Summary: Learn four Christian responses for times of upheaval in life and in the world
Many of us have probably been watching the news about the war in Iraq. Maybe some of you are anxious about the possibility of a terrorist retaliation. Others of you may be wondering, if only in passing, whether this war brings us one step closer to the return of Christ.
These concerns should concern us. Most Americans don’t think much about the end times or even our personal death. I was talking to a personal development coach who said, "Everything in life we can choose. The only thing we have no choice in is death."
Yet, many people live in denial, believing that death only happens to someone else. The only times we think much about our own mortality is when we go to a funeral, when we go into the hospital for surgery, or when an aggressor threatens us.
But these events are infrequent. So we give little thought about death. And we are not prepared to die. Like students who have not prepared for their final exam and cannot enjoy their time before the exam, we can never fully enjoy the time we have in life unless we’ve prepared for death.
Last week, someone called to meet with me in case she doesn’t live through her upcoming surgery. She said that her children simply wanted her to get well, but she was ready to die. I told her that I wanted her to get well also, but I was glad that she had peace with God through Jesus Christ and the courage to face her death.
Preparation to die involves more than buying life insurance or a burial plot. Preparation to die involves more than estate planning. One of the responsibilities of the pastor is to prepare people to die well. And those prepared to die well can live fuller lives.
This morning, we will be looking at 2 Thessalonians 2:15-3:18. Paul wrote this letter to encourage the Christians who were suffering and to correct certain false teachings and the actions that follow such false teachings. The passage this morning addresses the incorrect responses to the false teaching that Christ has already returned.
A pastor friend, who is also a professor in practical theology, said, "If I knew that Christ was coming back next month, I would charge everything on my credit cards."
Some of us will know when we are living the last days of our lives. Others of us will die suddenly, or Christ will return before we die. But all of us can learn how to best live the final days of our lives on earth.
Paul gives us four encouragements from this passage in 2 Thessalonians. These encouragements deal with the problems associated with our own death or the upheavals in the end times. The problems include confusion, fear, hopelessness and passivity. Let’s look together.
The first encouragement that Paul gives to us is that we need to reach for biblical truth. Verses 2:15, 3:4, 3:14-15
Paul is encouraging the Christians in Thessalonica stand firm at the end times. After all, Jesus told us that the end times would be filled with wars, immorality, spiritual apathy and natural disasters. How should we respond when these things happen?
When we see evil, suffering or death, it is natural to be confused about what we believe and what we ought to do. We wonder if our beliefs and our behaviors have contributed to the current problem or whether our beliefs and behaviors can provide solutions.
In these times, we need to reach for biblical truths. Even if you don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word, you need to acknowledge that biblical truths have stood the test of time. And for us who believe that the Bible is God’s Word, we have God’s wisdom as our guide. And God’s wisdom is far better than man’s wisdom.
This week, a friend asked what I thought about the war in Iraq. He concluded that the loss of lives makes war morally wrong.
Most people believe that life is the ultimate measure of right and wrong. Other people believe that freedom is the ultimate measure of right and wrong. Still others believe that saving the environment is the ultimate measure of right and wrong. Hedonists believe that personal happiness is the ultimate measure of right and wrong.
But when you’re confused about life and death issues, put away public opinions and turn off the radio or television, if just for a moment, and reach for biblical truths. News offers information that is sometimes accurate and sometimes misleading. But news never offers wisdom. Biblical truths offer wisdom.
The biblical truths that have helped me evaluate the war in Iraq include the truth that war and death are not God’s original intent for mankind, but are the result of sin in mankind. Yet in a fallen world God permits human government to use force to restrain evil. So, war should be entered into only as a last resort and only for the purpose of restraining evil.