Based on: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Think about Job for a minute – that man that God allowed Satan to test so severely. Do you admire his faith? Job suffered so much in a short period of time. He lost all his wealth. His children were all killed in one tragic accident. He suffered from a painful skin disease. On top of all that his friends caused even more suffering by telling him that it was all his fault. The amazing thing about Job is that in spite of all his suffering he held on to the promise that the Lord Jesus was coming. He didn’t know that his name would be Jesus, but the coming of his Savior was the one thing greater than all of his suffering. So he couldn’t help but exclaim, " I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God."
But isn’t that the miracle of faith? “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith takes God’s promises and says, “This is true!”, even though eyes, ears, and skin – all of our experience – contradicts God’s promises.
Abraham had the same faith. He believed God’s promise to give him a son, and when he was 100 years old and his wife, Sarah, was 90, he held his son in his arms. As he looked at the son God promised, he knew he was one generation closer to the coming of Jesus.
What do we say about these men of faith? We thank and praise God for their faith! I also thank and praise God for your faith. In fact, I have joy in the presence of God because of you. I know the troubles that some of you have endured, the suffering caused by Satan. In spite of whatever problems might come into your life you have held on to Christ’s first coming and the forgiveness he won for you. You continue to welcome your Savior with open arms every time he comes to you in the Lord’s Supper and in his Word. You look forward to the Lord Jesus coming again with all his holy ones. This brings joy to any pastor.
You have so much in common with those Christians in Thessalonica to whom Paul wrote. And why not, we are their spiritual descendants. Let me tell you a little about your spiritual family from Thessalonica. The Apostle Paul came to the city of Thessalonica and did what he usually did. He preached in the Jewish synagogue. Some of the Jews believed and so did many of the Greek citizens. Other Jews, however, were jealous. They didn’t want Jews and non-Jews to have the same standing before God. They thought they were better and so they gathered a mob and started a riot. When they could not find Paul and Silas they took some of the new believers and dragged them to the city officials. Later that night the believers sent Paul and Silas to the town of Berea.
Paul did not have as much time with them as he wanted. His teaching was cut short and he was afraid that the troubles they endured would extinguish their faith. You can imagine how he felt when news came to him that the believers in Thessalonica were still holding on to the promise that the Lord Jesus would come with all his holy ones. It gave him joy in the presence of God. He couldn’t thank and praise God enough for keeping those believers firm in their faith.
Not only that, but Timothy brought back news that the Thessalonians always had pleasant memories of Paul and his companions and they also longed to see Paul and the others again. Why? Certainly there was a friendship between them, but more than that, the Thessalonians wanted to hear more about the Lord Jesus!
And that is what Paul wanted as well. Paul said, “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.” The Thessalonians were not falling into false teaching, they just needed to know more. Don’t we all!
Yes, just like the Thessalonians we need and want to know more about the first coming of the Lord Jesus. We need to hear over and over again that Jesus came to the earth to fulfill the promise given to Job, Abraham, and others. We need to hear that he came to cover sinners like us with his righteousness to make them blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father. We need to hear that the Holy Spirit has set us apart and made us his holy ones, his saints. We want to know more fully what that means for us, how that changes our lives right now.
One of the ways it changes our life is in our love for others. Paul offers up his prayer, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” He knows that the Lord makes your love for others increase as you hear about God’s love for you in Christ.
If you are like me, and I know that as a fellow sinner you are, you just might feel guilt that your love for others doesn’t always show itself. In fact, after a closer look, we would find that our love for self sometimes outshines our love for others. Our love for self shows when we hear about someone in great need and it just doesn’t affect our heart. Our love for self shows when we just have no patience with someone. Our love for self shows when we disregard what God says about marriage or the beginning or end of life and we choose to follow our own ideas.
Ever since Adam and Eve people have been born with the desire to love self more than others. Because of it we do not deserve God’s love for us. We don’t deserve ham or turkey for Thanksgiving, We don’t deserve beautiful decorations for Christmas. Above all we don’t deserve to have God love us so much that he took on himself the punishment for all our selfish love. No, we deserve God’s hatred.
That’s why we look for our Lord Jesus as he comes to us in God’s Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. We look for him to come and tell us our sins are forgiven and that we are right with God. When we understand what God has done for us we are motivated and encouraged to love others.
As Jesus comes to us in Word and Sacraments he takes away our sin and makes us blameless and holy. On the last day God will keep his promise and our Lord Jesus will come with all his holy ones – all those who put their trust in him. We will stand in the presence of our God and Father knowing he will not punish us, but give us what he has promised.
There is the faith that the Thessalonians had, faith in the coming of the Lord Jesus. Through the difficult trials the Thessalonians faced God, by his grace, preserved their faith in his promises. As God works through his Word and Sacraments he will strengthen your faith through the difficult times so that you are among the holy ones standing with our Lord Jesus when he comes.