Opening the letter of 1 Thessalonians, you will be immediately struck with one of the greatest blessings we have in Christ – the wonderful family of God!
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-4).
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
We have all been blessed by what we have received from others. Perhaps, it was a gift that came just at the right time, just when you really needed it. Maybe you were surprised by a generous and wonderful gift that you could never have imagined. Or have you ever received a gift and thought to yourself, “What am I going to do with this?”. Even then you might say, “It’s the thought that counts.”
There is a blessing in receiving but according to Jesus the greater blessing is in giving. He said, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).
That question may sound quite negative to you. It may sound more like a burden than a blessing. But God made it clear to Israel that His requirements were essential to their relationship with Him. God requires no less of His people today. To experience redemption from the life of sin and death, to know God, and to have an abundant, eternal life with Him, we, too, must meet His requirements.
It was one of the darkest times in the history of God’s people. Because of their shocking sinfulness they suffered untold horrors from the Babylonians especially during the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. In Lamentations (3:21-25), Jeremiah mourns over them, but he also shines four rays of light from the LORD upon them to brighten their future.
Hope is the first ray of light: “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope” (v. 21). Jeremiah brought a message of hope to the people. It was not a just the wishful thinking of a naïve optimist nor was it based on chance like that of the gambler. No, it was the LORD that he had in mind. His hope rested upon the LORD. Without Him there is no hope but with Him there is always hope.
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
If you constantly tell your child that he is a lazy, no good, loser he may very well grow up to be that very person. Certainly, we need to correct our children for bad behavior, but that does not have to define who they are. They need to know that they can become mature, productive individuals. When the apostle Paul wrote to the troubled church at Corinth, he began his letter by reminding them who they are and of their potential in the Lord. Even though he would go on to strongly convict them of their spiritual immaturity and rebuke their sinful behaviors, this was an encouragement and a strong incentive for them to strive to do better. We, too, need to be reminded of who we are.
Depression is a real and present danger, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. There are those who are shut in, others who have gotten sick and lost loved ones, some who have lost their jobs and businesses, so many changes that have brought an unusual amount of stress upon us all.
Recently, I have talked to several preachers that are battling depression. Elijah, the prophet, had a tremendous battle with depression that lasted many days (1 Kings 19). James reminds us that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). Perhaps, we forget that we are all just human.
Psalm 73 is a wisdom psalm. The psalmist struggled to understand why the wicked prosper, and he was envious of them (vv. 2-3). They were saying that God didn’t even take knowledge of him; that He didn’t care about him (v. 11). His efforts to live a pure life seemed futile because all the while he himself was suffering (vv. 13-14). It was not until he finally sought God for answers that he came to understand the fearful destiny of the wicked in complete destruction (vv. 17-19). With a convicted and penitent heart, he then realized that he should never have complained and questioned God (vv. 21-22). He knew that God had always been there for him and would ultimately bring him to glory (vv. 23-24).
It is here that the psalmist exclaimed: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (vv. 25-26).
Let’s celebrate being a father. Don’t run from it. Don’t deny it. Don’t give up on it. Don’t do it half-way. Don’t forget it. Don’t take it for granted. Be a father. Work at it. Pray about it. Learn from it. Grow in it. Rejoice in it. Laugh at it. Cry over it. Praise God for it. Hear God on it.
Genesis 18:19 “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”
Exodus 34:6-7 “And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation.”
God, our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. We lift Your name above all others and seek only Your glory. We praise You for Your daily blessings, Your care and watch over us all. We thank You for the salvation and hope that is found in Your Son Jesus Christ, for Your tremendous love for us in sending Him and for the sacrifice He made for us. We are also grateful that You have brought us all together, those of us from every race or nationality, from every place and language, from many different backgrounds, to make us one in the body of Christ, Your church, bound by a common faith and love for the Lord Jesus.
These days are especially troubling. It is stressful, frightening, and difficult. In such times we often react out of fear, anger, and frustration. Some do a lot of finger pointing and complaining. Others exploit such times to promote their own agenda or for their own profit, wreaking havoc, violence and destruction. These things lead to division, fighting and much harm. According to James 3:13-18, wisdom teaches us differently.
Wisdom is seen in how we conduct ourselves (vv. 13-14). It calls for good behavior characterized by meekness. Meekness is not weakness but acting with gentleness and self-control. It calls for humility. Selfish envy and pride are contrary to the truth. Wisdom is more than words. It is who we are and how we live our lives.
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
6059 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76135