Summary: Encouraging others to seek Jesus and to learn to "swing" in his ways.
I remember back, as though it was yesterday, when Emma and Grace were just little tikes. There was a great playground —just down the hill from our seminary apartment — where the girls would climb, slide and swing.
Day-after-day they’d ask, “Mom, Dad, can we go to the park and swing?” They just loved it when we’d lift them up and onto the swings, and push them higher-and-higher — seemingly for minutes on end. They never grew tired of having someone at their back to push them to new heights.
For about three years the girls needed a push from behind, until they got big enough to learn how kick their legs. This too came with some instruction. We’d prop them up and get them going, and then sit down beside them on another swing and teach them how to kick-out and pump their legs. In time, they learned how to get themselves up and swing on their own. Still, they always enjoyed having mom or dad, or big sister next to them, to share in the experience of swinging, all the while encouraging them all along.
I bet almost all of you can relate to this story. It is one that’s kind of been a tradition in our culture — parents giving their kids a boost onto a swing, pushing them behind, and teaching them in time how to swing on their own.
Ya know, this concept of parents teaching their kids to swing is nothing new, and it provides a great illustration for some biblical insights we’re going to see this morning. Today we’re going to look at Paul’s first letter To the church of the Thessalonians. We’re gonna see how Paul propped them up onto Jesus’ swing, and pushed them from behind until they were ready to swing on their own. Still, even then, he continued to encourage them by swinging by their side, all the while cheering them on to likewise teach others how to swing.
BACKGROUND – SET THE STAGE
They’d been in Thessalonica at least three weeks: preaching, ministering, encouraging. Lots of folks were engaging the Gospel, taking it to heart, and the seeds of the faith were starting to grow. However, in V.5 Luke wrote, “But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city.”
Now, as we’re going to hear in a few minutes, Paul describes these jealous Jews as “who grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (1 Th 4:13). The jealous Jews stir up dissention and start the persecution of the Thessalonians’ church. Now, as Luke wrote in verse 10, Paul and Silas were whisked away under the cover of night after Jason and a few others had been thrown in jail. Sometime thereafter —while in Athens —Paul did two things:
First, he sent Timothy back to check-in and encourage the new church, and to see how (if they any ) they’d been growing in their faith, or if they were “falling away” because of persecution. See, Paul was afraid that he hadn’t pushed the from behind so to speak, or sat by them long enough to train them up in the ways of the Lord. Moreover, he was afraid they hadn’t spent enough time teaching the Thessalonians how to pump their spiritual legs, or stated another way, how to stand firmly in their newfound faith in Jesus Christ.
Yet, the message Timothy reports encourages Paul. He reported that not only were they doing well, but that they were also growing in love, faith and hope — so much so that they were encouraging others in Christ Jesus by spreading the Gospel to those in nearby towns. So, with that report, Paul pens this letter to encourage them. Let’s start at the beginning of the letter to hear of that encouragement to remain steadfast in the faith. Turn please 1 Thessalonians 1 – this should be around pp 1838-1839 in the pew Bible.
FAITH, LOVE AND HOPE
READ 1 THESSALONIANS 1:2–10. V.2 – Now, within this section —well, actually over-and-again in this letter— Paul repeats three words to describe how the Thessalonians are swinging on Jesus’ salvation swing: in faith, love, and hope. But not only that, Paul also uses these three words to continue encouraging them to kick their new spiritual legs to higher heights.
V. 8 Paul says, “Your faith in God has become known everywhere.” That’s the fruit of the labors – the first-fruits of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What’s amazing is that within three to four weeks, their faith grew to such heights that they no longer needed to be “pushed from behind,” but instead they pumped their faith to new heights with love and hope.