I’m going to be speaking from Thessalonians chapter 2, but before we go there I’m going to quote a few things, or one thing at the least. Most people in most churches do not realize from listening to the guys in the pulpit, and you really haven’t been to a church unless the guy steps on your toes and you just walk out with the miseries, Christianity is actually a very positive religion. In 2 Corinthians 1:20 it says it is “Yes” and “Amen” in Jesus Christ. That’s positive. Any time God emphasizes something or He wants to emphasize it it’s done with what they call Hebraism from the Hebrews. They will repeat something. If they say it once it’s the word of God, it’s the word of God. If they say it twice God wants you to take special note of it. If He repeats it three times you had best pay attention because God is wanting this to get through our thick skulls.
So two times, “Yea” and “Amen”. That’s a positive and a positive. Christianity is a very positive religion, and we need to start focusing on that more and more all the time. Like I said, I usually speak at smaller churches and I like it. So, whenever I’m getting through all this if I lapse over into saying we, it’s that I’m speaking with what they call the editorial we. We do this because… I’m referring to we, as the smaller churches in America. Or, you can call it the royal we because the Queen always says we are not amused. So, it’s that kind of we. If I start saying we, I’m including myself into this whole thing and all the other churches in America that are a little on the small side.
We are going to Thessalonians. It’s a letter by Paul. He wrote to the Thessalonians or however you say that word. I had a hard time when I was in Chicago because they always made fun of the way I talked. When I was here you guy’s all made fun of the way I talked too because evidently I’ve got more of a southern accent than ya’ll do, anyway he’s writing to these people in Thessalonica, the Thessalonians at Thessalonica, and what I’m wanting to say is Thessalonica was named after Alexander the Great’s half-sister. His brother-in-law was Cassander if you guys are into history. Cassander married Alexander the Great’s half-sister. Cassander is one of the great generals of Alexander the Great. Most of you know that, come on you guys have been here so long and your just sensationalists, you know that whenever the Greek empire fell in the book of Daniel and it was divided into 4 and the 4 rams, horns and all that stuff sprang up, his 4 generals divided up the great empire of Alexander the Great and 1 of them was Cassander, and Cassander got Macedonia, Greece, that area over there. He was married to that guy’s sister and named this town after her.
Now, the important thing about this town is that he named it after his beloved wife and it set on what they would consider a super highway at the time. It was what tied the western empire, and that would be the Roman part of the empire, with the eastern empire when Rome was ruling, and so it’s where west met east. There was a great big harbor there, so it was real important. When Paul got the Macedonia call he went down to Thessalonica, sat up a church, and the reason he wanted to set it up there was if he could establish one thriving church in Thessalonica then all the people that came from the east or the west, it does not matter which way they’re going, they were eventually going to run into Christians and if they just converted a few people along the way as they’re passing through it would spread the word of God from east to west, west to east, he didn’t care. He wanted a church planted right where it would function and carry the word of God and the most weight to these people.
That’s why he wrote them twice, because he was wanting to make sure that they were well established, knew what was going on, and had a proper understanding of the word of God. Now I’m going to 2 Thessalonians chapter 1 verses 3 through 9. I’m using the ESV version because that happens to be here and it says this, “We are always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as it is right because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and the affliction which you are enduring. This is the evidence of the righteous judgment of God that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God for which you are also suffering since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels and flaming fire inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might,” and then he continues on.
What I want to focus on is this. There are three qualities that he focuses on through the Holy Spirit, he focuses on in this church that they’ve got that God is proud of. I hate to use the word proud. That’s why Paul said it proves God’s righteous judgment. God was right in picking these people out to establish this church in Thessalonica because of these three qualities. The three qualities are these. Faith is growing abundantly. Your faith is thriving. The second one is their love is increasing, and the third is their endurance or their consistency.
Once again, let me repeat. Their faith is growing abundantly, love is increasing, and they had consistency or endurance. Okay, we’re just going to talk about these three things because we are a small church. The question is are we the kind of church that God can say I am glad that I planted this church right here, right here, Glenwood? Faith is growing abundantly. I know most of you. I don’t know all of you, but most of you that I know here have made professions of faith. I take your word for it. If you profess that you know Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, good.
Now, it’s that growing in faith. For years I was told, and I went to all sort of different churches and I went to a couple of different bible colleges and met all sorts of preachers and they were always saying you got to have more faith, you got to have more faith, and I’m going yeah, you got to have more faith because that’s what they told me, but they never said this is how you get the faith. First of all, let me tell you this. Don’t sweat it. Don’t sweat having faith. Jesus Christ didn’t do it. He didn’t sweat. He didn’t say oh God please, I need some more faith Father. Give me more faith. Nope. And when the disciples came to Him and they said increase our faith He didn’t say okay come here, enggh, enggh. Next two come up, enggh enggh. Ah, we’ve got faith.
He just kind of laughed at them and said all you need is just the faith about the size of a grain of a mustard seed. Notice He down-played it. We do need it, but we shouldn’t emphasize it to the point of it actually cripples us and we feel bad because things aren’t going right but if I just had more faith. When you read about it the emphasis should be on grace, the grace of God. Most people sing Amazing Grace but we don’t know what it means, but we like it, we sing it, we want it, we say grace before we eat and that’s a confusing thing, but what the word grace really means is favor. We need to focus on the favor of God. Does God favor us?
I’m going to tell you guys a secret and I try to tell all the small churches this. In John 3:16 it says “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Amen. That was the first go-to verse I learned in fifth grade from a little old Gideon lady. It stuck with me for years and every time I was scared or walking home in the dark that was my, ah, John 3:16, John 3:16, and it just kept coming to me. Finally I understood what it said. But listen to what it says. “For God so loved the world.” Out there is the world folks, and God loves them. But, God favors you all. He loves them, but compared to the world out there He favors you because you called upon the Son and you trusted in Him and anyone that trusts in Him has had their sins washed away and they’re standing before the Father pure and righteous clothed in the gift of righteousness from their Lord Jesus Christ, and He looks upon those people dressed in white and He says I like you.
God more than likes or more than loves you if you are a Christian. He favors you. He looks for ways of blessing you. God favors you. Like I said don’t worry about your faith and how to make it grow because in Romans 10:17 it says this. You all know it. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Don’t worry about growing your faith, worry about getting into the word of God and hearing it. We all hear that, “For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves.” “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Oh look, he said that twice also. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Now, what did we say earlier class? We said if He said something twice it’s for emphasis. He is saying folks, if you want good faith, if you want your faith to grow then quit worrying about faith itself and centering in there. Center in on hearing the word of God. Hear the word of God which doesn’t mean just sitting out there like I always did. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
By the way, if you go to sleep I start pounding on the pulpit. Just a heads up. You know, it’s not just having the word wash over you, it’s actually hearing and paying attention to what it says and once you hear it you say that is truth and that is fact. When I hear it I know this is true. I don’t quite grasp it, but I’m going to sit around and think about this. I’m going to hear it, and I’m going to seek understanding of it and once I have that, once I have heard that word of God, that fact will become a reality in my life and I can start building on that. There is your faith so don’t worry about not having enough faith. Say I don’t know enough of the word of God. I haven’t understood it.
I knew a kid one time he can stand quote 6 to 10 chapters of 2 Kings. Yawn. Who cares? And, if you interrupted him he would go ah, ah. I said okay, finish it. He would have to start over and then he would go all the way through it. He could quote it, but he never heard it. There are lots and lots of people who can quote the word of God but they have never truly heard the word of God. It kind of choked me up there. In 2 Timothy it says, “Be a workman that does not need to be ashamed for he rightly divides the word of truth.” Okay? That word divide means to cut. We need to know how to cut the word of God, and if you haven’t figured it out I’m going to give you a quick lesson here. There are 2 testaments, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Cut them apart. That’s very important. You need to understand the Old Testament, but you function under the New Testament.
You’re not under the law of Mosses. That’s what Paul is saying all this time. When you accepted Jesus Christ you went from law to grace. You went from the law which condemns to favor which gives you life and gives you blessings. That’s why we need to learn to cut the word of God. I’m just throwing that out there because I want us to understand we need to focus on God’s word and quit worrying about the faith. The faith will grow. If we feed on the word of God it’s like feeding a little kid. Little kids don’t sit around and go I’m going to get big today, and then they say look mom, I’ve out grown my clothes. How do little kids grow? For one thing they play a lot, but actually what causes them to grow are 2 things. They eat and they sleep.
Did you know your growth spurts happen while you’re asleep so when you were looking at your kids and said my goodness, I think you grew over night, they did. They really did. If you want to grow there are 2 ways of doing it. You feed on the word of God, and the second thing you do is you rest on what you’ve learned. When it says this is the way it is, you say that’s the way it is. I’m going to quit struggling and fighting in that area. I’m just going to set down and rest. I’m going to kick back and say mm-hmm, oh yeah, God will take care of it. You will grow just like weeds, just like little kids do. It’s that simple. It’s that easy.
The other thing he said, the second quality, is the quality of love increasing. The first is faith and its abundance. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, and the more we read and understand, it’s not just reading, but understand that word our faith will become abundant There will be things happening in our lives that are just truly astounding. Things happen in my life that just truly astound me. The second quality is this, love increasing. Folks, I have no reason to jump on you for this. I’m not jumping you on the others. I am not going to jump you about anything. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. I’m not here to condemn, but I will complement you on this. You guys have a reputation of loving your church members, of taking care of each other, of watching over each other. If there is need you guys really try to step up and take care of each other. That is very, very, very important and very impressive, and a lot of churches don’t do it.
I went to one church where if somebody passed away they had never in their history got together as a group and took food over to that person’s house. They had never done it. The new pastor was there, aren’t you guys going to…? Why? Because you’re a church. You take care of each other. Somebody went to the hospital, they never went and visited. These were all new Christians by the way. He said no, they are your brothers and sisters. Go over and see them. Say hi to them. Let them know your praying for them, and pray for them, don’t just say it. A lot of people say I’ll be praying for. They don’t mean it. They just say it to get you out of their hair. We’ll be praying for you.
There is one thing that small churches need to do, and this is a hard thing because we are small churches. We need to show that love with people outside of our church. That’s like having 10 kids and then inviting 4 or 5 neighbor kids over for supper night after night after night. That is sharing and reaching out. It’s not easy, but that’s something that we as a small church group need to be doing is trying to share that love. When I say invite them over I don’t mean just say why don’t you come to our church? I mean do something for them that they understand you’re just doing it out of kindness of your heart. That will speak volumes to them. You might not see any repercussions of it for a long time, but I can tell you this. If I stand up at that grocery store long enough I’ll start hearing you know, Glenwood church, you know they go to Glenwood and they did this. She goes to Glenwood, he goes Glenwood and look what they did. I appreciated them so much. They might not show up at this church, but God didn’t say they have to show at your church but because of the love you showed them it will touch their lives and they might start going to another church and they can trace it back to the kindness that you showed them.
We as small churches need to encourage each other to put just a little bit of effort out and try to help one person, one other person that’s outside of our congregation. I had an aunt, actually she was a great aunt. She didn’t have a thumb on one hand. That’s why I remember her so well. During the great depression she was raising her kids and some stuff happened and she ended up helping raise my family, dad, aunts, uncles and all that kind of stuff. The old saying is poorer than a church mouse. I went there when my grandfather died and I stayed at her house. She didn’t have indoor plumbing. She had a kitchen, a bedroom, and I got stuck on the couch in front of the hearth and in front of an old Warm Morning stove. She came in one night and she goes I want you to know, I might not have much here but I have a mansion. I have a mansion just right up there and it’s waiting on me.
She helped people, she helped people, she helped people and she helped people. She passed away at over 100 years old and they had to have her funeral in the gymnasium at the high school and it packed out because she had touched that many lives of people that appreciated the little things that she did for them during the depression, and the rest of her life she just tried to help and encourage people. Her kids asked; What are all these people doing here? They were all saying your mom was so good, your mom was… they didn’t know my mom. She was as mean as a snake. They deserved a beating, each and every beating they got I bet.
The point is, we need to reach out and try to touch some of these people. The next part is going to be this, why should we do that? Because it’s in verses 6 through 9. “Since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us. When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord, from the glory of His might.” That’s why we are supposed to be reaching out. Sometimes we try to reach out and touch people we don’t even like and this is the reason why, because it’s not a popular subject to say, but there is a hell. There is a judgment day coming and if these people have not awoken to the fact that there is a God who loves them, who did send His son and if they’re willing to accept Him they can become one of the chosen, one of the favored ones of God almighty and if they refuse it then they are going to be afflicted with fire and damnation forever and ever and ever.
But do you know what the hell of hell is? It’s that phrase right there. It’s not the “they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction.” This is what the hell of hell is, “away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might.” These people will not be in the presence of God. You say oh, that’s no big deal the presence of God. I know people who say I’ll go to hell and I’ll be there with my friends. We’re going to drink, we’re going to shoot craps, we’re going to play poker and we’re going to party.
Sorry folks, that’s not the way it is and I’m not saying that like most people. I’m saying it this way, what we have here is a hard road to hoe. Earth is not perfect, but the goodness of God is shown upon the face of this earth each and every day. That sun rises on the just and the unjust. It rains. There are rainbows in the sky. There are butterflies. There are flowers. In the fall there are trees that change colors. There is the goodness of God that is just showered all the way around and those people don’t realize that when they go to hell it’s His presence that’s going to be withheld. There will not be one thing there that has even the tiniest shade of anything called goodness. Not one thing that’s called goodness, and that’s going to be the real hell of it. They will not be in the presence at all. Not in His presence, ever.
There will never see a butterfly. There will never see a rainbow. They will never even see a drop of water, or sunshine, or a sunset, or hear a song of a bird. They’ll just be in total absence of the presence of God. That’s why we need to be encouraging other people to come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ because if we don’t, that’s the fate that awaits them. That is also what gives us patience and endurance which brings us to quality number three, patience and endurance. Why are we doing it? Because we realize that we’re trying to get these people to heaven to repent of their sins. We can’t just snap and snarl at them so that they don’t want anything to do with God or with His church, but rather we’re setting there patiently. Oh gee, these people just drive me crazy all the time. Hi, how are you? Yes, I will try to help you, and we do what we can for people.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to be taken advantage of, but we do what we can for people in a positive way that encourages them because we know what’s going to happen if we don’t. Not to us, but we know what’s going to happen to them. There are three qualities that a church must have. Faith, love, and endurance, and I know you can say; Doyle, you don’t understand. Right now, today, nobody knows it but my back is up against the wall. That last nerve has been hit. It’s there. I don’t think I can take another step, but we endure and here are two reasons why. Not just to help those people get right with God, but here are 2 good reasons, 2 more reasons I should say, 2 more good reasons because the future is this, Thessalonians says one of these days Jesus Christ is going to come. He is going to split the skies wide open and we who are His children are going to hear the voice of the archangel and the sound of the trumpets and we’re going to hear, “Come up here,” and it will be over for us.
We will stand in the very presence of God uncondemned. We will stand in the presence of Jesus Christ saying thank you, thank you, thank you, and it says when you read this it says that we will see His glory and we will say that’s the guy that made it all possible. That’s Him. That’s my brother. That’s my savior. That’s my Lord. That’s the God. Yeah, and do you know what He is going to be saying? You read it in there. He is going to glory in us. When He comes down He is going to call His church and His church will be received to Him and it says, “Without spot, without blemish, without wrinkle.” All of that stuff will fall away. All the bad things that we ever had in our life will fall away. All the limps, all the baldness. Every problem we’ve ever had in our life will fall away and we’ll stand right there in the presence of God and Jesus will glory in us. He will say those are my people. Father, those are the people I died for. Those are the people I’ve called forward. Those are the people that are unblemished. Look, they’re clothed in white. Those are mine. Come on up here. Lets go on up into heaven. I’ve got a banquet for you. You are my people. He will glory in us just while we’re glorying in Him. Does that not sound good?
The other thing is the right here and now; Doyle, I’m up against the wall here and now. Romans 8:28, “All things work together for the good of those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” Did you hear that? “All things work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to His purpose.” All, ALL. I don’t care what it is. I don’t care if it’s your own fault, you did something that totally messed up your life. When you came to Jesus Christ or you come back to Jesus Christ, when you come to Him and say okay, here I am that thing, that problem, that issue will be transformed into something good. I didn’t say what happened was good, but somewhere along the line you’ll say I see how God took that and made something positive out of it. That’s our God.
No matter what problems you’re facing today, I don’t care, I’m sorry, my heart can break for you all, but I can tell you this; there is a hope. I’m not done preaching and teaching. Most of us think that hope is like this because this is what we’re taught, oh, I hope, I hope, I hope. I hope I get a pony for my birthday. I hope, I hope, I hope I get a bicycle. I hope, I hope, I hope. That’s not biblical hope. You look it up in the Bible and you find out what biblical hope is. It’s this, an absolute confident assurance of a positive thing that is going to happen in the future that you have not yet seen. That’s what that word hope means. An absolute confidence of something that’s going to happen that’s positive in your future that will happen, and you know it for a fact. That’s hope. You can stand there and say I don’t see it but I know for a fact it’s going to happen. So you say I’m miserable. Hear this, “All things work together for the good.” All things work together for the good.
Doyle, I’m at the top of my game. Today is a great day for me. You know what? It’s going to get better for you, for the Christian who walks by faith and not by sight, and its hard sometimes, sometimes we’re just limping along, but as long as we’re walking by faith and not by sight. I don’t care if you’re at the top of your game or if you’re at the bottom of the totem pole today, I can tell you this, better days are coming for you. Better days are coming for you. They might not be here this afternoon, they might not be here tomorrow. It might be a week, two weeks, or a year from now, but I can tell you this with absolute certainty. Better days are coming for you.
Doyle what if I fall over dead? Better days are coming for you. You’re going to be in the very presence of God. You’re going to be one of them that’s going to come riding out of heaven going woo hoo, I’m here. Hi everybody that is still alive. I made it. You didn’t think I would, but I am, woo. We will be waving at those people on earth and we’ll all be caught together with the Lord and we’ll be changed. We have a hope. The people in the world that God loves, they don’t have that hope. They might have this kind of hope, but they don’t have the hope that we have.
In conclusion, there are 3 qualities that we need to have that shows we are a healthy church and a healthy individual. Faith that is growing and not stagnant. Your faith should be stronger today then it was last year. You should be more confident of the promises that God has given us. We should be more confident of all things will work together for the good. You say how do I do this? I heard that word, I claim that word. I don’t care if I feel bad about that. I’m not here to tell you how to feel about anything, I’m here to tell you that if you stand on that word, if you’re in your miseries or if you’re not, you stand on that word and you keep saying it will get better. God does not lie. All things work together for the good. Mull it over, bring it up. Repeat it time and time and time and time again.
Love increasing. Taking care of each other. You guys have that reputation of doing that. I encourage you to extend it just a little bit and try to show some of that love to other people, and endure. Hang in there. I see some faces that were here when I preached here 40 years ago. You’re still here. You’re still enduring. Be encouraged. Don’t give up now. The question I ask is this; God attested in the book of Thessalonians to the fact that these people were a group of people that made Him know He had it right. Paul said this proves the righteous judgment of God that you were chosen and you’re doing it right and God’s going mm-hmm. We have to ask that question of ourselves once in a while. Do we have these qualities and are they growing in our lives? Is God’s righteous judgment mm-hmm, those are my kids. Or, is He like they’ll get better? Let’s go down to the next church on the other road and talk to those people. They will get better, but we need to have that confidence we walk by faith, and we get that faith by hearing the word of God, and as we hear the word of God, hear, hear, hear and we understand it we just say that’s the way it is.
It doesn’t matter how I feel. That’s the way it is, and as we take these stands and we keep pushing forward knowing these truths to be self-evident, knowing these things to be absolute truth, our lives will change, our faith will grow, our love will increase, and our endurance will be better and better and better, and more people will start saying what is up with those people? What have they got? I want some of that. I want some of that!
Shall we pray; Father, in the name of Jesus I ask that You use Your word to speak to our hearts today. Give us strength and courage and endurance to stand on Your truth even though we are looking at dark times. Father, I claim for each and every person here that promise that better things are coming. Better things are coming because You do not lie. Father, we look forward to the time that Jesus does come and splits the sky open and calls us up. We look forward to that, but until that day, help us to endure, help us to love, and help us to walk in faith. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.