11 Jan. 2003 AM
Tree Of Life Wesleyan Church
The Thessalonian Response (and ours)
1 Thess. 1:1-4
He was born in Columbus, Ohio, 1890, the third of eight children. At eleven he quit school to help with the family expenses, and got his first full-time job at $3.50 per week. At fifteen he got interested in automobiles and went to work in a garage at $4.50 a week. He knew he would never get anywhere without more schooling, so he subscribed to a correspondence home study course on automobiles. Night after night, following long days at the garage, he worked at the kitchen table by the light of the kerosene lamp. His next step was already planned in his mind--a job with Frayer-Miller Automobile Company of Columbus. One day when he felt ready, he walked into the plant. Lee Frayer was bent over the hood of a car. The boy waited. Finally, Frayer noticed him. "Well," he said, "what do you want?" "I just thought I’d tell you I’m coming to work here tomorrow morning," the boy replied. "Oh! Who hired you?" "Nobody yet, but I’ll be on the job in the morning. If I’m not worth anything, you can fire me." Early the next morning the young man returned to the garage. Frayer was not yet there. Noticing that the floor was thick with metal shavings and accumulated dirt and grease, the boy got a broom and shovel and set to work cleaning the place. The rest of the boy’s future was predictable. He went on to a national reputation as a racing car driver and automotive expert. In World War I he was America’s leading flying ace. Later he founded Eastern Airlines. His name--Eddie Rickenbacker
In the late 19th Century, Blondin stretched a tightrope across the Niagara Falls. He then proceeded to walk across it with a wheelbarrow in front of him. When he reached the other side the crowds cheered wildly. He asked them: "Do you think I can get back across the Falls?" "Yes they replied. "Then get into the wheelbarrow" "No thanks" they replied "it is far too dangerous" This is the difference between belief and trust. We might believe that Christ can provide for all our needs. Stepping into the wheelbarrow means that we really trust him to provide for our needs.
Putting our trust in God. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? And yet, we tend to be like those who watched Blondin cross the falls – we say we trust but when it comes right down to it, we fail to take that step of faith. We were challenged last week to step out in faith, step out with great expectations – believing that God is going to do something wonderful here. That’s what we need to do as a church, not just as a few separate believers, but as a church. There is a church that we can look to as a model, as one who walked the walk and talked the talk of a Christian life – the church in Thessalonica.
The church at Thessalonica was a strong church and it was strong in carrying on the work of the Lord. So this morning as we look at this model church I want us to think about what made them strong and then to ask ourselves if we are strong in that area and if not what can we do to strengthen ourselves. Let’s read the first four verses.
READ Thess. 1:1-4
The first thing that we notice here is that a strong church has ministers who are faithful to the church. In this letter we notice that Paul was not writing all alone, he was joined by Silas and Timothy. The three of them were together when the church was founded and they ministered there during its early years. Of course Paul was the head minister, but the other two had worked just as faithfully for the Lord in their call to be associates.
We have more than just one minister in this church – there are Sunday school teachers, board members, trustees, people involved in outreach and the list goes on and on. I by myself could not do anything here – but with the help of these other ministers, great things can be accomplished – but it takes more than just a group of ministers to make a strong church – the ministers must remain faithful to the church in order for it to grow strong.
Paul, Silas and Timothy all remained in contact with the church, they challenged them and encouraged them to press on – it wasn’t just Paul who did this, but all three of the ministers. All of our leaders here in this church need to encourage you and each other – we all need to put God first and make sure that He shows in our lives.
Second, a strong church is a church of the people. This is very important. You can have all the leaders you want, but if you have no people, you have nothing. Notice that Paul did not address this letter to the “church at Thessalonica,” but to “the church of the Thessalonians.” The church was the people, the people who had accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Without people who are committed to the Lord there is no church. Again, the letter was not addressed to a particular group within the church, it wasn’t addressed to the pastor, or the Sunday school teachers or ever the board members, it was addressed to all the people of the church. A strong church is a church that is comprised of all the people, is built upon all the people, acknowledges the importance of all the people, involves everyone’s gifts and recognizes the presence and contribution of all the people.
If you stop and think about it, there are several things that will always weaken a church – building the church upon a few people or leaders – ignoring and neglecting the needs of some members – failing to involved and use the gifts of some members. Remember what Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 12: The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. (vs. 12)
A strong church “is founded in God and in the Lord.” A true church, a strong church believes that “God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). What does that really mean? Well, a strong church is one that believes that God the Father sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world to save us from perishing and to give us eternal life. A strong church believes that the Lord Jesus is the Son of God. A strong church also believes that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord sent from heaven, that He is God, the eternal Son embodied in human flesh and sent to earth by God the Father – it believes that the Lord Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah and Savior who had been promised since the very beginning of time.
A church that does not believe this is not a church – no matter what they call themselves. If they don’t believe in John 3:16 – they are a man-created fellowship!! And right now today there are so called Christian denominations which do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God and yet they call themselves a church.
A strong church Is a church possessing God’s supreme gifts: grace and peace. Grace is the undeserved favor and blessings of God. No church can be strong without the favor and blessings of God. When we see a strong church, one that is growing in spirit and in number, we say that the hand of God is involved in that church. And what is it that brings the hand of God to a church – look again at what Paul wrote: “To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. In other words, to the people which are in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace comes from God and from Jesus and is poured out upon the church that commits itself to the confession that God is Father and that Jesus is Lord. Every strong church confesses that God is Father and that Jesus is the one and only Son of that Father. When this confession is forcefully made and demonstrated by a church, it is then that the grace, the favor and blessings of God pours forth.
Remember what Eph. 2:8-10 says? For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Grace is just the first of these supreme gifts the second is peace. Peace here means to be bound, joined, and woven together. It means that we can be assured, confident, and secure in the love and care of God. It means to sense and know that God will guide; provide; sustain; encourage; empower and bless us. But this peace can only come from God. Here again, in order for a church to receive this peace it must have a strong confession. Someone that does not know God can not have true peace that comes from the Father. The point is this, a strong church is a body of people who know and experience the peace of God as they walk throughout the world day by day. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
A strong church Is a church that stirs prayer. One that keeps prayer going. God has ordained prayer to be the medium through which He blesses and moves in behalf of people. John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Let’s think about why God has chosen prayer to be the medium through which He acts for us. Because sharing and talking together are the way all people communicate, fellowship, and commune together. Prayer requires our presence, sharing, and talking; and God wants to fellowship and commune with us. Few people take this very seriously and yet a strong church encourages people to pray, and it stirs people to pray for it and its ministry.
A strong church Is a church stirred up to work. There are three things that stir a church to work – faith, love and hope.
Faith, when a person believes in Jesus Christ, I mean truly believes, they are stirred to work and serve Jesus. The same is true of the body of believers, the church. The stronger the belief of the people in Christ, the stronger they will work for the Lord. A strong faith stirs, arouses, activates, and energizes believers to work and carry out the mission of the church.
Love. Love stirs the church to work and remember what work in the Greek means? It means to toil; to labor to the point of exhaustion. When a person truly loves the Lord, they are prompted and driven to want to work to the point of exhaustion – they understand what Christ has done for them and so they will press on and work even when others have stopped – sniffles will not keep them away from a Sunday school class or from church. The bodies aches and pains will not keep them away – I will suffer anything that this world has for me because I know that is what my Savior did for me.
Hope. Hope in the Lord stirs the church to endure in its work and labor. The word “endurance” means steadfastness, perseverance. Our hope is in the Lord Jesus for we know that He will guide; provide; deliver; sustain and bless us. A strong church is driven to endure in hope – to continue on in their labor for Christ no matter what.
And lastly, a strong church Is a church seen to be chosen by God. The Greek word for chosen here means that the church has been selected and chosen by God. This means that believers are chosen by God to be His beloved people. God has called us out of this world and away from the old life which the world offered, the old life of sin and death. And He has called us to be separated and set apart to Himself and the new life He offers, the new life of righteousness and eternity.
Believers are chosen to be brothers loved by God; we are called to hold one another ever so closely to our hearts and to count one another as precious and deeply loved. The proof that a church is truly chosen by God is that the members act like the loved people of God and they treat each other as loved bothers.
So a strong church is
1) Is a church that has ministers who are faithful to the church
2) Is a church of the people
3) Is a church founded in God and in the Lord
4) Is a church possessing God’s supreme gifts: grace and peace
5) Is a church that stirs prayer
6) Is a church stirred up to work
7) Is a church seen to be chosen by God
How do we stack up – where do you fit into the strength of this church? Are you ready to flex the churches muscle on this end of town – are you ready to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you ready to pray? I hope so, for I too believe that Great things are in store for this church.
12 Jan. 2003 AM
Miles City Wesleyan Church
Miles City Mt.