Our world is changing – rapidly! It is changing faster than anytime in my life and going downhill fast: loss of unity, loss of morals, terrorism, polarity, incivility, anger, narcissistic self-centeredness, greed, envy, etc. This should not come as a surprise for God has told us these times will come and have come in the past (Matt. 24:6; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).
I have my ideas as to why this is happening in our society. For example, taking God out of public life and relegating him to private lives only; too much focus on self-esteem, too much focus on self as the source of truth; our world has become more about entertainment and games; no longer much purpose to life.
It is getting harder and harder to have a positive attitude in our world and that things are going to change. But that got me thinking more and more about the second coming of Jesus…the coming of the Lord!
So now I find myself saying more than I ever have before, “Lord, Jesus, come! Come quickly!”
The culture and church in Thessalonica was in a situation much like our world today. Believers were being ostracized and criticized by both the secular Roman world and the religious Jewish world.
Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church was written to uplift the church, to praise them for what they were doing and to encourage them to continue being faithful – especially in light of their culture. 1 Thessalonians also happens to contain the most explicit description in the Bible about the events surrounding the return of Christ. In fact, Paul speaks in every chapter about the coming of Jesus (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:1-11).
1 Thessalonians 4 is the most exciting passage that talks about the coming of Jesus. In this chapter Paul talks about what happens to those who have already died and those who are still living when Jesus returns. And then in 4:18 Paul says to them (and to us), “therefore, encourage one another with these words.” What words? The words about the coming of the Lord Jesus! Not about the timing of his coming but about the hope and encouragement as motivation for how to live now in light of the future!
Paul, then, I think, encourages us in the last chapter of his letter (ch. 5) with how to live now in light of Jesus’ return then - whenever it is, however long it takes, God calls us to live godly lives within our world now – at this time - until he comes again! In the meantime, Paul says we should maintain respectful and edifying relationships with leaders, with one another, with everyone, and especially with God himself.
Here in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-18 Paul gives us five things for us to do as we live now in light of Jesus’ return then!
1. The first thing for us to do is live “ALERT AND EXPECTANT.” v. 1-7
Jesus’ return is inevitable but unpredictable! We know he is coming but he will come like a “thief in the night.” Many are unaware, ignorant or just not paying attention, thinking they have peace and safety when they suddenly may not! They are not alert, not expecting judgment to be coming their way and yet it is! “Like labor pains” – they will come, you cannot escape them. Thinking they are doing great, they are unaware that something is coming their way that will bring destruction. But Paul says, “You, believers, should know this.” You are not in the dark on this, you are “sons of the light” so stay alert and self-controlled. Do not be caught in the dark! Do not let other things keep you in the dark, unaware or forgetful, do not let other things get in your way. Go about your regular life, regular business – but stay ALERT and EXPECTANT for Jesus is coming!
2. The second thing for us to do is “PUT ON YOUR ARMOR.” v. 8-10
These are defensive items, “the breastplate of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation,” to protect and defend yourself. Here Paul mentions his favorite trio – Faith, Hope and Love! With self-control, put on faith and love as a breastplate guarding your heart and the hope of salvation as a helmet to guard your mind!
Live now by faith – placing your faith and trust in Jesus, believe in his Word, trust God’s promises, take God at his word, no matter what! Live now with love - love as God has loved you, sacrificially, with humility, submitting yourself to God’s will, no matter what! Live now in hope - we are not appointed to suffer wrath but rather salvation through Jesus! Jesus died for us that we may live with him – now and in eternity! No matter what!
3. The third thing for us to do is “ENCOURAGE AND BUILD UP OTHERS.” v. 11
Keep doing what you’ve been doing, don’t stop! Encourage one another with the return of Jesus, helping people to grow in their faith, to learn how to live by faith, with love and in hope! Build them up to be alert and expectant. Live like now doing what you regularly are doing!
4. The fourth thing for us to do is “MAINTAIN A GODLY ATTITUDE TOWARD OTHERS.” v. 12-18
Believing God, with hope in his eventual return, love others as God has loved you. Respect your leaders; those who lead you, teach you, and even at times admonish you. Live in peace with each other. As Rom. 12:18 says, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (v. 12-13)
Help those who need help realizing that different kinds of people need different kinds of help. (v. 14) Warn or admonish the idle – probably these were people creating disorder, probably not working but just waiting for Jesus. (you know, the sell everything and move to Montana type of people). Encourage the fainthearted or timid – these are probably people anxious and worried about their own faith and that of others, they are fearful, unsure and anxious. Help the weak – these are probably people struggling with sin, weak in self-control. All help is not the same, identify the kind of help needed and be patient with all. Then, seek no revenge, but seek to do good, forgive those who hurt you and live at peace with all. (v.15).
Live now with a Godly attitude toward others.
5. Then the fifth thing for us to do is “MAINTAIN A PROPER ATTITUDE TOWARD GOD.” v. 16-18
“Rejoice always” – full of joy, take delight, be glad in God, who he is, what he has done! He is the source of all life – joy is found in him, joy is outside of circumstance; it is an internal joy/delight in God. Rejoice always for God is in control!
“Pray without ceasing” – maintain constant contact with the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, God the Father as you have direct access to him because of Jesus. Pray because God is in control.
“In everything give thanks” – A thankful heart is God’s will for you. Recognize and thank God for all he has done and will do for you, now and in the future. Recognize the sovereign hand of God in all of your life. Nothing comes to you that has not first been filtered through God’s sovereign and loving hands. Live life now with a grateful heart.
Yes, the world is falling apart fast. But yes, Jesus is coming again. Be prepared and ready for him to come, but until he does…
… live life now alert and expectant with self-control.
… live life now with the protective armor of faith, hope and love.
… live life now encouraging and building up others.
… live life now with a Godly attitude toward others, helping those who need help.
… live life now with a proper attitude toward God, rejoice always, no matter what; pray continually, no matter what; and in everything give thanks, no matter what!