Until He Comes
Read : 2 Thessalonians 3:1-16
Text : 2 Th 3:5 (KJV) And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
Theme : We are to live with the inner expectation that Christ may come today, but with an outward lifestyle that says He might not come in our lifetime.
Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians to comfort the church about the imminent return of Christ.
Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians to correct an error in thinking about the imminent return of Christ.
He was concerned that there were some who had decided to abandon a responsible lifestyle, citing the soon return of Christ as the reason for their laziness and irresponsibility.
(READ LESSON THEME, which is the correct attitude he wanted to impress upon the Thessalonians.)
How do we do this? How do we live a balanced life, that expects Jesus to appear any moment, but lives as if he may not appear in our lifetime? How do we balance hope and responsibility?
Notice Paul's thoughts:
I. PRAY for one another (vss. 1-2)
QUESTION - Paul requested prayer for 2 things in these verses. What were they?
A. Pray for the spread of the gospel.
1. We get discouraged waiting for Chirst, when we see few being saved.
ILLUS. Boarded up churches.
ILLUS. Abandoned church camp I saw in southern Ohio, with empty chapel and pulpit.
2. On the other hand, when the gospel is openly advancing, we are encouraged and reminded Christ is alive.
ILLUS. When iron curtain came down and the first efforts at evangelism yielded such a rich harvest, it was truly thrilling.
B. Pray for the protection of others.
QUESTION - To whom, in our day, might we apply this type of prayer? Why, specifically, do they need it?
C. Prayer is vital to creating that inner expection, as well as that outer balanced lifestyle that Paul is talking about.
1. Personal (i.e. individual) prayer is needed.
1 Chr 16:11 (KJV) Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.
Mat 26:41 (KJV) Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Luke 18:1 (KJV) And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
John 16:24 (KJV) Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
1 Th 5:17 (KJV) Pray without ceasing.
2. Corporate (i.e. church wide) prayer is also needed.
Mat 18:19 (KJV) Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
Acts 1:14 (KJV) These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
Acts 12:12 (KJV) And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
II. TRUST in God's faithfulness (vs. 3)
QUESTION - What was Paul supremely confident in, according to verse 3? (ANSWER - God's faithfulness.)
QUESTION - If God's faithfulness is taken out of the picture, is there any way for us to succeed in the Christian life?
QUESTION - If God's faithfulness is working for us, is there any way for us to fail at the Christian life?
ILLUS. Deliverance of Israel through the Red Sea - looked hopeless, but God was faithful.
ILLUS. Deliverance of Elijah on Mt. Carmel - He thought he was all alone, but God was faithful.
ILLUS. Samson's last stand against the Philistines - He thought he had ruined everything, but God was faithful.
ILLUS. Two disciples on road to Emmaus - They thought that their hopes were dashed with Jesus' death, but GOD WAS FAITHFUL.
PRINCIPLE - No matter how long it seems to take; no matter how bleak the outlook to us, GOD'S FAITHFULNESS IS ABSOLUTE.
Deu 7:9 (KJV) Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
Heb 10:23 (KJV) Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
Psa 36:5 (KJV) Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
III. OBEY what we have been taught (vs. 4)
SONG - Trust and Obey
"When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His word,
What a glory He sheds on our way.
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there's no other way.
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."
QUESTION - Concerning obedience, who was Paul's confidence in? (ANSWER - Still, it was in God, not the Thessalonians!)
A. Our ABILITY to obey comes from God.
B. Our faithful obedience fuels our inner expectation and hope.
QUESTION - How? Why?
C. Our faithful obedience demonstrates an outward, disciplined lifestyle.
IV. LEARN love and patience (vs. 5)
QUESTION - What 2 areas of our life are mentioned in this verse, which we should be working to improve? (ANSWER - Love and patience).
A. Learn to love like God loves.
QUESTION - How would you describe God's love?
SONG - The Love of God.
The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell,
It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win:
His erring child He reconciled And pardoned from his sin.
When years of time shall pass away and earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray, on rocks and hills and mountains call,
God's love so sure shall still endure, All measureless and strong:
Redeeming grace to Adam's race - The saints' and angels' song.
Could we with ink the ocean fill And were the skies of parchment made,
Were ev'ry stalk on earth a quill And ev'ry man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above Would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole Tho stretched from sky to sky.
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure -
The saints' and angels' song.
B. God's love is UNCONDITIONAL
Rom 5:8 (KJV) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
1. We need to learn to love God like He loves us.
Deu 6:5 (KJV) And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
2. We need to learn to love others like He loves us.
Deu 10:19 (KJV) Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Mat 22:39 (KJV) Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
John 13:35 (KJV) By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Rom 12:9 (KJV) Let love be without dissimulation (i.e. partiality)...
QUESTION - How do we learn to love like God?
QUESTION - Hwo will such love be demonstrated in our lives?
C. Learn patience like Christ's patience.
NOTE - Two possible interpretations of verse 5 are that it may be a directive to wait for Christ's return, or it may be an example of the patience we should emulate (that of Jesus, Himself).
1. First interpretation becomes the theme of 2 Thessalonians.
2. Second interpreation becomes a goal for us while waiting ofr HIs return.
QUESTION - What examples of Christ's patience can you think of?
ILLUS. Dealing with Peter after his denial.
ILLUS. Dealing with the disciples as they argued over who would be greatest.
ILLUS. Dealing with Pilate's arrogance when he said he had the power to kill Him.
QUESTION - do you have Christ's patience yet?
QUESTION - How do we learn patience?
QUESTION - How will learning to love like God and have patience like Christ, strengthen our inner expectation of His return? (our outward lifestyle?)
V. WORK while we wait (vss. 6-12)
QUESTION - What is Paul talking about in this section? What was the problem?
ANSWER - Apparently, because they thought CHrist's return was imminent (inner expectation), some were just standing around waiting (no outward lifestyle).
ILLUS. Acts 1:9-11 "Why stand ye gazing...?"
QUESTION - Why were some thinking this way?
ANSWER - cf. 2:2-3 (perhaps a misunderstanding of Paul's previous letter; perhaps a letter from someone else... we can't be sure.)
QUESTION - What instruction for believers did Paul give to correct this problem?
A. Work is commanded (vs. 12)
QUESTION - Who was their example?
B. Paul was the example. (vss. 7-9)
QUESTION - What does this passage teach about church's responsibility to financially care for its leaders? ANSWER - NOTHING!
1. The church MUST take care of its leaders (including financially)
Gal 6:6 (KJV) Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
1 Th 5:12-13 (KJV) And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
1 Tim 5:18 (KJV) For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
2. Paul exercised discernment in not requesting help from new converts.
NOTE, however, that he accepted and expected help from those who were already established in the faith and knew their responsiblity in this matter:
2 Cor 12:13 (KJV) For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.
READ Phil. 4:14-19
QUESTION - What should the response be toward those who refuse to work?
C. We should WITHDRAW from the disobedient. (vss. 6,14)
QUESTION - What is the goal of this? ANSWER - Correction and restoration.
QUESTION - What is the attitude that should prevail in this? ANSWER - Brotherly love (vs. 15)
QUESTION - What if they simply refused to work? (ANSWER - vs. 10)
QUESTION - What is the result in our lives, when we are not working? (ANSWER - vs. 11 - become busy in other things... busybodies.)
QUOTE - "Idle hands are the devil's workshop."
QUESTION - How does this principle apply to us today?
VI. DON'T QUIT, ever. (vs. 13)
Sometimes we just need to hold on.
ILLUS. Poster of cat hanging from tree limb, "Hang on baby!"
A. sometimes we get too discouraged and weary, and we don't feel like praying.
B. Sometimes we don't trust!
C. Sometimes we simply don't obey.
D. Sometimes we don't love like we should and our patience is shot.
E. Sometimes we wonder why we seem to be the only ones doing any work!!!
F. AT THOSE TIMES, we just need to hold on... DON'T QUIT.
Gal 6:9 (KJV) And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
Job 23:11 (KJV) My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.
How, then, should we live Until He Comes?
Should we start gazing into the sky, watching for His imminent return, as the disciples in Acts 1 did?
Should we sit about the marketplace, knowing He is on His way, so we might as well do nothing?
We are to live with the inner expectation that Christ may come today, but with an outward lifestyle that says He might not come in our lifetime.
We accomplish this by Praying for one another, Trusting in God's faithfulness, Practicing Obedience to what we know is His will, Learning the Love of God and the Patience of Jesus Christ, and Working to accomplish His will in our lives.