Summary: THe very nature of advent, either his first or his second
Paul’s Joy… Established Hearts..
Dec 3 – 1st Sunday of Advent
† In Jesus Name †
The gift of peace is yours, from God the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ!
The fires threaten….
Yet the Valley is safe…
With the great winds blowing the remaining ash into the air, you could smell the destruction a mile before you could see it. But even that was not enough to prepare one to see the devastation left behind by the recent Banning/Beaumont fires.
Over the years, I have seen many, and been in two great fires. But even those did not leave the landscape as barren as the mountains above the cities of Beaumont and Banning. Literally, even the ground was scorched, and scorched so bad, that the ground appeared as smooth as ice. Nothing was left standing in most places, and even the rocks were now burnt black, leaving me with a really eerie feeling, even after a month since the fires.
As I winded around the corners, stunned at this site, I wondered what was left of the campground that Kay and I are members of, in a valley not too far ahead. For its pristine oaks, and tall eucalyptus and other trees make it a special place. As as I rounded the corner, and looked down into Silent Valley, there greeted me an incredible range of green, from the dark pine and oak, to the lighter greens of the leafy trees of section D. What a relief, our special place was safe!
If that is how I felt, over a simple campground, how much more was the Apostle Paul filled with joy, when he received a report from his trusted Timothy, about the church in Thessalonika. The verses just prior to our epistle reading today, give us that information…that because of the persecution of the church, and the temptations of Satan, Paul had to send Timothy there, worried about how the church was doing. And Timothy returns, indicating that the church had survived the devastating attack that Satan had thrown against them, and Paul rejoices, as we see in the first line of our reading,
Another translation reds verse 9 this way, “9 How can we thank God enough for you, for all the joy we feel before our God on your account?”
Imagine the relief of Paul, who thought these dear people, among the first of the churches he planted, were history. I can see his concern, as he wondered who whose faith would survive, despite threats of martyrdom, and those whose faith would fail them.
Great joy, because they are standing firm
Thanksgiving – to give joy!
Their faith is secure… they trust in Christ
Instead, Paul is full of joy, because Timothy’s report was so good – Paul wonders how he can thank God enough. Not only is there relief, the news couldn’t be better! It would be like getting an audit from the IRS, and then learning they found that you overpaid your taxes by $9000! But this is so much more, for it is people Paul loves, it is people that have endured, it is his people that are, safe.
These friends, these people he was brought Christ’s love to, whom He saw begin their life in the faith, have survived the onset of Satan’s attacks. They stuck to Christ, and the promise that He had rescued them from their sin, and from eternal death. As a pastor, there is nothing that brings more joy, than seeing your people grow in their faith, to begin to understand how much they can trust in Christ. What a joy to see people realize that God is there with them, and to see them begin to realize how complete His peace is!
In today’s world, the attacks are perhaps more subtle, the persecution more veiled.. Satan loves to get us to fall into sin, and then make us think there is no more escape. He wants us to see Christianity as obligations, where we have to do something to earn God’s favor and mercy. Went to church this month – check! Looked at my Bible on the coffee table – check! Prayed that the CHP officer driving behind me is in a forgiving mood – check! that all proves I am a “good Christian” – right?
Not really! What the people in Thessalonika counted on, was not their works, but the works of Jesus! They counted on the relationship they had, with the God who was born and lain in a cradle, and then died on the cross – for them – for us. To know that He, who died, that our sins would not be counted against us, would sustain us.
And that they realized this, excited Paul, and brought him incredible joy!