God, it is not by their own doing but only through the power and authority of God that these blessed things are occurring.
b. (Personal) I can see the maturity in my spiritual walk increasing this year.  I can see my faith and conviction to the word growing and my love for others expanding.  I am truly experiencing joy in seeing the legacy that I have been blessed to be a part of in helping teach 1st and 2nd graders about God – hopefully in a way that encourages them to stay in the word their entire lives.  I understand when Paul talks about the blessing he feels from God by being able to share the gospel with these new converts – it isn’t just a blessing to them.

4. Paul says:
a. Jesus will be revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He comes to punish and be glorified and marveled.
b. Christ is glorified IN his holy people and marveled at AMONG all who believe.
c. Punished with everlasting destruction, shut out from the presence of the Lord and cut off from the majesty of his power.

5. Paul prays that God may

  • count them worthy of his calling
  • fulfill every good purpose of theirs
  • fulfill every act prompted by faith
  • the name of our Lord Jesus glorified in them and them in him

Conclusion:

I was particularly struck by the prepositions in verse 10.  He comes to be glorified in his holy people and marveled at among all those who have believed.  I had always read this as: He comes to be glorified BY his holy people and marveled at by all those who have believed.  Being glorified “in and among” the body of believers is a completely different and richer meaning.

Jesus doesn’t require any further exaltation – he is already at the right hand of God.  He comes to reunite with the believers to raise the church up into glory with Him.  What a magnificent reunion that will be!

 

BSF Acts: Week 16, Day 1: Notes

“Drawing Christ’s life from Him by which to live every day is the secret of the entire Christian life.”

The Jews of Paul’s day, and frankly many religions today, think of the path of religion as a high wire.  Each day you step out onto the wire and do your best not to fall.  You walk the straight and narrow, living a life of balance and moderation.  The winds of change and temptation provide challenges to your walk.

But the notes present a different kind of wire available to the Christian.  Ours is a wire to recharge and power up.  The wire isn’t legalistic rules, it is faith that keeps us connected to the ultimate power source – the creator of the entire universe.  We live by faith, we receive Christ by faith, we draw strength and hope and assurance of a resurrection life through faith.  We share this faith by showing others how to plug in and receive the power.  We help them plug into the word, the church and the spirit of God.