Summary: The resurrection of the dead and the return of Jesus are two great reasons we have to be encouraged to face life and death today
1. Text: I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
Introduction: The year was 155 AD. Persecution against Christians had swept across the Roman Empire and arrived at the city of Smyrna. The proconsul there joined in, and ordered the arrest of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna. He was to be brought to the public arena for execution, before thousands of spectators screaming for blood. But the proconsul had compassion on this man, almost 100 years old. He silenced the crowd and said to Polycarp, "Curse the Christ and live."
Everyone waited for the old man to answer. In an amazingly strong voice, he said, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong. How dare I blaspheme the name of my King and Lord!" With that Polycarp joined the ranks of the martyrs.
Ecuador, 1956, 5 men were killed by the Auca Indians. One of them was Jim Elliot, whose widow Elisabeth ultimately saw the baptism of her husband’s killer. Listen to what she wrote on behalf of those 5 widows one year after their husbands’ deaths:
“We have proved beyond any doubt that He means what He says--His grace is sufficient, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. We pray that if any, anywhere, are fearing that the cost of discipleship is too great, that they may be given to glimpse that treasure in heaven promised to all who forsake.”
Colombia, 1981,Chet Bitterman was a missionary killed by terrorists. When he is asked about his family, Chet’s father says, “We have eight children, and they're all living: one's in heaven and seven are on earth.“
What is it about these Christians and the way people speak of their deaths?!
Sometimes it’s almost funny what people come up with as the ways that Christians are different from non-Christians. Some think it means we dress a certain way, or that we speak with a certain accent. To some, Christianity is merely being a person who doesn’t do certain things – most of them fun. In fact, it means not having any fun at all. They’re sure that’s the same as being a Christian because Jesus never smiled.
One author quoted a confused church member saying about Christians, “We already know that we can’t love each other the right way, so people can’t tell by that, but shouldn’t we at least be weird?”
How are we different – or how are we supposed to be different? Let me encourage you this morning with a section of this letter to the Thessalonians that tells us 2 very encouraging ways believers in Jesus are different from everyone else – it’s about the way we face death, and how we face our life in the future.
I. We Face Death with Great Hope (4:13-18)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
1. The way we face death is different than the rest