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 – Part 2

“Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding”

1 Cor 15:58

If you just change “abounding” to “stay positive,” it would almost sound as though Paul is very up to date: he tells us to stay home, stay inside, and yet remain positive. We have all become good “soldiers” obeying orders and doing it as those who are “subject to principalities and powers … magistrates … ready to every good work” (Titus 3:1). As Christians, it is our responsibility to comply with governments when we are not compromising our consciences. So, we stay home, stay in, and do our very best to remain positive.

But Paul has something greater in view. He gives us a basis not only for being steadfast and unmovable, but for being both positive and abounding. He tells us of the great prospect of resurrection and coming glory. It is thrilling to think of the great contrast between “now” and “then” when it comes to our bodies. We are currently living in bodies marked by corruption, weakness, dishonor, and “soul” domination. We are going to one day have bodies not subject to age and disease; they will be bodies of glory and of power; they will be bodies dominated by a God-consciousness. All that is assured by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Imagine a body that can move from place to place without needing a vehicle or even time! Imagine bodies that will pulsate with life as never before. In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tell us that Christ died for us “that we should live together with Him” (1 Thess 5:10). It may be that we have no idea of what “real life” is like until we arrive there.

In the meantime, we are to be steadfast in our faith, unmovable in our confidence in God, and abounding in the work of the Lord.

I hear someone say, “How can I abound in the work of the Lord when I can’t even leave my house?” A good question. Paul was chained to soldiers for possibly up to eight years near the end of his life. Yet he seemed to abound. He wrote letters, he prayed, he witnessed when he was able. There have likely been few lives and periods of times which have had the eternal weight that the years of confinement that the years Paul spent as a prisoner have had. He “abounded” in every circumstance. He was the man who wrote, “I know both how to be abased and how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I have been instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil 4:12). Paul “abounded” in every circumstance. And so should we! 

It is really only a little while until we arrive at our real home where we will be happy to “shelter in place.” The resurrection of Christ has helped us to know how the story is going to end. We have read the last page and now how it all works out.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 13. It has been called the most successful failure in NASA’s history. Everyone knows the famous quote, “Houston, we have a problem,” as the lunar module suddenly experienced the explosion. As the awareness of their danger rose, there was, however, another quote. As the spacecraft orbited around the moon, the goal shifted from landing on the moon to the question that Jim Lowell, one of the astronauts asked, “How do we get home?”

We know we are going home, and we know how we are going to get home. But in the short interim, “be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding (be positive) in the work of the Lord.”

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!