Refocusing and Reframing – Part 3

Bible Angle

Paul’s love for the believers in Thessalonica was such that he viewed them as his hope, joy, and crown of rejoicing (1 Thess 2:19). These three expressions reveal not only what the believers meant to Paul, but also his entire mindset about his service for the Lord. We think of serving the Lord and receiving a reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ; that He will give us “so much reward for so much service.” There is truth to the fact that we will all receive something from His hand in a coming day, but is that all that it will involve?

Paul went even beyond that. The great hope or prospect Paul had was to be able to present these converts to the Lord Jesus Christ as the fruit of his service. He would find his joy in seeing them before the throne of God, worshipers of God, lovers of Christ.

The best analogy I can offer is that of parents who raise their children and find their entire reward in seeing their children making the right choices and living their lives to please God (if you are looking for some other reward, I need to burst your bubble). You do not get a big prize from your family for being a good mother. You have the satisfaction that what you have invested in them has really worked.

In a similar manner, when Paul thought of his crown or reward, the believers themselves were his “reward.” To see believers in the presence of God, able to eternally bring glory to God, was all Paul desired. It was that for which he lived and served His Lord.

Have you ever considered that what you invest in a believer’s life is really “laying up treasure in heaven?” (Matt 19:21). It is not just the money you send out to missionaries and preachers or the meals you provide when a believer is sick. Anything you do to help another Christian is “laying up treasure in heaven.” The believer you helped, the person you brought to meetings and saw saved, the assembly you encouraged – these and all similar acts are the treasures you will find in heaven. That saved soul, that downcast Christian you helped lift, that cold heart you warmed, that is the treasure which is awaiting you in heaven. It is the person and not a trophy which is the treasure.

You may think this is a real discouraging meditation as you were perhaps hoping for a 5,000 sq. ft. home with a pool and a live-in maid. But thankfully (very, very thankfully), when we reach heaven’s shore, our thinking will be radically different from the present time. We will value what God has valued. We will be able to see what really mattered in our service.

That brings some important issues to light. You can invest, send treasures on ahead, even now while we are all so limited in lockdown. A phone call to a lonely believer, an email to a mother struggling with 3-4 children at home, 24/7 from school, an act of kindness to someone who cannot get out due to age or illness. Nothing, absolutely nothing, which God allows into our lives can intentionally stem the accumulation and stockpiling of treasures above. View other believers as potential treasure and invest in their lives but be sure to stay 6 feet away!!!!

Refocusing and Reframing

Paul’s Triplets

Paul frequently groups things, sometimes in couplets, sometimes in fours, and other times in triplets. This week, we will look at a few of his triplets to see if there is anything of value for us, 2,000 years and a COVID-19 virus later. Triplets may not always be the most desired arrival to a home, especially if they cry and need to be fed, but hopefully some of these will be encouragement to you.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 we read” Rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” It is not often in the 66 books of the Bible, that we have something clearly stated to be the will of God for us. So, this must be worthwhile to consider.

Rejoice evermore” is his first exhortation. These people were not facing a small deadly virus. They were facing big, nasty men. They were going through a period of persecution. In chapter 3 Paul is so thankful that they are showing their faith by the manner in which they are handling their danger. Now, in chapter 5, he seems to be going a bit beyond that when he tells them, that despite the persecution, they should be rejoicing.

Praise avoids self-pity, that “it feels so good to feel so bad” feeling which lasts about 10 seconds and then goes away, leaving you just as miserable. Rejoice evermore or always means to avoid a grumbling, complaining spirit. Self-pity has pride as its basis. It feels it deserves more than it is getting. Whether in society, work, home, or assembly, avoid negativism as an atmosphere in which you move. We are all in danger of our desires becoming our legitimate “needs,” and feeling we are being deprived.

Prayer avoids self-reliance and independence. Prayer should be an attitude of heart as seen in Nehemiah. Prayer as an expression of dependence. Prayer is the spirit of Worship. Prayer recognizes God as sacred sovereign, sufficient, sympathetic, satisfying. As we face an unseen foe, as we feel the stress of confinement, and for some, of isolation, prayer should remind us that we are never alone.

In everything, give thanks” may seem difficult to do when you are looking at the inside of your home on day 40. It is difficult to do when you are unemployed, when you are concerned about bills and putting food on the table. Giving thanks means I find something for which to be thankful in every set of circumstances. I am content with every circumstance allowed by God. I recognize that there is something bigger than I am, that there is Someone wiser than I am. 

All of this attitude adjustment is lumped together as “the will of God in Christ Jesus” for you and me. I can fulfill God’s will for my life by the way I react to the present circumstances which have blind-sided us for the last 6 weeks. In the midst of listening to the flood of news-streams, reading online all the latest information, and being inundated with figures of today’s numbers, stop and “rejoice, pray, and give thanks.” And don’t forget to wash your hands for 20 seconds!

Pleasing God

Without faith, it is impossible to please Him” Hebrews 11:6

How ye ought to walk and to please God” 1 Thess 4:1

With such sacrifices God is well pleased” Hebrews 13:16

There are numerous places where we are told what pleases God. In his exhortation to the Thessalonians, Paul reminded them that holiness brings pleasure to God. Amidst the immoral and lax society of Macedonia, Paul told them that to walk counter-culture by a life of moral purity was pleasing to God.

The writer to the Hebrew believers, in encouraging them in a life of faith rather than law, encased in Hebrews 11 the maxim for life: faith pleases God. And then in summing up the truth of living by faith, he reminded them in chapter 13 that even though the work of Christ had put an end to sacrifices, there are sacrifices even today which bring pleasure to God. “The sacrifice of praise … to do good and communicate forget not for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb 13:15, 16).

Holiness, faith, thanksgiving, and doing good to others pleases God. While these exhortations are very practical and applicable to us, and while we need to grow and develop in each of them, there was a Man here Who embodied them all.

One great contrast is that He did not grow in His holiness, develop in His life of faith, be reminded of the need for thanksgiving, or learn to do good to others. All of this was abiding in Him and abundant in Him.

He gave thanks amidst the most negative of circumstances (Matt 11:25). In the upper room, He gave thanks for the emblems and for the reality of what they represented. He sang with His own as they left the upper room and worshiped the God Whom He served. “Thou art My God I will exalt Thee; O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good” (Ps 118:28, 29). And then upon the cross, there went up the spirit of worship from the heart of Christ: “But Thou art holy” as He justified the hand that was smiting Him.

He did not have to learn to do good and communicate. “He went about doing good” is the record of the Spirit of God. And again, “He hath done all things well.” There was never idle time, no “me-time” in His life. Even when weary, He would use it as an opportunity to reach a thirsty Samaritan woman at a well. Upon the cross, He continued to do good as He cared for His mother and for a thief. What pleasure that brought to God.

No refinement toward holiness was ever needed. He was “that holy thing” born to Mary. Demons owned Him as holy. A centurion, observer of countless crucifixions confessed, “This was a righteous man.” And the Spirit of God adds in Hebrews 7 that He is holy! His holiness brought delight to His Father.

In Hebrews 11, after establishing the principle that faith brings pleasure to God, and after parading before our view the great heroes and heroines of faith, every eye is turned to behold another. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith.” It is not “the finisher of our faith” as in our A.V. It is rather that He is the ultimate example of the life of faith. From the moment He left heaven’s portals with the words, “Lo, I come to do Thy will,” He lived a life of faith, putting into everyday life that principles of the Word of God in His life. He lived by faith every moment of His sojourn here below. Faith for Him was not, as some would claim a leap in the dark, it was living His life in the light of the Word and will of God.His holiness, faith, thankful spirit, and doing good all meant that here was a life to which the Father could testify: “This is My beloved Son in Whom is all My delight.”