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Thankful for persevering faith (from a thanksgiving sermon series) November 16, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in First Thessalonians, Perserverance, Religion, Sermons.
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THANKFUL FOR PERSEVERING FAITH (1 Thessalonians 3:6-13)

In this series on thanksgiving, I have mentioned the importance of investing our lives in others. I have been asked, how do we do that. In this sermon I will mention a couple of ways in which you can invest your lives in others. These are all in the context of sharing our faith and witnessing of Christ and how that those who believe in Christ are not only transformed but that they also persevere in their belief in Christ, in spite of whatever difficulties they may have in their lives.

First of all, I want to describe what perseverance in the faith does and what it looks like. You see, when we persevere in the faith, those who are living for Christ rejoice (verses 6-9). In other words, when you invest in the lives of others and they persevere in Christ, the pay off is joy in your heart.

Generally, perseverance shows itself through our faith and our love (verse 6a). In Thessalonians 1:3 we find faith and love connected to each other in the same context in which we find them here. These people were going through some trying times. They were being attacked by those who hated Christ Jesus. Paul wrote that this faith and love working in them is what got them into these trying times. It was this same faith and love reported by Timothy that confirmed that they were in Christ. In 5:8, Paul encourages them to continue to arm themselves in an evil world, awaiting the coming of Christ with this same faith and love.

Specifically, perseverance shows itself through our love for God’s people (verses 6b-7). Now there are a number of ways in which we can show the reality of our relationship to Christ but nothing trumps our love for our fellow believers in Christ. True fellowship with other believers is a proof of our fellowship with Christ. 1 John 3:14 tells us, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.”

This is the relationship that we see between these three men and the Thessalonians. They loved one another. They cared for one another. They prayed for one another. This love was the proof of the reality of their faith in Christ.

This is why we emphasize the importance of being integrated into the local church. Ultimately, it is not about church membership. It is not about full offering plates and full buildings and Sunday School rooms. It is not about a good worship experience. It is not about church attendance. The local church is loving one another with all the faults and failures that we may have. If you love the brethren you will want to join the church. You will not try to protect yourself by holding the church at arms length. You will want to take part in ministries and give toward them and bring others in, if you love the people to whom you belong in Christ. You will want to be in as many worship services as you can, if you love your brethren. I did not say “if you enjoy your brethren.” It is hard sometimes to enjoy everyone but you can always love them.

This gives strength to those who truly follow Christ (verses 7b-9). Verse 7 says they were comforted, that is, the good news of their perseverance in faith and love was a help to these three men in the midst of their on afflictions and trials. In verse 8, Paul expands this idea and says, based on your standing fast in the Lord, our lives are enriched. It is a strange statement to our ears but Paul says the quality of our lives are improved by the fact that you are standing steady in Christ. Then in verse 9 he loses himself in trying to describe how the faithfulness of the Thessalonians effects these three men. There are no words to describe the thanksgiving which we give for you. We rejoice with joy. When we come before God in prayer, you are the subject of our thanksgiving and you are the subject of our discussions with God. You are our strength and comfort and joy and thanksgiving.

Although we persevere in the faith, we continue to need perfecting (verse 10-13).

The perfecting of faith is important work (verses 10-11). It had such a high priority that Paul made it an integral part of his prayer life. Now we have already seen previously and know from 1 Thessalonians 1:2 that Paul, Silas, and Timothy gathered together at specific times to pray with one another for the believers in Thessalonica but this says that these three men were constantly during the day and during the night taking time to thank God for and pray for the believers in Thessalonica.

Perhaps you would say that such prayer goes above and beyond the call of duty. Paul would agree with you. He says they were praying exceedingly. The word means we prayed much more than much for you. These people were not on the backburner of their prayers but were given special attention by these men before God.

Remember, these men had only had three weeks or so among these people. Paul himself had attempted repeatedly to visit them again but he says Satan hindered him. He had sent Timothy to them and Timothy had come back with a good report of them but these three men’s concern for these people was so great that they made it priority in their prayers that God would enable them to return to Thessalonica.

What made this such a priority? They wanted to perfect their faith. These people had a faith that works. It was obvious to Timothy that there faith was real but they had some gaps that needed to be filled. They needed teaching on moral behavior, they needed teaching about the Rapture, and they needed to know how to function as a church. All of these things are a part of the perfecting of their faith.

Certainly, they were submissive to God’s will in this matter. In fact, it was quite awhile before God allowed them back into the region and we do not know if these men were ever in Thessalonica again. What we do know, however, is that these men had made the spiritual well-being of these people a top priority in their lives as revealed by the way they prayed for them.

Some of you are saying, I want to make praying for others a priority, but how.

Plan times of prayer. That is what these three men did. They planned times of prayer. Praying night and day as these men did does not come naturally for us but if we plan to pray we are more likely to pray at other times.

Pray with others. Besides memorizing Scripture there is nothing that will challenge you and encourage you spiritually more than praying with others.

Write down your thanksgiving for God’s work in others.

Memorize verses that talk about the things that you want to pray about.

The perfecting of faith builds on the love God has already placed in our lives (verse 12). Yes, these people were characterized by love for their brethren but their love needed to increase abundantly. This was Paul’s wish for them. The perfecting of our faith, the filling in of the gaps in our Christian lives is directly tied to our relationships to each other.

The perfecting of faith is revealed at the coming of Christ (verse 13). What Paul is saying is this, as your love abounds for each other and for those who are outside of the faith, you become stronger in the faith, you persevere more until ultimately when Christ comes and you stand before God, you stand without blame and holy because of your love for each other. In fact, that is the purpose for loving your brethren. It is about more than just getting along or all going in the same direction. It is about our standing before God. Do you want to have a good reputation before God? Love your brethren and love those who need your Savior. Do you want to be holy before God? Love your brethren.

Is your faith the type that will last when trials come? Obviously, you cannot know that until the trials come but you can still practice this love for the family of God. You can integrate yourself with each other in a myriad of ways. For most you it should mean an increase in prayer for God’s people and an increase in time spent around God’s people. When the game gets serious, it is those things that we worked on in practice over and over again, that are not forgotten.

Some of you are outside this family. We are commanded to love you also. Not just to be nice to you and polite to you but to love you. There is no better way to love you than to invite you today to put your faith in Christ. In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul describes this love as that of parents for their children. There is nothing that would thrill us more than to have you come to Christ, putting your faith in Him for salvation. Do it today!

Next Week: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 THANKFUL IN EVERYTHING

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