#7 (The Church’s Stance While Awaiting Christ’s Return Series)
TEXT: 1 Thess. 5:19-22
INTRO: And now we arrive at the final command of Paul to the church watching for the return of Jesus Christ, it is the command of faithfulness! Why does Paul mention the need for faithfulness – because our nature tends to slide toward unfaithfulness! Is it ok to be faithful once, some times, most of the time; or does God really ask that we are faithful to Him all of the time?
ILLUS: If your car starts once every three tries do you feel satisfied that it is faithful as a reliable car? Is it considered faithful service if your paper is delivered every Monday and Thursday although you signed up for every day delivery? Does your boss consider you a reliable employee if you only miss work a few times a month unannounced? If your refrigerator stops working for a day or two every now and then do you find yourself saying, "Well, it works most of the time, I'm happy with it?" If your water heater provides an icy-cold shower every now and then, is it dependable? If you miss a couple of loan payments every year does the bank say, "Ten out of twelve isn't bad!"? – Source Unknown
How then does God view your service and loyalty to Him ... are you really faithful? How do you view it!?
PROP. SENT: This text teaches us that we must value faithfulness while we are watching and waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithfulness is something that must be guarded and worked on to keep us strong while waiting for Christ's return.
I. FAITHFUL TO ENTHUSIASM -20
1. Where does the decline of faithfulness begin? “Do not put out the Spirit's fire;…”
a. When the fire is dying down!
b. Hence Paul's warning to them about NOT putting out the Spirit's fire!
c. The meaning of the Greek words in this phrase indicated that Paul was not warning them of something that might happen, but something that was happening.
d. In other words, they were already doing something that was diminishing God's fire in their midst! (The next verse which states “do not treat prophecies with contempt” may indicate a bad attitude toward the Spirit already in place.)
2. What was this interference of the Spirit's fire?
a. It may have been the laziness of some members who were waiting for Christ's return ... Paul had to reprimand some of the believers in this church for having quit their jobs and mooching off their brothers and sisters in Christ in 2 Thess. 3:10-12.
b. It may have also been that some were complaining about the gifts of the Spirit and only wanted a ritualistic type of worship ... "Don't be too Pentecostal in worship!" This may be hinted at by the next verse, "… do not treat prophecies with contempt."
3. It may be that some in the church didn't care for the spirited worship style that had developed and the excitement over the hope for the soon return of Jesus Christ!
a. These more "level-headed" saints may have looked down on all this enthusiastic expressive worship as too much "emotionalism."
b. In a sense this church had the opposite problem from the church in Corinth ... in Corinth the ones who thought they were the more spiritual saints were those who had experienced many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, here in Thessalonica those who did NOT express these gifts thought of themselves as more spiritual!
c. Paul in writing to the Corinthians admonished them to find control and restrict the number of some gift’s expressions to restore balance to the worship service, but here Paul warns the church of the danger of "COOLING" off the fires of the Spirit and their need to get hot again!
4. If they lost the spontaneity and enthusiasm of the Spirit the likely result would be the loss of faithfulness in their service!
a. Think about it ... those most excited about something tend to be the most faithful toward it!
b. One impacts the other! In "dead" churches you can find many "nominal" Christians that know little to nothing about faithfulness to God!
c. In contrast, churches that have that “spark” or enthusiasm in worship also have some of the most faithful servants of the Lord!
5. Even the word "ENTHUSIASM" reflects this dynamic of relationship with God ... it comes from 2 Greek words: (en Qeos) "EN THEOS" meaning literally “IN GOD!”
ILLUS: One little boy attended a cold church one day and after returning home he prayed, "Dear God, we had a good time at church today, but I wish you had been there!" The lack of enthusiasm was understood in the child's mind as an absence of God's Spirit or fire! – Source Unknown
1. It is a sad note that this church had many members in it that actually held contempt for the gifts of God's Spirit, at least prophecy!
a. This is so incompatible with the Spirit of Christ in His church!
b. You would think this church would have welcomed the manifestations of the Spirit's fire and presence.
2. It may be that the atmosphere of this church was charged with enthusiasm over the coming of the Lord and in such an atmosphere prophecies likely came forth probably concerning their faithfulness while waiting, some may have become tired of hearing about faithfulness over an over again!
3. Those most uncomfortable about hearing this message were probably those most unfaithful ... hence the pressure to get those speaking to “shut up!”
4. Encouraging one another toward greater faithfulness is just what the church should be doing however!
5. Even if these other saints were right in having too many prophecies, the way they were challenging the others was with an ugly spirit, thus they were putting out the fire of the Spirit in the church!
ILLUS: Like the church that dismissed their pastor. A friend asked a member, "why?" The friend said, "Well, he kept telling us we're all going to Hell." The man then asked, "What does your new Pastor say?" The member, "He says we're going to Hell too, but we'll keep him." The confused man then asked, "So what's the difference?" "Well," said the member, "the difference is that when the previous Pastor said it, he sounded like he was glad about it; but when the new Pastor says it, it sounds like it is breaking his heart!" When correction is needed the spirit in which it is given can make the difference between helping and hurting! – Source Unknown
6. Keep the enthusiasm ... and get rid of the critical spirit!
II. FAITHFUL TO EVALUATE 5:21a
A. Investigate 5:21a
1. Here Paul brings balance into the picture, he is not encouraging enthusiasm without evaluation, he says “Test everything.” We are called upon to be faithful not only for enthusiasm, but also to test everything!
a. The idea of "test" here is to "check" or “evaluate” something ... not so much in terms to criticize, but to clarify.
b. In the enterprising world we test all products before they go to the market place, why? To be sure they are worthy of merit for customers and actually do what they claim to do. I’ll bet when you take medications you are glad they have been adequately tested! It proves it worthiness beforehand so it helps ensure your healing. Why would we do less in the Spiritual world?
2. "Testing" is something all Christians should do, the Pastor's messages should be checked out by you, all things are to be evaluated in the light of God's written Word!
a. This includes prophetic utterances ... all the gifts of the Spirit will always be in sync with the written Word, they cannot ever contradict God's written Word!
b. This is what provides the balance to the earlier admonition to keep the "fire of the Spirit" as Paul had balanced his teaching in the other direction for the Corinthians too.
c. They were to be faithful to test the prophetic messages and to test everything to be sure it lined up with God's revealed Word.
3. To fail to test would leave them open to being gullible ... and thus their faithfulness could become wishy washy.
a. We cannot be faithful to that which we are confused over!
b. Once God's Word and His Ways are understood we can work on the faithfulness part with some sense of direction!
c. Don't just swallow everything, check things out; it will help you with your walk with God!
4. Faithfulness includes EVALUATION as part of the process! Investigate the Truth of God ... it will set you free!
ILLUS: A small boy sat in church with his mother and listened to the Pastor's sermon, he was distraught to find out the Pastor didn't know what a Christian was! The Pastor's sermon was even titled, "WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?" Every time the minister asked this question, he banged his fist on the pulpit for emphasis saying, “WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?” The tension produced by the sermon built up in the boy's mind and he finally whispered to his mother, "Mama, do you know? Do you know what a Christian is?" "Yes dear," she replied, "now sit still and be quiet." Finally, as the minister was winding up the sermon, he again thundered, "WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?" and banged especially hard on the pulpit. This time it was too much for the little boy, so he jumped up and cried out, "TELL HIM, MAMA, TELL HIM!" The little boy had evaluated the situation and he wanted everyone to know the answer! – Source Unknown
B. Inclusive 5:21a
1. The testing we do should be for everything!
a. All things are to be tested in the light of God's written Word!
b. Nothing takes precedence over this! Nothing is exempt from it either!
2. The safest way for them to maintain their faithful walk with God was by a constant testing of EVERYTHING!
a. Nothing is taken at face value alone ... or is decided upon by personal experience!
b. All things come under the scrutiny of God's written Word!
3. This includes my feelings as well as my actions.
4. It is not a matter of picking which spiritual truths I like and then ignoring the rest ... all things need to line up with God's Word, even those we find hard to accept or practice!
5. It is positive also, it means
embracing what the Word teaches even if my experience doesn’t fully line up at
present … if the gifts of the Spirit are taught in the Bible they are embraced
even if I haven’t experienced them personally yet. The Word is the final authority, not
what I feel comfortable with. This
is why Paul said to them, “do not treat prophecies with contempt.” … they
may not have been comfortable with them, but that didn’t mean prophecy could be
thrown out the window, it just needed correction as in the church in
ILLUS: God's Word call us to give Him our best, not our leftovers ... it seems hard to believe this will grant us great joy or give us much in return. Like the farmers in China, for many many years they planted potatoes and each fall when they harvested them they did the logical thing ... they kept all the big potatoes for themselves for eating, and stored the little ones for next year's seed crop. As the years went by they found they had fewer and fewer large potatoes until their crops produced potatoes the size of marbles! Finally someone explained what they were really doing, they were eating up all those potatoes that had the genes to make big ones and they were constantly sowing only those that held the genes for smaller and smaller potatoes! By keeping the biggest and best for themselves they had robbed their children and themselves of a future full of the best! They sowed small things and they reaped small things! Those however who are faithful in much shall be blessed by much! This works in ALL THINGS – Source Unknown
III. FAITHFUL IN EXAMPLE 5:21b-22
A. Integrate 5:21b
1. Now that Paul has encouraged them to keep the fire burning and to test everything he moves to the actual commands to be faithful in 2 ways:
a. “Hold on to the good.”
b. “Avoid every kind of evil.”
2. Let's look at the first one:
a. Hold on to the good -- in knowledge ...
b. And in practice; or example!
c. This is where the 2 come together; in our example!
3. It is not always easy to "hold on to the good" especially when everything seems to be going against us!
a. This is where faithfulness comes in!
b. How do I hold on to the good when there is no way out or when no answer or miracle seems forthcoming!?
c. Only by our faithful example do we hold out the good in the light of overwhelming odds!
ILLUS: Elisabeth Elliot has told the story of a toddler who was very ill and dying, but who had learned to recite the 23rd Psalm on her fingers. Starting with her pinkie, she would grab a finger as she said each word of "THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD." As she said the word, "SHEPHERD" she would clasp her thumb with her other hand in recognition of the God who cared for her. One morning, after a long and hard fight against her disease, without a miracle or medical help, the little girl was found dead. In bending down the adults discovered her one hand clasping her other thumb "THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD" she was saying in death ... an example of faithfulness in the absence of physical help! – Source Unknown
4. Here we find the challenge to be
faithful in spite of pressures, to "
a. Yet we must if we are to demonstrate the nature of Christianity as being different from the world!
b. This phrase indicates a sense of
c. This will require faithful effort!
5. Knowledge must be integrated with action to come alive!
1. Faithfulness to "Hold on to the good" also necessitates that we "AVOID EVERY KIND OF EVIL!"
2. We must learn not only what to do ... but what to stop doing!
ILLUS: One little girl was so proud of the fact that she had learned how to ride a bike, she was quite good at going in any direction ... but she never learned how to stop! She didn't understand about the brakes. So each time she rode, when she wanted to stop she had to run into something! This was an unpleasant way to ride a bike! She did well going, but experienced great pain stopping! – Source Unknown
3. Faithfulness in being an example includes avoiding those things which are associated with evil!
a. WE might hold to many good things ... but if we also embrace some evil things our witness will be compromised to the world!
b. Thus we need to "hold on the good" ... and also "AVOID THE EVIL."
4. Faithfulness to God includes both!
5. Let's remember to "BE FAITHFUL" as we watch for Christ's return!
CONCLUSION: God's final call to the church watching for His Son's return is to be faithful! We are to be faithful to keep the Spirit's fire burning in the church and in our hearts. We are to be faithful also to learn what's good ... and then live it as a faithful example, shunning those things that are evil! BE FAITHFUL SAINTS!