Resources For A Strong Faith
RESOURCES FOR A STRONG FAITH
1 Thess. 2:13-3:5
When I first started as a minister, every time someone was baptized I would write their name down in the front of my Bible.
- But do you know what the sad truth is…less than half of these people that I wrote down are still walking with Christ.
And that is something I try to tell every new born babe in Christ.
- The last thing that Satan wants is for any new Christian to survive.
- He will do everything within his power to try and destabilize them.
- To try to stop them from being faithful to Christ.
- Because if he can do that, then he has once again caused them to be lost.
- In fact, 2 Peter 2:20 says that “if they have once escaped the defilements of the world, and then are again entangled in them and are over come, the last state is worse for them than the first.”
- So, Satan will do whatever he can to destabilize them and get them to turn from the faith.
To keep that from happening, God supplies some resources to help, not only new Christians, but any Christian, to remain settled…and steadfast when Satan does attack.
- And in this passage that was read the apostle Paul mentions 5 of those resources.
- Let’s look at them and learn what will help us, not only the new Christians, but all of us to remain stable in the face of trials and temptations.
- To begin, let me give you the background.
When Paul wrote this letter he wrote to encourage some new Christians.
- If you remember, Paul and Silas had gone to Thessalonica…and after Paul had preached there for 3 Sabbaths…he and Silas were forced to leave town.
He goes to Berea and preaches there…but once again, the Jews from Thessalonica stir up a mob and Paul has to leave again.
- He leaves Berea and eventually finds himself in Athens.
The whole time however, Paul is concerned about the new Christians in Thessalonica.
- So he writes this letter to them.
Now, at the time of this writing…these people in Thessalonica have been Christians for less than a year.
- No one in this body of Christ at Thessalonica can tell you what it is like to grow up in the church…because every one of them is a recent convert.
And notice who is busy trying to destabilize this situation and destroy these Christians and their faith. Look at verse 18. Paul says: For we wanted to come to you– I, Paul, more than once– and yet Satan thwarted us.
And look at chapter 3: 5. Paul says: For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor should be in vain.
If you look at verse 14 of chapter 2 Paul mentions the persecution and suffering that these brethren were experiencing at the hand of their “own countrymen.”
- And in verse 18 Paul indicates that his “circumstances” didn’t allow him to come to them.
- But the real culprit behind the Jews and the circumstances…was Satan.
- Satan was trying to destabilize these new Christians and recapture them.
Now, let me make a point here.
- Paul realizes who is really keeping him from coming back to Thessalonica…and he knew who was really behind the suffering and persecution that was taking place at the hands of the Jews.
- Satan was.
And that’s who is behind those things that hinder us…and behind the persecution and much of the suffering that we experience.
- Sometimes I hear someone say, “We didn’t make it to church because we wanted to sleep in.”
- Satan has convinced them that that excuse is ok…and they are playing right into his hands.
“Brother Pete made me mad and hurt my feelings.”
- “We were up late last night and just couldn’t get out of bed.”
- “Couldn’t get the kids around fast enough.”
- “We are just going through some really hard times right now…so we didn’t make it Sunday.”
- When people do that Satan has got them right where he wants them.
You and I may be the one who is making the excuse and who is reasoning the wrong way…but Satan is the one who is really behind it…he has found access into our hearts.
- He has deceived us into justifying our actions.
- And the whole time we are doing it he is cheering us on.
We must remember that there is another force at work in this world!
- I had a man tell me recently that God must be mad at him because his wife is sick and everything is falling apart.
That is exactly what Satan does. He wants you and I to blame God!
- We must realize that there is a powerful evil force at work in this world.
- Even our Lord was tempted by that force in the wilderness.
- And we must stay true to God because He is the only One who can help us overcome all that Satan tries to do.
So Satan was trying to unsettle these Christians and turn them away. But God provided them, as well as us, some resources to keep that from happening. Let me show you what they are.
Look at verse 13. Paul tells these brethren: And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.
See the word “work”? In the Greek that is the word “energeo.”
- We get our word “energy” or “energize” from it.
What Paul is saying is, when you/I “receive” the word of God…we receive divine energy.
- We receive strength from heaven to keep us stable in the midst of temptation and trials.
- God is giving us strength and energy through his word.
But you/I have to give God something to work with.
- If we are not in the word then we are not giving God the means to pour energy into our life.
It’s like the man who couldn’t get his car to start. So he started pushing it.
- And someone asked him what he was doing and he said, “It won’t start.”
- So the guy stepped in and started helping him push it.
- And they pushed and they pushed…and someone asked them what the problem was…and they said, “it won’t start.”
- So then there was three pushing it…and soon four…and soon five.
- And finally, after they were worn out from pushing the car…another man raised the hood and said, “Hey this cable is loose.”
- And he tightened the connection and the car started.
In the midst of trials and temptations, if we are going to stand firm in Christ and not give in to Satan…we must make sure that the connection is tight with our power source.
- We must have a tight connection with the word of God and let it continue to energize us.
Look at the second resource that God provides to help us remain strong and stable in a time of trial and temptation. Look at verse 14:
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews…
I can remember as a small kid having to go to the medical clinic in Artesia and getting our polio shots and vaccinations.
- Now, I didn’t like it…I didn’t like getting stuck with that needle.
But do you know what, I didn’t cry.
- Not so much because it didn’t hurt…and not so much because I was so tough.
- I didn’t cry because my older brother didn’t cry when he got his.
- “If he could do it…I could too.”
- And boy, I gritted my teeth…and it hurt like the dickens…but I didn’t cry.
Listen, as Christians we are not exempt from trials and hardships and suffering, and temptations. Every follower of Christ will experience them.
- And what Paul is saying here is, “Just as others have experienced trials, and hardships, and suffering, and temptations, and have endured and remained faithful.
- Paul is saying, “If they can do it…you can too.”
- Grit your teeth and handle it like they did.
- Let their example motivate you in how you handle the trials and suffering.
You have a terrible illness…did you know someone else in here has had one too…and they are still faithful.
- You lost a loved one…others have too…and they are still faithful.
- You’re having financial problems…others have too.
- Having family problems…others have too.
- Others have gone through the same things you and I have…or are going through them, and in spite of the difficulties…they have endured.
- Imitate them…and do the same.
And you let the way you handle your suffering be an inspiration to others.
- People are going to watch how you suffer…don’t waste your pain.
- Make sure you inspire some new Christians by the way you hold on.
Let’s look at the third resource that is available to us to help us remained settled in the midst of trials or temptation. Look at chapter 3:1-2.
Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone; 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith…
One thing we can do to stay settled when we have trials is to draw on the encouragement of the Lord’s ministers.
- Paul sent Timothy to “strengthen and encourage them in their faith.”
Look at this verse again. Do you see the word “left?”
- That word means to be “deserted” or “abandoned”.
- Paul says, “I felt completely deserted when I let Timothy go to you.”
- “But the reason I did it is because I know how powerful it is to be encouraged by a minister of God when you are suffering.”
And notice, Paul didn’t send Timothy to talk about the weather.
- He didn’t send him to talk about the economy.
- He sent him to give these people some spiritual encouragement.
Listen, every one of us who are in Christ are ministers of Christ.
- Some of us have been serving Christ for 30-40-50 years.
- And you have seen the cancers…and the death…and the divorces and the financial struggles.
- And you can be a great source of strength and encouragement to others who are going through those things.
But we can’t help them at all if we aren’t willing.
- We have to make ourselves available to help.
And when you go…don’t just talk about how hot it has been or whether it is ever going to rain again…
- That is not what ministers of God are supposed to do.
- Talk about spiritual things…remind them of God’s love and build each other up.
Paul sent Timothy because he knew that ministers are a powerful resource that God works through to help Christians remain settled in their trials.
A fourth thing mentioned here to help us be settled in our trials is emphasizing the Lord’s teachings. Look at verse 4: For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.
Do we teach new Christians what Paul says he taught here?
- Paul says that he “told them ahead of time that they were going to suffer.”
Far too often people come to Christ…and when they do they think that all their trials and labors are over.
- That is not true.
- As a Christian we are going to suffer…we cannot follow a guy they put on the cross and not expect people to dislike you too.
We will suffer affliction…and we will have troubles…and we will get sick…and we will experience death.
- And if we understand that…and if we will teach this truth…then when trials and suffering do come…people will not be completely devastated by it…and they will remain steadfast in their faith.
And finally the last thing that Paul tells us that will help us stay settled in times of trial and temptation is found in verse 19-20 of chapter 2.
19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy.
The thing that gave Paul joy in the midst of all these trials and suffering was looking ahead by faith and seeing the Lord coming…and all of his friends in Thessalonica standing there in His presence.
The Lord is coming…and the thought of being with your fellow Christians in His presence will keep you settled.
God never promised to exempt us from trials. They will come, Satan will see to that.
- God will not keep us from the trials…but he does give you many resources to help you remain settled as you go through those trials.
- He gives us His word…to energize us.
- He gives us the example of other Christians who have gone through the same struggles and who have remained faithful.
- He gives us His ministers.
- And He gives us the plain teaching that you will suffer.
- And He reassures us that Jesus is coming back…and the faithful will be with Him in glory.
Utilize these resources that God gives…and prevent Satan from regaining your soul.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023