Christian Principles for Principled Christians

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  2 : 1-13
Subject: Christian Living
Series: Ready to Live - Ready to Leave
Introduction

Why do God’s people go through sorrow, hardship, illness, crime, difficulty, depression, and many other problems? We can’t answer that question fully, but we know that these trials come to the very best of God’s children. They descend upon those who have given their very best to God. Why? Why? Many ask that very question.

We come now to our third in a series of messages from 1 Thessalonians. The series is entitled, Ready To Live - Ready To Leave. If we live, we must be ready to serve our God faithfully, share His message gladly, live our lives obediently, love His people passionately, and fulfill His will readily. If He comes for us in the rapture or in death, we must be ready to meet Him and hear Him say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."

Communicating clearly is without question one of the most difficult tasks in human life because many things we say or write are misunderstood by those who receive them. What you say is not exactly what the other person hears. It can be frustrating.

A preacher told the story of such an incident in his ministry. He had a lady come up to him one day after church and say, “You sure are a good preacher, it’s too bad you wife has been married before.” The preacher said, “What, my wife has not been married before!” The lady said, “Well, I heard you clearly say that the person you had the most trouble with is your wife’s first husband.” The preacher said, “Dear, I am my wife’s first and only husband and the person I have the most trouble with is ME!”

Sometimes it is very difficult to be clearly understood. One little child went forward in a service to hear the children’s sermon. The preacher was talking about nature and God’s creation. He said, “I bet you kids can imagine what I am describing this morning. It sits on its hind legs, has a long bushy tail and eats a nut it holds in its paws. What is it?” One little boy blurted out, “I know I am supposed to say Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!”

Paul had the responsibility to clearly state important truths about principles required for staying true to the Lord in difficult times. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, he has given us a perfect word today on this subject. It is a subject which cannot be misunderstood when viewed simply by faith.

The message today is found in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13. In the section of Scripture before us today, Paul tells us how he lived victoriously in the face of viscous attacks upon his body, character, ministry and motives. If you and I would live a victorious Christian life, we need to know the principles which drove this great man of God.

I. The Confidence He Had  2:1-2a

A. Confidence in the Power of God

See Acts 16:20-24

We must be aware that God can do all things! The power of God knows no limits. When the Christian truly believes this truth, he or she can rely upon the Lord to supply all that is needed for principled service to His cause.

B. Confidence in the Purpose of God

Paul knew that he could trust God to guide him and to protect him as long as he was seeking the center of God’s will and purpose. How do you know this is true? Because Paul noted that he suffered in Philippi, yet he came to Thessalonica and did the same thing that caused suffering in the previous city. Why would Paul do that? Why keep doing the same thing if it brings suffering to you? Paul did it because it was God’s will and purpose for his ministry. It gave him a sense of peace and protection.

You remember back in Acts 5 and verse 41, the wonderful testimony there, "So they went on their way from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for his name and every day in the temple and from house to house they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ." What offended Jerusalem was that the disciples preached Jesus as the Messiah. The Jews had just killed Jesus as a criminal. They came along preaching Jesus as Messiah and that was very offensive. Thus, those who preached Jesus were made to suffer by those who were offended at the message. The more they made them suffer, the more the disciples preached the message because they knew the message was touching the right nerve.

II. The Conflict He Faced  2:2b

The word conflict comes from a Greek word “agon.” This word is quite expressive. Paul used this same word in 2 Timothy 4:7 when he wrote, “I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished the course.” This word expresses something to us about the battle we will face, the conflict we all must deal with in order to be faithful to Christ.

A little girl told her friend that her dad liked to sit in the den of their house. She then asked her friend, “Does your dad have a den?” The friend replied, “No, my dad does not have a den, he just growls all over the house.” The little girl misunderstood the question. But you and I can be sure we will be thrown into some lion’s dens from time to time. Like Paul, we have to know how to fight the good fight. Exactly what kind of fight is it?

Conflicts in the Christian life comes in many forms and Paul was able to deal with all of them - so can we, if we trust Him totally and serve Him faithfully. Note the different directions from which our conflicts come in Christian living.

A. An Outward Conflict

He fought a good fight against the forces Satan used in this world to defeat him. No one said the Christian life can be lived without a fight; in fact, the very opposite is true. We are told to put on the whole armor of God in order to stand against the wiles of the devil. Satan goes about like a roaring lion seeking those he can destroy. He is the "prince," with a little "p," of this world. He has a system set up to do all he can to thwart the Christian life, testimony and faithfulness. Paul faced this and so must we.

B. An Inward Conflict

He kept the faith. This was an internal battle. He had to hold on to faith at all times and in all circumstances. Faith in God’s Word, faith in God’s people, faith in God’s work, yes, and even faith in himself was part of Paul's life and walk!

I have talked with a number of Christians, including pastors, who have gone through great periods of depression. I spoke with someone recently who told me that he was so depressed at one time, even though he was a dedicated Christian, that he thought about suicide. Trust me, you cannot get through this life without facing some inward conflict. You may not be as deep in conflict as my friend who once considered suicide, but you may well go much further down than you can imagine. When Christians face inward conflict, they often seek to hide it. They feel that admitting depression or doubt reveals a failure as a Christian. My dear friend, the failure comes when you don't face the truth. If you are having a problem, seek help. God places people in our lives to help us, but they can't do so if they don't know our needs.

C. An Upward Conflict

Where did Paul get this strength? What does it say in Ephesians 6:10? “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Our strength is in God. And he believed his God to be mighty and powerful.

Christians can be guilty of relying on their own strength and not resting in the Lord. It is true that God desires that we do what we can with what we have right where we are; however, we can't succeed in our Christian life without having His abiding power within us. We are to always be continually filled with His Spirit. Don't ever become proud, arrogant of self-sufficient in our Christian service. He along has the power you need to serve Him victoriously. 

III. The Commission He Received 2:4

The Gospel had been entrusted to Paul. All of us have things that God has entrusted to us. For example, many of us have a marriage, family, church, income, possessions and other things entrusted to us from God. But, we must also view the Gospel as something God has entrusted to those who are saved. We must be true to our commission. Paul spoke of being responsible to God and answering to God. He spoke of God testing his heart. That is the way we must live, if we would live victoriously.

IV. The Caring He Revealed  2:5-12

A. Humility

Paul was an humble man. In another place he calls himself the chief of sinners. To care properly for others, one must remove selfishness and self-centeredness. Proud believers are condescending but they are seldom useful in caring for the needs, hurts and burdens of others. Paul humility made him aware to the needs of others.

B. Sensitivity

He was sensitive to others and their needs. He was so sensitive that he acted toward them as a father or mother. As a father, he acted toward them with seriousness. As a mother, he acted toward them with gentleness. What tremendous examples Paul uses here to describe his heart toward the people of Thessalonica.

Are you sensitive in dealing with others? This is an important part of the Christian life. We can get so caught up in our own problems that we fail to see the needs of others. Paul faced many trials and hardships, but he never lost a tender heart toward others.

C. Integrity

He speaks of how he lived among them. He acted honestly and uprightly. It is important for us to remember that there is no substitute for being truthful. To do otherwise, is to jeopardize our usefulness to Christ.

Paul says that he never used flattering words. He did not try to be suave and debonair. He had not read a book on How To Win Friends And Influence People.

One salesman asked another, “Why are you so successful selling from door-to-door?” The successful salesman answered, “When the lady of the house comes to the door, I just ask, ‘Miss, is your mother at home?’”

Paul would not resort to using falsehood and deceit to try to serve God. He knew God would not bless it. He was never deceptive in his behavior.

You will discover that it is impossible to please everyone no matter what you do or how hard you try. A man, his son, and their donkey walked along one day on a journey. Someone stopped the man and said that it was wrong to have a donkey and not to ride it. So, the man put his son on the donkey and walked on. When they came to the next town, someone stopped the man and said that it was wrong for him to walk and his son to ride. It showed disrespect for the fatherly position. So, the boy was removed and the father rode. When they came to the next town, someone stopped the man and told him that it was cruel to ride while his son walked. So, the man and the boy mounted the beast and they rode on to the next town. Someone stopped them and told them that it was not proper to be so cruel to a donkey as to have two people on its back. So, the father and son dismounted. The last time they were seen, the boy and father were carrying the donkey! Seriously, you can’t please everyone. You must seek to please God.

D. Priority

He put a priority on Christ and this caused him to care for people by loving them and serving them. This is a must for someone who wishes to live a victorious Christian life.

V. The Credit He Expressed  2:13-16

He gave the thanks to God. When something went right, God got the credit. This is a sign of true servanthood. Paul did not take the credit. Paul once said that boasted in nothing but the Cross of Jesus.

Conclusion

Every Christian is either a thermometer or a thermostat. You are either controlled by the things around you, or you change the surroundings by your presence. Paul changed things everywhere he went. He was a thermostat. Which are you? Which am I? Too many of us let the circumstances control us. Our world has enough of that. We need to allow Christ to change the world through us. That is what Paul was doing!

An anonymous poet penned:

Others may be stained glass of rainbow hue;

I would be a windowpane for the sun to shine through.

A clear glass, a clean glass is what I would be,

Unconcerned with temperament and personality

I would have the sun shine through, so my friends would say

Not "What a lovely pane!" but "What a lovely day!"

Would it not be wonderful, if we were windows for God, not drawing attention to ourselves but simply allowing Him to reveal Himself through us? Yes, that is what Paul was doing, and that is what he wanted them to do as well. That is what we must do also!

You cannot reflect what you do not have. It is possible, even probable, that someone in this service today has never trusted Jesus to be your Savior. Paul’s life was not changed by what he did for God but because of what God did for Paul through Jesus. You can experience abundant life and eternal life this very moment if you will turn to Jesus!