Summary: The more closely I am tied to the Christian community of a local church the more hopeful I will be!
Connecting with Community Provides Hope – 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20
Part 2 of 4 in the series “A Time for Hope!”
We’re glad you’re here today as we continue our series on hope.
Hope is a vital part of life. Once you start losing hope your life becomes more challenging. You’re more easily tempted to give in and to give up. Things that wouldn’t normally derail you begin to erode your sense of well being.
People who lose hope stop trying. They stop trying in their relationships. They stop trying to maintain good health. They stop trying in their finances. Losing hope can even cause you to give up on God.
A lot of bad choices are made when people begin losing hope. They say to themselves “What’s the use?” “What’s the use to keep trying with my marriage? What’s the use of continuing to follow Christ and going to church when I still fail miserably at times? What’s the use of trying to make my children act right – they still misbehave? What’s the use in trying to get my family and friends to come to Christ? What’s the use staying morally pure with so many people around me living how they want to? What’s the use living with integrity on the job when many others are not doing so?”
Asking yourself “what’s the use” questions is a sign that you may need to have your hope re-energized. Lost hope makes you want to stop trying. That’s why we vitally need hope. Real hope – not imaginary hope.
We don’t benefit from the lies all around us that people tell themselves to keep going. They tell themselves that hope is in the bottom of a bottle of booze or in a needle or in a string of illicit sexual relationships or in material gain or success or popularity. That’s not where hope is. Millions of people could tell you – they’ve tried that stuff and it doesn’t provide hope. We need to know the truth about hope. That’s why we’re looking to God’s Word.
Today we’re going to look at what the Bible says in Paul’s first letter to the church in the Grecian city of Thessalonica. Paul and his missionary team had started the church there but they were run out of town by a riotous mob after only three weeks of proclaiming the Good News about Jesus. The new believers asked Paul to leave town for his own safety. (Acts 17) So he writes this letter to let them know he’s still thinking about them. What he says in this passage is pregnant with implications about hope.
17 Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. (Circle “intense longing to see you) 18 We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. 19 After all, what gives us hope (circle that question, “what gives us hope?”) and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20 (NLT)
Paul asks the question in verse 19, “What gives us hope?” That’s precisely the question we all need answered.
We were reminded of one answer last week when we read what Jesus said about persistent prayer providing hope. Today we want to see another basis of hope – getting connected and staying connected to a community of faith. The stronger my ties to Christian community the greater my hope!
That was Paul’s answer to the question “What gives us hope? He told the Christ followers in Thessalonica – “It is you!” Paul said that his connection to others through Christian community raised his horizon of hope! Being around others that shared the same basic values bolstered Paul’s hope. And it will exponentially increase our hope as well. When he got around others who were following Christ it encouraged him. It reminded him of spiritual truth. It motivated him to keep going. Interacting with the community of Christ followers was one of the things that infused his life with hope!
Paul tenaciously believed in building hope through community. You can see this theme not only here but also throughout his writings. Paul was a people person. Everywhere he went he made friends and was intent on keeping those relationships vibrant. He thrived on interaction with others and this sense of community gave him hope. It kept him going – it kept him motivated. And Paul faced a lot of situations that called for hope.
Paul put up with a lot of troubles in life. He had violent enemies trying to kill him. He was beaten within an inch of life on several occasions. Several other times he had to flee a city because people sought to kill him. Thessalonica was one of those cities. His enemies even followed him to the next city. He fought cyclones on the sea, which led to shipwrecks, which threatened his life. He did battle with Satan continuously for the lives of those who needed Christ. He was arrested and put in jail, and he suffered hunger and need – and much more. Yet every time you read his letters you see that he is filled with tremendous hope! Nothing got him down. That’s why we should pay close attention to his answer to the question “What gives us hope?” This man knew what he was talking about!