The way we conceive the future sculpts the present, gives contour and tone to nearly every action and though through the day. If our sense of future is weak, we live listlessly. Much emotional and mental illness and most suicides occur among men and women who feel that they “have no future.”
The Christian faith has always been characterized by a strong and focused sense of future, with belief in the Second Coming of Jesus as the most distinctive detail. For the day Jesus ascended into heaven, his followers lived in expectancy of His return. He told them He was coming back. They believed He was coming back. They continue to believe it. For Christians, it is the most important thing to know and believe about the future. I believe it! Don’t you?
The practical effect of this belief is to charge each moment of the present with HOPE. For if the future is dominated by the coming again of Jesus, there is little room left on the screen for projecting our anxieties and fantasies. It take the clutter out of our lives. We’re far more free to respond spontaneously to the freedom of God.
All the same, the belief can be misconceived so that it results in paralyzing fear for some, shiftless indolence i others. Paul’s two letter to the Christians in Thessalonica, among much else, correct such debilitating misconceptions, prodding us to continue to live forward in taut and joyful expectancy for what God will do next in Jesus.
How has our present circumstances affected our thinking?
What role has our “future hope” played in our present?
Who is our hope? How committed are we to our Hope?
How does knowing He is coming back affect what we think today?
As meditate on the highlights of these important letters from Paul to the Christians, let us think about what we desire most knowing that Jesus will return someday to take us with Him to a place He is preparing for all who believe and follow Him.
1 Thessalonians 1 – (NIV)
“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Has our endurance been inspired by hope in Jesus during this time of quarantine and all that goes with being isolated?
“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”
What kind of “model” have we been during the quarantine?
“The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.”
THE REPUTATION OF THE CHURCH…
“They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”
1 Thessalonians 2
“We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”
“We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else…”
“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”
“…we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”
“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.”
Paul takes more joy in seeing others do what he taught them than in doing the work himself. We should model this kind of teaching. Are those we teach our “hope” for the future?
1 Thessalonians 3
Paul’s prayer of hope to believers…”May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”
What is our prayer for each other?
1 Thessalonians 4 – LIVE TO PLEASE GOD
“…learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God…”
“…no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.”
“God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”
“…and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
OUR HOPE IS THE FUTURE!
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”
“According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
How do you respond to this passage? What is your hope? Who is your hope?
1 Thessalonians 5
“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.”
“…let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER
“Live in peace with each other.”
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”
CREATED TO WORSHIP CONTINUALLY
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”
PRAYER WITH A PROMISE
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
2 Thessalonians 1
LET GOD TAKE CARE OF THOSE WHO OPPOSE YOU
“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”
“He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed…”
2 Thessalonians 2
WHEN JESUS COMES BACK…
“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come.”
“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness[a] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.”
BEWARE OF ANYONE CLAIMING TO BE GOD
“He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”
SATAN IS A LIAR
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
Who is living the lie in your family? Do you pray for them? Do you pray for words and opportunity to speak Truth? Do we live Truth in their presence?
STAND FIRM IN HOPE
“He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
2 Thessalonians 3
PRAY FOR ALL TO HEAR THE HOPE
“…brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.”
“…the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”
“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (My prayer for all who are reading this right now!)
“…never tire of doing what is good.”
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”
In Jesus Name, Amen. I believe, therefore I have Hope!