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.”

Our Prolonged Sabbath

Exodus 16:27 (NASB) “It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none.” They wanted to work for the sake of working, when it (the manna) was already provided for them on the previous day. They were convinced that it may have been the last time the food would appear. They were searching for what had already been provided.

Much of the world is longing for what they are used to getting, whatever that may be. And they’re receiving a marginalized fraction of it right now. They’re also beginning to feel the psychological effects of entrapment and the fact that they do not have an eternal purpose is being accentuated

In Mark 2:27 (NASB) “Jesus said to them, the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” What benefit is the Sabbath to man, anyhow? Of course, it’s to spend time with the Lord (reading, praying, meditating, worshiping, sharing).

We are in a sense, experiencing a prolonged “Sabbath” of rest. We can use this time for spending added time with the Lord. Now, if we glanced back a few chapters, in Exodus 15:22 we’d see the Israelites “grumbling” only 3 days into the wilderness. Similarly, without divine intervention it would not take anyone else long to turn aside from the Lord. And we don’t need to be reminded of what idle time can do. 

However, we have a hope that the world knows nothing about. If we are where we should be spiritually, (I truly speak to myself here) tribulation should drive us closer to the Savior. We may not currently have the physical reminders and the formal, sobering privilege of gathering at the hall, but we have the opportunity to pass a test that’s been presented to us: the chance to press on and embrace the fact that God still IS, and all our enjoyment and purpose is in Him.

Let us not lose joy, having less opportunity to do something publicly for the Lord. Our position in the Lord in itself is precious. 

Psalm 18:30 (NASB) (blameless=perfect in KJV) “As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” And so, we continue to have tender hearts.