Summary: A sermon to be used at the beginning of a pastorate.
Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 1 Corinthians 4:2 (NRSVA)
1Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; 2and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 (NRSVA)
11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 (NRSVA)
If we could summarize the verses at hand in one sentence it would read: A pastor must be faithful to his calling; his calling is to prepare the flock entrusted to him to do theirs.
The apostle John wrote words like that in his epistle:
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 3 John 1:4 (KJV)
A pastor’s purpose is to prepare God’s people for living a Godly life, both in private and public ¡V devotion and service. And the best preparation must take into account the difficult times. Paul knew about suffering for Christ, and he prepared his people to suffer if God called them to do it.
The word ¡§establish¡¨ means to set something firmly. Paul didn’t want his people to be moved (or shaken into trembling, see v.3) by the afflictions (literally: pressing).
Let’s face it; there is a lot of pressure in the society in which we live. Paul said that his business (appointment v.3) was to equip the church to deal with life’s pressures. When he found out that they were not only equipped, dealing with life’s hardships, and still had fondness in their hearts for him, Paul was overjoyed. The temptations had come, and his people were standing victorious in Christ. What joy!
The wrap-up of his message to the church was, hey, your strength has renewed my strength, and I’m praying to God that it will continue to spread from one to another, and to the whole community like a good infectious disease!
It¡¦s true, strength will build strength!
Now, with the understanding of those verses, and what they meant in Paul¡¦s day, we need to make the leap of application to July, 2006.
WHAT DO FAMILIES NEED TODAY?
An answer comes back rather quickly: We need our strength established to deal with the critical issues and temptations that are destroying families and individuals today. We need to be firmly set and ready (ESTABLISHED) to handle the pressures of daily living. What are the challenges?
There are MORAL challenges.
„Ã There was a time when you could protect at least the smallest children from the bad side of town. Today we live in a sewer-like moral climate. It invades our homes from TV, the Internet and the prevailing secularism of our society.
„Ã Sexual freedom makes for a confusing workplace for both men and women.
„Ã Legal gambling and substance abuse (alcohol/prescription happy doctors) help us teach our children to deaden the pain, instead of deal with the problems.
There are FINANCIAL challenges. It may be difficult for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, but it’s nearly impossible for many of us to match up the length of month with the supply of money!
There are RELATIONSHIP challenges. Everywhere it seems like it is more and more difficult for people to get along. The church is not an exception.
What can we do? The choices range from¡K
„Ã Give up and die;
„Ã Muddle through, hoping not to get clobbered;
„Ã Find a way to be victorious in spite of circumstances.
Plato said, the particulars of life are meaningless, unless you have an absolute in life to hold on to. The problem most of our young people have in finding any hope is they¡¦re being taught there are no absolutes ¡V everything is relative, therefore nothing will be absolute and victorious.
Jesus said it without stuttering, I AM the resurrection and the life (Jn 11.25a). Jesus is the absolute that makes the particulars of life, even the pressures and great challenges, worthwhile.
Conclusion: Families need Jesus.
WHAT CAN THE PASTORS DO TO HELP?
Paul appointed pastors in the churches he began. He left Titus in Crete to teach a whole flock of new believers how to act like the family of God. He sent young Timothy to Ephesus, armed with the Word of God, and an admonition not to let older people despise his youth, just for the sake of youth. Somehow pastors are to help their flock. What can they do to establish families and individuals?