Devotions

Category Archives: 1 Thess

Grow More and More • Devotional #6: “Hope”

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:18-21 (NASB)

What is the invisible quality that strengthens some to press on against all odds while others stumble and fall, exhausted and beaten? Where does that strength come from when every resource is gone?

We live in a world that is fallen (Genesis 3) and the effects of sin can be seen and felt everywhere. As Christians, we walk the road of this life, not as residents, but outsiders; not comfortable and satisfied, but on our way to our true home, our true satisfaction (Psalm 17:15). All around us the heartbreaking corruption and depravity can be felt as it weighs us down and presses in sticking to our feet like mud. Our walk can quickly turn into a tiring slog as we wade through the mess.

When we look around, what do we see? There are generations of people floundering in the pursuit of happiness, unaware that the things they are chasing are nothing more than a temporary anesthetic to dull the ache of hopelessness.

Ultimate, soul-satisfying, life-anchoring hope is what every person needs more than they need food, clothing, or health. It is invisible, unmeasurable. It gives endurance and purpose, joy in suffering, and contentment in little. True hope, unlike the temporary numbness the world offers, makes life worth living and, more importantly, worth living to the glory of God. He has given us everything we need to walk in full assurance (Hebrews 11:1) of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Our hope is not based on a Savior who died for our sins only, but on a Savior who was raised from the dead (Romans 1:4) after defeating death and Hell (Revelation 1:17-18) and is now ruling the universe from the right hand of the Father. He is the One on whom we base our faith and hope. This rock-solid foundation is only found through complete trust and reliance on the King of kings, the One Who Provides (Chronicles 29:10-17; Genesis 22:8). 

Sharing the life-transforming hope God has given us should be the driving purpose behind everything we do. As we are navigating this life, we should look with compassion and understanding at the desperate behavior of those who have no hope. Their destructive, empty attempts to find meaning and happiness will continue in vain until someone (you and me) speaks the truth of the Gospel to them (Mark 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 10:9-10) and by the grace of God, He transforms them. It is only by God’s grace that we as believers have hope of salvation, the hope of eternal life, and hope with purpose and meaning. We need to be the voice of hope in a hopeless world.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers,

about those who are asleep,

that you may not grieve as others do

who have no hope.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13

Grow More and More • Devotional #5: “Excellent Work”

“So that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” 1 Thessalonians 4:12

I worked to find overly flowery words to explain what the second part of verse 12 means, but I have to be completely real, God has called us to work. Please do not misunderstand, work can take many forms. Some work you get paid for, some you do to serve God and His people, and some you do as the calling in taking care of your family. However, whatever it is, God has called us to work. One commentary said, “Christianity does not discharge us from the work and duty of our particular callings, but teaches us to be diligent therein.” We need to be diligent in our work, work with integrity and excellence. Titus 2:7 says, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity.” Colossians 3:23 adds, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

My brother is an artist, he takes his craft very seriously, respecting the talent and gifting that he has been given. He works to be excellent. We have had many conversations about Christians and his view (he is not a believer) on how Christians who have horrible reputations of bad work ethics, not working to be excellent but working to do the bare minimum. I will never forget what he said to me. He asked, “Why don’t Christians do things with excellence? They accept just getting by, to create and work without any sense of quality or hard work.” He then said, “If God is supposed to be what it is all about, wouldn’t you want to do everything to the best of your ability, with excellence to make Him look good?”

It was a moment of deep sadness for me, and real conviction. I knew from that moment on, anything I did, even inconsequential, would be done with excellence, not for the world but to show the world that God deserves my best, to ultimately point people to the Gospel. I love what this commentary says about work, “In Paul’s assessment, manual labor is not beneath Christians, and Paul himself had done what he demands that these idle brothers do. The apostle plainly regards work as one way believers may honor God, show love to their fellow Christians, and dis­play the transforming power of the gospel to outsiders. He wants the idle brothers to embrace his perspective and to set an impressive, not disgraceful, example for their unbelieving contemporaries.”

God calls us to work, not to be idle so that we can focus on pointing people to Jesus. Our lack of work, which allows dependence on something other than God, should not be the focus but ultimately the Gospel should be the focus in all things, including our work.

Grow More and More • Devotional #4: “Walk Properly Before Outsiders”

What verse in the Bible says, “God helps those who help themselves?” I will give you a minute to look for it. Find it? Nope, and you will not.

According to Wikipedia, the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is a motto that emphasizes the importance of self-initiative and agency. The expression is known around the world and is used to inspire people to self-help. The phrase originated in Ancient Greece as “the gods help those who help themselves” and may originally have been proverbial.

Although it is not in the Bible, did you know a recent poll found that seventy-five percent of American teenagers said they believed that it was the central message of the Bible?

As shocking as this may be to us, it should not surprise us. American culture has shifted into a self-help culture. This even includes Christian culture. Sometimes this self-help ideal can come through Christian music, Christian books, and even the pulpit on Sundays. Many Christians today are being tricked into believing that their dependence is to be placed solely on themselves, which removes any dependence on God.

It can make us wonder what Paul meant by this statement in his letter to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 4:12, “So that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one?”

When Paul made the statement “be dependent on no one,” it was in the context of walking properly before those that are outside the faith. It is those that have not yet come to faith in Jesus who are always watching to see how Christians are living their lives. A great deal of the time they watch and wait for an opportunity to discount the message they carry.

In the prior sentence, Paul stated the importance of working with one’s own hands, “And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

Christians are to work with their own hands barring any physical limitations they may have. Working with one’s own hands allows the self-supporting person not to be a burden to others. Paul had taught this earlier in the letter (1 Thessalonians 2:9).

Why is it so important that a Christian “works with his own hands?” Whereas the motto, “God helps them who help themselves,” is meant to encourage dependence on self, Paul’s statement, “to work with your hands,” was meant to discourage those spreading the Gospel from having unbelievers perceive they were being charged for the message. The Thessalonian believers were to provide for their own livelihood when presenting God’s plan of salvation to those without faith. In turn, when believers walk properly before outsiders and do not charge for the Gospel, which is freely given to all men, unbelievers will have a better opportunity of deeming the message worthy of acceptance and not something they feel obligated to pay for.

“What then is my reward?

That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge,

so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.”

(1 Corinthians 9:18)

Grow More and More • Devotional #3: “Hands that Work”

We had the pleasure of recently celebrating my mother’s 95th birthday! At 95, her mind is sharp, but her body continues to deteriorate, especially her hands. She has painful arthritis in her hands, yet she daily works at puzzles, crafts, and other projects to keep them nimble. She could easily stop using her hands and be idle, but her hands would only further deteriorate and become unusable. Her doctors have told her to keep working with her hands to keep them moving. It is an age-old concept that even Paul spoke of in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “To aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.”

Paul is speaking to the church in Thessalonica. He had instructed them in the past on how to live a God-honoring life, but they had slipped away from that knowledge. They were fixated on the second coming of Christ, which they thought was imminent, so some were idle, not working, and sitting waiting for that second coming. The wealthier Christians were having to take care of these slothful Christians and Paul was pointing out that you need to “work with your hands.”

I was raised on a farm. There is never a shortage of chores on a farm! My mother rose early to make breakfast before the day began. There were eggs to gather, gardens to weed, vegetables to can, and pigs to birth. She was always at work doing something on the farm. She set a good example for me and my brothers to avoid being idle, lest the work not get done! She was a true example of a “Proverbs 31 woman,” not eating the bread of idleness (Proverbs 31:27).

Paul also set a good example for Christ’s followers in Thessalonica. Paul was a tentmaker by trade (Acts 18:3). He worked day and night so he would not be a burden to others (1 Thessalonians 2:9-10). He had told them before, and he was telling them again, set a good example to outsiders (verse 12).

We should always be looking for, and prepared for, the second coming of Christ. Yet, we should not sit back, be lazy, and just watch and wait. We need to be working with our hands, earning a living, supporting our family, and most importantly, telling others about Jesus in hopes of bringing them to Jesus for salvation. Others are looking to us as an example. Be that example!

“No man understands fully the blessings

which God has bestowed on him,

if he has hands to work and will not work.”

Barnes Commentary

Grow More and More • Devotional #2: “Mind Your Own Business”

“And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Have you ever stuck your nose into someone else’s business? It can be so easy to look at other people and see their flaws (and by that I mean what you think their flaws are), or the way you would live their life if you were them. The reality often is that we have no idea what others are actually dealing with, or what the Holy Spirit is doing in their lives. We have a limited understanding of what they are going through, yet we know exactly what they “should” do and how they “should” respond.

Do you ever look for other people’s flaws so you can feel better about yourself? Do you ever look for struggles in the lives of others so you can “stir the pot?” You know the scenario, it will give you something to talk about with your friends: “Have you heard,” “did you see,” and “can you believe?” Before you know it there is a whole group of people dogging on someone over something that may be a complete misunderstanding or even completely false. It can get pretty messed up and cause a lot of hurts. It is shameful to think we might actually be guilty of any of this. However, it happens, does it not?

I think of Luke 6:41-42, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye, You hypocrite, first take the out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” When Paul tells the believers in 1 Thessalonians to “mind your own affairs,” I believe he is pointing out a whole lot of self-righteous speck-seekers that were overlooking their own problems. That nonsense could have been avoided if they would first check themselves and their motives.

There is a real opportunity as we follow Christ’s example to love, encourage, and help people through whatever hurt they may be facing. As believers in the finished work of Christ, we are children of God; we are family. We should be loving, encouraging, and helping one another. Our reaching out should be with pure motives founded in truth and love.



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