Summary: Do we deserve God's commendation for our services to him. Well based on Paul's converts at Thessalonica, I would say we do, because we love to serve the Lord in an age where it is unpopular and irrelevant, and to think of others before our ourselves.
This sermon was delivered to St Oswald’s in Maybole,
Ayrshire, Scotland on the 19th October 2014
(a Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries).
Summary: Do we deserve God's commendation for our services to him. Well based on Paul's converts at Thessalonica, I would say we do, because we love to serve the Lord in an age where it is unpopular and irrelevant to go to church, and to think of others before ourselves.
“Please join me in my prayer.” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord. Amen. (Ps. 19:14)
Imagine for a moment the apostle Paul was alive and he was about to write a letter to us this morning. Do you think he would commend us, or would he condemn us … I suppose it would be a bit like our map review; the Bishop certainly commended us on our achievements … that is, within reason.
To answer that question we can look at the church in Thessalonica and compare it with ourselves, but not on individual projects but on spiritual matters. But before we do, we need to do some background; now, Thessalonica is by the way, the major city of Macedonia, it is the second largest city in Greece and today the name has been shortened to Salonia or Salonika.
In Paul’s day, this city was the most important commerce centre in the region and is situated in the northern Greek coast, with its harbour strategically located at the head of the Aegean Sea. Back then it was a thriving metropolitan area full of vice … greed … and false religion. It fact Mt. Olympus, the home of the Greek gods is said to be located not far from Thessalonica itself.
The background to Paul's letter is also interesting, because on Paul 2nd mission, he left Philippi, and had moved to Thessalonica to preach the gospel, (about 100 miles west), and his campaign there was very successful as people listen to him, and gotten to know the Lord. A church was also established, but this church stirred up opposition, which led to persecution, particularly from the establishment, the Jews.
For example, in Acts 17, we hear of a mob that went to the house of a man called Jason where Paul and his companions had been staying … but when they couldn’t find Paul, they dragged Jason out of his home and brought him before the city leaders and accused him of heresy, bringing their accusations against the whole of the Christian movement.
This was a serious situation, and so Paul was persuaded to flee from Thessalonica to Berea, and from Berea he sped again to Athens where he sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonians on the sly. In the mean time Paul went to Corinth, and it was in Corinth he met with Timothy again, who brought him the news of how the church at Thessalonica was doing; and so this epistle or letter is Paul’s written response to that report.
Now this letter was written in about 50 AD which makes it one of the first letters that Paul wrote … and Paul was greatly relieved to hear that these young converts in Thessalonica were remaining faithful in the midst of all their trials and tribulation; and he commends them their faithful service; … for being open and receptive; … and for their evangelistic influence for the Lord …. and it is in light of this commendation I want to do a comparison with ourselves, albeit very loosely.
I. Their Faithful Service to the Lord.
Paul says in verse 2, “We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers”, and the reason for this thanks is given in verse 3, where he goes onto mention three hallmarks of their walk with God. Verse 3 and I paraphrase, “We continually remember before our God and Father: … 1. … your work produced by faith, …. 2. … your labours were prompted by your love, and … 3. …your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ".
1. your work produced by faith,
The first of these hallmarks is work that is produced by faith, as Christians in general have a kind of faith that produces good works. They do not just talk, as we so often hear, but talk with positive action. You see, the person who has no faith in God, sees no reason to work for the Lord … and in their mind it is all about them and what they can gain; but for the Christian, it is all about what they can give.
Think about it, do we honestly get more pleasure from what we have taken from somebody, or do we get more pleasure from knowing that the fruits of our labours have helped somebody. Honestly, for us, nothing beats the satisfaction of knowing that we have helped someone … … and so from that we can conclude we are different from the rest of the world. So something in us, is different.