Be Encouraged – 1 Thessalonians 1

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I’m excited to begin a new series through the book of 1 Thessalonians. This is one of Paul’s earliest letters and some believe it’s his first. The theme is the church and the second coming of Jesus. Jesus is coming back for His Church! The Church is not a building, it’s the people of God. In the very first verse we read, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Oh how we need God’s all-sufficient grace and His peace in this broken and chaotic world! Paul then opens with a prayer of thanksgiving, in which he remembers the Church’s work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope.

Work of Faith
What is the work of faith? Paul explains in verse 9. “…You turned to God from idols….” Salvation is all the “work” of God. You cannot save yourself. You come to God His way, on His terms, and in His timing. God gives us faith to believe and faith to receive. Salvation was planned by God the Father before the foundation of the world. It was provided by God the Son when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave. It is protected by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit indwells, baptizes, fills, and seals us. True salvation is a change of heart, mind, and direction. You turn from trusting in self to trust in the Savior. Thank God for His work of salvation! Every day the idols and false gods of this world compete for the throne of our heart. Every sin that we struggle with comes back to idolatry. Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters. We have to remember the gospel and choose Him. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rm. 1:16).

Labor of Love
Verse 9 also defines “labor of love.” It is, “…to serve the living and true God….” Don’t waste your life serving the dead gods of this world. Instead, serve the one true and living God. Be encouraged. Regardless of what happens in 2020, because He lives you can face tomorrow. You can live through the tough times of today knowing you have a terrific tomorrow coming! We are not saved by good works, but we are saved to do good works. In verses 7-8 we read that the Church lived as examples to others and that their faith had gone forth. Love is more than a group hug or kumbaya. You have to work at it! We have to work at our marriage, friendships, and serving those around us. We unapologetically invite every member of Liberty to serve on the Life Team because we know that is where true joy comes from. We want people to know God, find community, serve people, and leave a legacy. When you work at those things, and help others move toward those things, there is great joy!

Patience of Hope
Paul reminisces in verse 6 that they “received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” Let’s be honest. Some days we enjoy and some we endure. I watched a conference last week and one of the speakers said that 2020 may seem like a wilderness year, full of detours, but it does not have to be a wasted year. Suffering is a part of life, but we do not have to lose our joy. He is faithful! Verse 10 says, “…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Jesus is coming again! Out of 260 chapters in the New Testament, the second coming is mentioned 318 times. The last prayer of the Bible is “even so come Lord Jesus.” For those who know Him, He will wipe every tear from our eyes. He will remember our work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope. That is why we want to leave a legacy. Make your life count for what will last forever. However, all who reject God’s Son, Jesus, will be condemned with the devil and his demons to an eternity separated from God. God must punish sin. You will either pay for all your sins for all of eternity in a place called hell, or you can accept Jesus’ payment on the cross for your sins as your substitute. Will you accept God’s free gift of forgiveness by faith today if you have not already?

Thank God for His work of faith in us! May we serve Jesus as a labor of love and may we see a harvest of souls as we wait for His coming!

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Leaders that Last – 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
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