Summary: The 5th in our series on 1st Thessalonians. In this sermon we discuss how we as Christians should remain faithful to the Lord.
Hold the Line
Text: 1st Thessalonians 3:6-10
By: Ken McKinley
Before we get too far into this sermon lets re-cap a little bit, so that we can get the context of this passage. Paul had sent Timothy from Athens back to Thessalonica, about 200 miles, probably a week and a half’s journey in those days, to see how the new believers were doing. Most scholars figure that Timothy was probably gone about one month or so before he caught back up with Paul in the city of Corinth. When Timothy joined back up with Paul he told him the good news; that the Christians at Thessalonica were standing firm in their faith, despite the persecutions of the world and the temptations of the devil. And this is what verses 6 and 7 are all about.
Paul says that Timothy’s good report brought him a great deal of joy and encouragement. Now remember Paul himself had been attacked on more than one occasion, beaten, and jailed in Philippi, and he had been chased out of town in both Thessalonica and Berea, and he had suffered persecution in Athens. He had gone through hardship, riots, and faced the every day dangers of traveling in the ancient world, and in 2nd Corinthians chapter 11 he says that even beyond all of those things, there was the daily pressure on him of his own anxiety for all the churches. So when Timothy brought back that good news I betcha’ Paul felt like celebrating.
The most rewarding thing a pastor can see in this life is someone come to faith in Christ through his ministry; the second most rewarding thing he can see is someone staying strong in the faith after time passes. And we see that here, Paul was pretty happy when he heard Timothy’s report on the Christians in Thessalonica. In-fact he even uses a redundant expression for the sake of emphasis, look at verse 9, “For all the Joy with which we rejoice…” But then look what Paul writes in verse 10 – “We’re rejoicing for you, but night and day we continue to pray for you, and pray that we might see you again so that we can encourage you in your faith and bring your faith to maturity.”
Remember Paul had to leave the city in a hurry, so he wanted to return to them so that he could instruct them further, and in chapters 4 and 5 he seems to hint that there were at least a few things that they might not have taken to heart (we’ll get to them probably next time).
Now maybe its just me, but it seems like the older I get, the more things pop up to remind me that I’m not as young as I used to be. I’ve been subbing at the Christian Academy, and the other day one of the Kindergarteners asked me, “Were you in the Army?” I said, “Well yes I was.” Then she asked, “Did you know Abraham Lincoln?” And then, not too long ago (on my birthday), my cousin sent me an email that said, “Hey, did you know you’re 12 years away from a quarter of a century old, and only 13 years from a half century old?” Nothing like a well meaning family member to put things in perspective for you. But the reality is that life is short, the Bible says its like a vapor, and so hopefully we focus on what’s important in life, and live life with a deep sense of purpose, rather than just trying to make it day to day. And hopefully we are making worthwhile investments in life. I’m not talking about financial investments; I’m talking about what Paul writes in verse 8 of our text.
He says, “For now we live…”
In-other-words, he’s saying, “This is what makes life worth living; this is what its really all about… IF YOU STAND FAST IN THE LORD.”
Now when I was at OPSU, I was a student assistant football coach. I coached linebackers and special teams and on defense, the team had a saying, HOLD THE LINE! And what that meant was stand firm and do not be moved. And this is a concept we find over and over again in Paul’s letters. In 1st Corinthians 16:13 he says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith.” In Galatians 5:1 in the context of Christian liberty, Paul wrote, “Stand firm therefore, and do not be entangled again in a yoke of bondage.” Philippians 1:27, 2nd Corinthians 1:14, 2nd Thessalonians 2:15, over and over again Paul tells his brothers and sisters in Christ to stand fast, to stand firm, to hold the line! It’s also a term or phrase that you hear in a military context. If you ever watch any of the old war movies you might hear it, or if you watch the movie Braveheart, or the Patriot, both of them have scenes where Mel Gibson is urging his troops to hold the line.