Thank God For Godly People!
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
June 12, 2022
Introduction to 1 Thessalonians
-Paul, with others, wrote this letter to the Thessalonians
-Thessalonica- 100k people, affluent, peaceful, idol worshippers
-They did not enjoy religious freedom, as we discover today
-Acts 17:1-4 Paul shared the Gospel, several people believed
-Acts 17:5-10 Paul left after three weeks due to a riot against
Him, which he refers to in today’s focus passage
-This church was growing spiritually, highly encouraged Paul!
Who are your spiritual encouragers?
-Christian leaders, friends, family members
Who is thankful for your spiritual walk with Christ?
Paul thanked God for the Thessalonian Christians!
-1 Thes 1:2
-1 Thes 2:13 That is why we constantly thank God…
-refers back to 1:7-10
-and now he continues his complimentary words to them
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
1. Godly People Trust the Bible Vs 13
-they “received the word” as “the Word of God”
-God’s Word was changing them! “works effectively”
What is the Word of God/the Bible?
-John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God.
-Jesus is the living Word, our perfect human example!
-2 Peter 1:21 …no prophecy ever came by the will of man;
instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by
the Holy Spirit.
-God caused people to write exactly what He wanted us to
read, know and obey
-2 Tim 3:16 All scripture is God-breathed (inspired by God)
-Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and effective and
sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as
the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able
to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
-The Bible powerfully changes the core of our being!
-Godly people want to know and obey the Bible
-they compare all other claims of truth against the Bible
-they reject all other claims that contradict the Bible
2. Godly People Set the Example Vs 14
-They “became imitators of God’s churches in Christ Jesus”
-they set an example as a whole community, not individuals
-You and I aren’t examples for churches by ourselves
-United obedience to God’s Word shows the world that Jesus
is building His church!
-The miracle of the local church is that, in spite of our humanity,
she still exists all over the world!
3. Godly People Endure Opposition Vs 15-18
-The Thessalonian Christians were persecuted by their own neighbors and
-John 16:33 I have told you these things so that in me you may
have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be
courageous! I have conquered the world.”
-Jesus suffered, we will suffer! Jesus forgave, we must forgive!
-Real Christians endure opposition and persecution
-Opposition is Satan’s effort to keep people from finding God!
-Vs 16b “wrath has overtaken them at last” God will be their
ultimate judge for stopping people from finding Jesus
-vs 18 this opposition kept Paul from being with them
4. Godly People Desire Eternal Rewards Vs 19-20
-Paul described the Thessalonians as his “crown of boasting”
-Who is following Jesus because of you? New believers will
forever testify that you and I were “witnesses” for Jesus!
Thank God for Godly People!
-who do you thank God for?
-who is thanking God for you?
Today’s message is entitled Encouraging Word and was delivered on Sunday, May 15, 2022 by Greg Byman.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
May 15, 2022
Letters change lives
Introduction to 1 Thessalonians
-Paul, with others, wrote this letter to the Thessalonians
-Thessalonica- 100k people, affluent, peaceful, politically free,
full of idol worship, not unlike many USA cities today
-Acts 17:1-4 Paul shared the Gospel, several people believed
-Acts 17:5-10 Paul left after three weeks due to a riot against
Him, which he refers to in 1 Thes 2:17
-Paul sent Timothy to encourage them 1 Thes 3:2
-This church was growing spiritually!
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Hello! verse 1
-Common form, similar to Paul’s other church letters
-a bit brief, maybe because he knew them so well
-Father, Lord = phrase denotes them as co-equal
-Grace to you and peace-
Prayer of Thanks verse 2-3
-Paul prayed for them regularly
-Paul thanked God for their testimony
-work produced by faith- faith prompts work
-we don’t work to earn God’s favor or keep our salvation
-we don’t work so God isn’t disappointed (we’d never win)
-labor motivated by love-
-illust: duty vs. delight- we serve because we love!
-endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ
-who is thanking God for us?
-I thank God for St Joe Community Church!
Supernatural Response vs 4-6
-Paul reminds them (side note) they are “loved by God”
-The Holy Spirit convicted and saved them
-the Word was the Old Testament- Jesus is in every book!
-Spurgeon: “Paul came there without prestige, without friends, when he was in the lowest condition, for had just been beaten and imprisoned in Philippi and had fled from that city.”
-Their commitment to Jesus Christ was an act of God!
-Our church wants every person to follow Jesus Christ
-but we must always depend on the Holy Spirit to convict
-we must be careful not to use evangelist methods that try to
Talk or manipulate people into making spiritual decisions
-I thank God for many of you in our church who have been
supernaturally changed by God!
Inspiring Faith vs 7-10
-they became an example to believers in other places
-Their lives speak for themselves
-they turned from idols- rejected popular culture
-to serve the living and true God
-They looked forward to the return of Jesus
-the one who raised from the dead
-the one who rescues us from the coming wrath
-Who is inspired by your faith in Jesus Christ?
-what are you most known for in your family, among friends?
The world should not see its reflection when it peers into the church. Instead, it should see a kind of life available nowhere else. It should see the grace of Jesus, lavished on humble sinners, embodied in self-giving love. Our unbelieving friends and neighbors are clamoring after things that will never satisfy them. They know neither why they are here nor where they are going. What awaits them beyond the grave is terrifying, not beautiful.
What letter would someone write you?
-Would it be an encouraging word?
-What is God telling you to do right now?
In Genesis, He's the breath of life
In Exodus, the Passover Lamb
In Leviticus, He's our High Priest
Numbers, The fire by night
Deuteronomy, He's Moses' voice
In Joshua, He is salvation's choice
Judges, law giver
In Ruth, the kinsmen-redeemer
First and second Samuel, our trusted prophet
In Kings and Chronicles, He's sovereign
Ezra, true and faithful scribe
Nehemiah, He's the rebuilder of broken walls and lives
In Esther, He's Mordecai's courage
In Job, the timeless redeemer
In Psalms, He is our morning song
In Proverbs, wisdom's cry
Ecclesiastes, the time and season
In the Song of Solomon, He is the lover's dream
He is, He is, HE IS!
In Isaiah, He's Prince of Peace
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet
In Lamentations, the cry for Israel
Ezekiel, He's the call from sin
In Daniel, the stranger in the fire
In Hosea, He is forever faithful
In Joel, He's the Spirits power
In Amos, the arms that carry us
In Obadiah, He's the Lord our Savior
In Jonah, He's the great missionary
In Micah, the promise of peace
In Nahum, He is our strength and our shield
In Habakkuk and Zephaniah, He's pleading for revival
In Haggai, He restores a lost heritage
In Zechariah, our fountain
In Malachi, He is the son of righteousness rising with healing in His wings
He is, He is, HE IS!
In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, He is God, Man, Messiah
In the book of Acts, He is fire from heaven
In Romans, He's the grace of God
In Corinthians, the power of love
In Galatians, He is freedom from the curse of sin
Ephesians, our glorious treasure
Philippians, the servants heart
In Colossians, He's the Godhead Trinity
Thessalonians, our coming King
In Timothy, Titus, Philemon He's our mediator and our faithful Pastor
In Hebrews, the everlasting covenant
In James, the one who heals the sick.
In First and Second Peter, he is our Shepherd
In John and in Jude, He is the lover coming for His bride
In the Revelation, He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords
He is, He is, HE IS!
The prince of peace
The Son of man
The Lamb of God
The great I AM
He's the alpha and omega
Our God and our Savior
He is Jesus Christ the Lord
And when time is no more
He is, HE IS!
1 Thessalonians is where we're going to be. And whenever I'm here, unless the Lord leads a little differently, we're going to be preaching through this letter that Paul wrote to Thessalonians in a city called Thessalonica. And this morning's message is called Encouraging Word. And that's pretty much what you could say about this entire letter is that it is an encouraging word to this church.
Now, Paul wrote letters to a lot of churches and they weren't always so positive. This one is incredibly positive. And I actually selected this... I felt led and I just made a choice and didn't sense it should be any differently. But I chose to walk through this letter and preach through it because I want to remind you at St. Joe Community Church, that God has done some amazing things. And He has brought us through some very difficult waters as a nation, as a world and the political scheme. And in spite of all the ways in which our country and our world seems to be dividing and devouring, we have hung on. And I believe it is the power of the Holy Spirit that's at work in this church family. This isn't anything; this isn't some masterminded wonderful leadership plan that I had.
I was praying often that we would just get through the storm of all the different things that were dividing our country that still continues to divide people, that we would find a way through the thick and the weeds, and find a way to still be glorifying and honoring to Jesus Christ, loving one another, and being a witness to our world of the power and the grace and the wonder of Jesus Christ. And this letter was a letter that was sent to the Thessalonians and a particular time period, probably in about 40 AD. It was one of the earliest letters that Paul wrote. Not long after, of course, Christ crucified, rose again, ascended into heaven, the church is birthed. And then the missionary journeys of Paul began after his radical conversion. He was actually against the church. He was a very devout Jew who felt like the church was an aberration. It was heretical. It was ungodly. And he was persecuting and even saw and oversaw the execution of Christians, and the imprisonment of Christians.
God got ahold of his life and Jesus appeared to him directly and said, what are you doing Paul? I'm paraphrasing. And it changed Paul, became physically blind. And at the same moment that he became spiritually awake and could see that it was Jesus, who was the one true God, the savior of the world, the risen Christ; he became physically able to see again, and he became a powerful force to be reckoned with on the scene, not only in the Jewish culture, but around the entire region of the Roman world. Churches were planted all over that Roman world. And they all had the fingerprints of Paul, the church planter.
The church of Thessalonians was no different. It was a church that was planted. And now he's sending a letter back to this church, talking to them and encouraging them about their lives and about what he's seeing is happening in their lives. You see, letters changed lives. How many of you have gotten an old fashioned handwritten letter on paper within the last six months - anybody here at all? Just a few of us. How many have gotten an email in the last six minutes? Yeah. How many, you received a letter from somebody that cared about you and you care about, and it was just like, you've kind of kept it for keepsake. It's like safe keeping. It's an important letter.
I have a shoebox full of letters from my girlfriend who is now my wife. Yeah, still have those. And I have the acceptance letter - how many have gotten an acceptance letter into job or college or something like, yeah. And that's kind of special. Sometimes you frame it and you go, "Look what, somebody actually cares about me. Look at this - besides my mom." How many have gotten a mom letter, you know, letter from your mom? In college, I used to get scraps of paper. It would be on the backside of her shopping list. She'd be done shopping and then on the other side, she'd be in the card. She'd scribble a note and throw it in the mail to me. And sometimes it had some other paper in it called money. That was nice. But thank you, mom. She watches us all the time. So, thank you mom, for all those letters.
And I have some letters from my grandmother, and they're just special. My grandmother is with the Lord now. And they're things that, I even have gotten a letter or two from my son who has found the old art of letter writing. And some of you have gotten letters from him. I don't know who all, but he is a letter writer. And so, I thought that's - and you actually can read his handwriting. I think his mother taught him how to write properly, not his father. Letters changed lives. You know, sometimes they just... how many have gotten an anonymous letter and it wasn't so fun. Oh, not very many leaders in the room. I don't know.
I've gotten a few of those. There are worth as much as a cheque that's not signed, right? I mean, you can't cash a cheque that's not signed. And I usually don't in on the advice that's given to me by an anonymous letter, because oftentimes it's a letter that doesn't have the courage to tell you who they really are. And I usually just throw those away. Sometimes I read them, I'm just curious, how bad is it? Pretty bad, okay. And I usually don't pay attention to it after that. So, if you want to write me a letter and you care about what you think, and you want me to care about what you think, put your name on it. Give me that much respect. I will talk to you about it. I don't mind somebody disagreeing with me; I just like to know who it is so we can talk about it. And maybe we still won't agree with each other after we talk, but at least we can be agreeable even as we disagree. Anyway, that's just a little note there.
You know, they don't even publish anonymous letters in the newspaper because you got to own what you believe if you believe it, if it's good or bad. Letters change lives, and these are important in our lives, and this letter is no different. And this letter, unlike maybe many other letters that Paul may have written in his lifetime to churches, this letter is not just a letter to Thessalonians, but this is a letter to St. Joe Community Church. And what we're going to do throughout this series is we're going to say, what did that letter mean and how did they receive it when they were in the first century in 40 AD? And what were those things that were important to them? What are those things that are always important to every church in any generation, in every single culture, and then what should we do about it? We all, I mean, like do the right thing.
That's an enduring statement; don't steal, don't commit adultery honor, your father and mother, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul strength and mind. These are enduring things, that whether you're in the first century, second, third, fourth, 19th, 20th, 21st century, or future centuries that you and I won't be alive for, these will be truths that are true that we ought to live out in our lives, no matter what. And that's what we're going to try to find in this letter. What are those truths that will always be true, that were true for them, but were also true for us?
Now, this letter that was written was written to a church that was in a town of about a hundred thousand people. Now on that day, it would be like - that's a major city. That would be like Indianapolis in the mindset of the people of that day. The cities just didn't get very big, and this was an amazingly large church. It was a pretty affluent church. It was full of pagan worship, lots of idol, worship, all kinds of pantheism, multi-gods all over the place. It wasn't just like, oh, we are a city of churches here we call ourselves. Well, it was the city of all kinds of different religions. That's the reputation. Pretty free, politically. They were under the Roman rule, but they had a lot of freedom, and so there was very little military oversight. It was just a very free society and a lot of exchange of ideas and thoughts and commerce. It was probably a very easy city to live in.
Paul shows up, and in Acts 17, if you want to read the story, he's running for his life because in Philippi, he was beaten and he had to run out OF town in the darken night. He comes to Thessalonica, and for three weeks he goes to the synagogue; there was a Jewish enclave there, and he preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, he didn't have the New Testament, because he was actually inspired later to even write this letter to them. He had the Old Testament, and Jesus is all over the pages of the Old Testament. That's how they know about Jesus is because of the prophecies and everything that was said about Jesus in the Old Testament. And there's actually a song that if you looked online at my notes, I actually, in the second page of my notes, I actually printed out the lyrics to a song called "He Is" by Aaron Jeffrey, back in the nineties. And I won't read it for you now, but they point out in their song every single book of the Bible and how Jesus can be reflected or the foreshadowing or the prophecy of Jesus is in every book of every Old Testament book that we have.
And Paul was reasoning with them in the synagogues about Jesus Christ, and it says that a group of people came to know Jesus, including several affluent, prominent people; and especially some prominent women who came to know Jesus as their Lord and savior. They were converted, and then a riot breaks out. They didn't quite like what he was doing. Paul's kind of whisked away from the home where he lived, but they get to this place and they pull out the homeowner and say, what are you doing bringing this [Charlot10:52] in here preaching a different gospel, [unclear10:55] story. It's going against all the things that are happening in our city, and it's certainly against the Jewish culture. What are you doing? And they were going to beat them, and finally this guy pays them off and says, don't do that. He pays a fine to the government and he releases them. But then Paul, in the darkness of night, once again is whisked away, away from the city so that his life is not taken or he is not imprisoned or beaten.
And yet in spite of that difficult circumstance and even the short time that Paul was there, the church was born. And now Paul is writing to a church that's actually thriving spiritually in spite of the persecution and the difficulties. And the fact that many of the people who were affluent and prominent in that city were now looked down upon. I mean, they went to the networking group for their business and they said, "Are you one of those Jesus freaks? Get out of here." And they've lost their prominence. And in spite of their loss of social status, and the fact that so many people in that city did not care about the Christian faith, this church was hanging on and it was growing, and their faith was inspiring, not just around themselves, but throughout the region.
Well, let's read the story. Let's read the first chapter as we immerse ourselves in this church that Paul is writing to. It says here, "Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the church of Thessalonians in God, the father and the Lord, Jesus Christ, grace to you and peace." So, let's just break this down. I'm going to read this little by little instead of last service I read the whole thing. Let me just read it in pieces. Verse one is basically the hello, the hello part of the letter. And in those days, the hello part of the letter, would be a part of the letter that was a lot more of flowery or it was much more wordy. And in fact, some of the hello parts of Paul's letters would also include his little LinkedIn bio. "Hey, I'm an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have the authority to come to you and talk to you about these things." But he didn't say that in this letter, he kind of just says, "Hi, it's Paul and my gang here, Silvanus and Timothy. And we're just wanting to write you a note and grace to peace to you." Just a real simple. It must mean that Paul was well known to them, was well received by them and had a lot of trust built between them.
And then he goes on to say in verse two and three, "We always thank God for all of you making mention of you constantly in our prayers. We recall in the presence of our God and father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." This is a prayer of thanks. He's saying I pray for you all the time. And here's some reasons why I'm so excited about you guys. You have a faith and that faith produces work. You actually live out your faith. There's product in this. It's not just a word only; your faith is action oriented.
And isn't that what a church ought to be. We ought not just be a holy huddle where we say some words and we have some ritual and I don't mind ritual. Ritual's a good thing. We have our own non-traditional looking ritual as a church. It's a pretty much the same rhythm. You come here and you kind of get it, but it shouldn't just be that. In other words, our lives should be changed. The way you work, the way you teach, the way you lead, the way you drive a vehicle, a truck or whatever you do for a living in the service industry, serving people at their tables; whatever you do ought to be marked by the fact that you trusted in Jesus and that he is controlling your life and your work, how you love people, how you encourage people, how you forgive people and don't hold grudges.
And how you care about people is a reflection of the fact that you have a faith in God. And this faith is not - you don't work in order to keep your faith. You don't work in order to somehow impress God with how good you are as a Christian. You're just prompted because it's the right thing to do. I want to live for God. I want to love people. I want to reach out and encourage people. I want to be there for people in their time of greatest need. And you're prompted because you have a faith in Jesus Christ. And he says also that you have a labor that's motivated by love. This is kind of the difference between duty or delight. Duty or delight. It's sort of like on Mother's Day, you say, "Well, I'm going to go see mom. It's Mother's Day, I'm supposed to. Hallmark has got this thing out for us that we got to buy their cards and I'm going to get her a card, because I'm supposed to."
Now how loving is that and how much would your mother just go, "Oh, warm fuzzies, because you did this for me." Or if a spouse - husbands, if you go, "Well, I've heard in a book somewhere that I'm supposed to bring flowers to my wife. It's my duty to send her flowers or to bring them to her and to hug her once in a while." Now, isn't that just lovely? Or do you have a love that motivates you to want to care about somebody because you love them, because you want to do the right thing because you care about them? You care about your relationship with them. Your labor and caring for people is motivated by love, not by duty or it's what you're supposed to do. And then he says here, "Your endurance that is inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."
You see, this church was going through some tough times. And you know, we, as a church, family might go through some tough times. It might be that Christianity becomes less and less popular in America. It's very unpopular in other parts of the world. We have a very unusual privilege of it being a fairly respectable and acceptable faith. But in many other parts of the world, it is very unacceptable, and it is very much looked down upon and people lose their social status and sometimes even lose their jobs when they convert to Jesus Christ. And in some places, they are marked with a death sentence and ostracized by their family when they put their faith in Jesus Christ. And this church was going through some tough times, and their faith in God was not some kind of like fair weathered friend Christianity. They were enduring. And why were they enduring? Because they had a hope in a future that was not based on their present circumstances.
They knew Jesus was coming again. They knew that someday God will make everything right that was wrong. That God was the one they could trust in when they couldn't trust in anything else around them. Their hope in the future, their hope and the reward that we have for living for eternal things instead of earthly things; that was motivating them to endure in their faith and to endure as a church family.
I have a question, who is God thanking, who is thanking God for you? Are there people that say, "Man, I am all the time saying thank you, God, that this person's in my life." Is there anybody like that praying about you that way? Is your life so inspiring and encouraging that they're saying I'm so thankful that this person is in my life? I thank God for my grandparents. I thank God for my mom and dad and their faith in Jesus Christ. And I thank God for their encouragement that they give me and the example they've given me throughout the years.
I wonder how many people thank God that St Joe Community Church is alive and well? How many people say I'm so glad that St Joe, that Church that meets there on Sunday mornings on North Anthony, I'm glad they're around? I'm glad that for 19 years they've made it. But in all those years that they were bouncing around to different rental places, and they were in the movie theater for a while and getting sticky feet from the stuff on the ground. And the one movie theater we looked at, it's not even a movie anymore. We were looking at it and we were kind of afraid when we were turning the lights on. If we were going to see mice. I mean, it was so nasty in there, I said, "Man, if you put your Bible on the ground, like you'd lose the bottom half of it because it was just be stuck." And ladies would put their purse down there, nobody would steal it because they weren't getting it back off. You know, it was just like, it was pretty ugh.
And then we got so bad to be looking for a place to meet that my kids would go around and say, "Hey, there's a vacant building, Dad, let's check that one out." I mean, it was just like, you know you're a church planner when your kids are starting to look at vacant buildings and say, "Man, we could just make that into a church." But do people even care that we survived these 19 years? I'll tell you what you go to meetings as pastors and you hear people say, so how's it going? And that's code word and pastor life to how many people were there, was your offering good and how many people got baptized recently? It's just, you know, nickels and noses.
How many butts in the seat and how many people got wet? I mean, that's just kind of - how'd it go? It's just a big deal. Am I allowed to say that on Sunday? Sorry. And then when things aren't so good, you're listening, you're leaning into everybody else's story and you're not talking about how many people didn't come to church, and you have this game you play.
I got a friend that I talk to once a week. And when he asked me that question or when I ask him that question, I'm asking Jimmy not how many people came to church on Sunday, but how many lives, was there any mark of the Holy Spirit at work in this church? He said, "Oh, you won't believe it. Somebody, man, they gave their life to Christ several years ago and they've been dry for so many years and they're sober. Or this person over here, they finally got their life around and they got their kids back. Or they've been able to do some things over here and their lives are better because of this. Or this family, they celebrated 45 years married." Yay. I mean, we talk about the spiritual victories in our lives, in our church; that's what's more important. It's not about how many people come; it's about how many people's lives are marked by a change because of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
I'm excited when reconciliation happens; I'm excited when things are going on. And I want to tell you something, you may not know this or not, but the reputation of St Joe is that she is a church that has endured through the test of time. It gets talked about. I want you to know that church family. I want to tell you that if somebody were to talk about St. Joe, they would say, yeah, I know that church. You used to be over here and now you're over here. Or I know so-and-so in your church. You know how many times I go to a meeting and they'll say, "Oh, I know so-and-so in your church." And we are not the biggest church in town by far not the biggest, yet that it seems that God has enabled us to have an impact spiritually, that I couldn't manufacture if I tried to, as a leader.
God's at work inside of your lives and people know it and recognize it. And Paul is saying this, and I want to say this to you, thank God for what God's doing in your lives here at St. Joe Community Church. He goes on in verses four through six to say, "For we know brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you because our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full assurance. You know how we lived among you for your benefit and you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord. When in spite of severe persecution, you welcome the message with joy from the Holy Spirit."
He reminds them, first of all, you're love by God, He chose you, and you're following Him, that the Holy Spirit was at work and that's what changed your lives. Not my persuasive words, but the power of God. "We shared the word of God with you, but it was the word that changed your life by the power of the Holy Spirit, not just me talking you into something," Paul said. And that's my prayer here at St. Joe, that you don't try to do something because somehow we've sung a song that you got emotionally attached and you became moved and emotionally, and you had a feeling and then Greg gets up here and bam, he really hits it on all cylinders this morning. And suddenly you're going to change your life because of what happened up here. I want to see your lives change because of what happens from the Holy Spirit inside of here of each of you.
I said earlier, we're a pro-life church, and I'm praying that we will protect the unborn throughout the nation or the least that we'll have the right to vote on it. But it's not about a legal decision; it's about the hearts and souls of people believing that. And I know there might be even people in this room that they may disagree with what I just said about that. And I'm not here to beat you into submission to say, you better believe this. I want you to understand what God is saying about it. And I want you to find inform conviction based on what the Holy Spirit's saying, not what I'm talking you into.
I would pray for a supernatural response. We're not here to manipulate people to have come to Christ. We're here to say come to Christ, may the Holy Spirit work in your life, and may you respond as God tells you to follow Him and what he's telling you to do. Brae went to this conference, and he's talking about the fact that he needed to figure out whether he's a sent person or if he's the one sending people. And so, he came to me and said, "Hey, I got this six week opportunity to go to Brazil." And you know, he's our leader for the worship team. And he's like, "Is that okay?" And I'm like, "So you're trying to follow God and you believe God is telling you to do this. And why would we not help you do that?" Like, it sounds kind of crazy that someone would leave for six weeks - must be of God. No, I mean, it's kind of cool. I mean, why wouldn't you as a young man who's not married that's trying to figure out what's going on in his life and for the rest of his life, why wouldn't we support him?
And for someone just to say - and it's not a vacation by any means, he's going to be working the whole time he's there. He's signing up for something hard. That's a supernatural response. And we get behind those kinds of things around here.
See, we want everyone to follow Jesus Christ, but we're not here to try to manipulate people into following Jesus Christ. You know, I thank God for the many people in this church that inspire me to be a stronger Christian in my life. And I question is, is there someone around you that's saying, you know there's something going on in you that only can be explained that God's in you and I'm thankful for your life? Is that the way you live your life? Are there people around you that would say that about you? There's a supernatural response that took place in your life. It's not just ritual. It's not just religion. It's a relationship with God through faith in Jesus.
And then they have this inspiring faith. He closes it out, and I want to finish out here this in verse seven and following as a result - "As a result of you receiving the message, as a result of you becoming a Christian and becoming a follower of the Lord, Jesus Christ, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Ikea." That was the region where Thessalonica was - "For the word of the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Ikea, but in every place that your faith in God has gone out. Therefore, we don't need to say anything for they themselves or report what kind of reception we had from you, how you turn to God for idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His son from heaven, who He raised from the dead, Jesus who rescues us from the coming wrath."
They had inspiring faith. They became an example to believers, not just in their town, but in towns all around them and in the region. And everywhere that they heard about this church, they were inspiring to the people around them; that they had turned from idols, they had rejected the popular culture to serve the living and true God. They looked forward to the return of Jesus Christ; that Jesus who was raised from the dead and who died on the cross to rescue us from the coming wrath of God. My question this morning is who is inspired by your faith in Jesus Christ? What are you most known for in your family, among friends, among your coworkers? Is your faith well-known?
I just want you to know that there's a fan of St. Joe Community Church in the room today. There's a guy that I can testify who watched a church go through a pandemic, where every decision the leadership made was wrong from somebody's angle. A church that didn't have unanimity on what they believed, because we had people on every side of extreme when it came to responding to the pandemic.
And then you had a church that faced a political divide that this whole nation was dealing with. And you had, again, people on different sides of the coin, and sides of the coin I didn't even know existed politically. And yet in the midst of all of that, and in the midst of what I know... look, I'm not too old fashioned. I know social media, I get on there once in a while, and I've seen some things. I've seen some things I've prayed a little harder about. I try very hard not to comment on much of anything, unless it's something positive or spiritually motivated. But I've watched this church; you didn't all agree with each other the whole time. Let's be honest. There was a lot of disagreement in this room on how to respond. But what I did see was the power of the Holy Spirit that still brought us together and kept us together. And we have not only grown through the pandemic, but we were actually financially stronger than we've ever been as a church family, which is just an indicator, it's not the only thing.
And there are many other signs that show me that this was something that God was doing to keep us as a church family, in spite of the ways in which our nation and our world have been dividing people left and right. And I thank God for that. I'm the fan of St. Joe Community Church. I'm the guy that wants to say, God bless you, and that God has blessed you. I've watched multiple churches die through the pandemic. I've seen pastors and leaders resign and get out of the ministry completely because of the situations and the fiascos that were taking place. I've watched churches, not only did they lose people, but they financially dwindled to nothing. They still love Jesus, but they didn't have any resources to keep going and their buildings are now for sale.
I've watched a lot of troubled situations take place. And I want to tell you as I go to different places, and as I network with other churches, as I go to the city prayer wide gathering that we do at the Muriel Center each month, what I hear is - God's done a special work at St. Joe. And it's not attributed because of your pastor being some special guy or your elders have got it all together. I think they're one of the best group of guys you'd ever be with by the way. But I believe it's because God in His sovereignty did a work in you all and you listened to the Holy Spirit and you've continued to listen to Him more than to the calamity that's out there.
And while we might all disagree, I've watched you more disagree agreeably than I've seen in any other church. And for that, I thank God for. I pray that we will continue to be a church of inspiring faith, not just in our generation today, but in generations to come; that the 46805 zip code, that the North Anthony corridor area, that Northeast Fort Wayne quadrant, and maybe even the region of Allen County in Northeast Indiana might be inspired. Not because we're anything special, but because we serve and yield ourselves to an almighty holy God, who is changing our lives day by day. And we have a hope in what he has for us beyond our circumstances, and that may, it inspire people of all generations to put their hope in faith in Jesus Christ even as we have done.
That's the kind of church that Paul was writing to, and I wanted to bring up 1 Thessalonian in this letter to us, because I believe that we can say... now I let me first say, as a musician, Brae could tell you how many things might have gone wrong every single Sunday in music, but most of you wouldn't even notice it. And as a leader, I can tell you five things that need to be fixed in our church. Don't get me wrong. It's not like we've arrived. We're still arriving every single day, but I'll tell you what all in all, I've come to realize that we don't celebrate enough for what God is doing. And I wanted to pause for at least a season as we go through Thessalonians and celebrate what God has and is doing in the life of our church family. And you've been a part of that.
This letter is as encouraging I hope to them as it is to you; as God's love letter is written to you to say you are an inspiring church to other people around you. So, I have a question this morning, as we close, what letter would someone write to you about your faith? Is maybe this morning, a moment where you've had a gut check to say, I want to be more inspiring; I want to be more influential in my faith? Well, what's the step that you need to take to do that? What open commitment do you need to make to Jesus this morning so that you actually are leading your family, your coworkers, your friends, your neighbors towards Jesus Christ? There's really no middle road. You're either for or against.
Well, I'm not going to make a decision today; then you've made a decision not to trust Jesus in that particular area of your life. And so this morning, what is it? I don't know what it is. I'm not here to brow beat you. I'm not here to make you do anything, but I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in this room. What next step do you need to take spiritually, physically, mentally, openly, that you might be the person that God wants to use in the lives of the people around you, and that your life would actually get stronger and better because of it as well, and it would be to the glory of Jesus Christ?
I pray you take that connection card and you put on there what it is, give it to us when you leave or put it in the offering box. Or step by, and I know Jerry and Becky are here this morning, and they're going to be behind the glass wall. And maybe you need to step back and ask for prayer. I'll be down here singing away in our last two songs that we're going to sing. And maybe you can come down and maybe you'd like to have prayer with me. I don't know what you need to do, but I pray that you won't miss the opportunity to move forward in your faith this morning.
Father, God help us to be a church, a church that continues to be a church that people are thankful for; a place where supernatural response is taking place, not just some sort of a ritual; a family of God that is inspiring to others in their faith. And it takes one person at a time to make that happen this morning. And I pray that you'll show me what steps I need to take, even as you're showing everyone else. And may we simply be obedient to what you're telling us to do; it's in Jesus name that I pray, amen.
Full worship service
B: Bible book