Sermon Options: November 3, 2019

October 1st, 2019

CELEBRATE SPIRITUAL SUCCESS

2 THESSALONIANS 1:1-4, 11-12

One thing that Christians need to learn to do is celebrate. After a promotion, a championship, or an award people celebrate (see Luke 15:6, 9, 32). Too often believers fail to celebrate the goodness of God's blessings. No, this is not the time to stop pressing on, but Christians can learn to celebrate along the way.

When Paul and his colleagues wrote the believers at Thessalonica, the first chapter was a celebration in prayer. Though they couldn't be present physically, they were present spiritually, and the apostles celebrated the past advance and the future potential of the Thessalonian believers.

I. Celebrate Spiritual Success by Thanking God for Spiritual Advances (vv. 1-4)
In the past, Paul had been concerned about the Thessalonian believers. His first letter to them revealed that concern. Since then reports had come back regarding their spiritual progress. This second letter was a celebration. As always, Paul was eager for his fellow believers to experience the grace and peace of God. Beyond that, however, there was already cause to thank God.

The first cause for celebration was the Thessalonians' exceptional growth in faith. The first report Paul had received from the church told of a puny and feeble people. Paul had admitted to the Thessalonians that he wanted to see them again so that he might supply what was lacking in their faith (1 Thess. 3:10) . But now, in the most recent report, how they had matured! Paul felt compelled to thank God for the growth spurt of faith.

The second cause for celebration was the Thessalonians' increasing love for one another. The last time Paul had written them he had prayed that the Lord would make their love increase and overflow (1 Thess. 3:12) . That prayer had been realized. Nothing cheered the apostles more than to see their spiritual children growing in faith and increasing in love.

There was a third cause for celebration. In fact, Paul and company not only thanked God, but boasted to all the churches about the perseverance the Thessalonians had demonstrated through their most recent trials. They had kept their confidence in Christ. It was appropriate to celebrate their success.

II. Celebrate Spiritual Success by Petitioning God for Spiritual Potential (vv. 11-12)
Still, Paul was not satisfied. The future promised further challenges for the Thessalonians. They had not yet realized their full potential. With God's help they would. So Paul prayed for three things.

First, Paul petitioned God for the Thessalonians' ultimate spiritual witness. He wanted to see them live up to their calling as Christians. Not all believers lived lives worthy of Christ's name. The apostles prayed that the Thessalonians would. Second, Paul petitioned God for the Thessalonians' ultimate spiritual enablement. He wanted God to empower them to fulfill all their commitments to Christ. Every desire and every behavior must be prompted by faith. Finally, Paul petitioned God so that the Thessalonians might glorify the Lord Jesus and be glorified in him. Only the grace of God could accomplish all this, but still, that was their spiritual potential.

As Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica his expectations for them had changed. They had grown in faith, increased in love, and persevered in trials. That was cause to thank God. The celebration was well begun. But the battle was not yet over. To fulfill their potential they still needed a divine dose of God's grace to live worthy of their Christian calling, to carry out their Christian commitments, and to glorify God. (Timothy S. Warren)

FILLING THE GOD-SHAPED VOID

LUKE 19:1-10

It has been suggested that each of us has a God-shaped void within us that nothing else will satisfy other than the presence of God. Zacchaeus was a perfect example of this.

I. There Is a Universal Search for Meaning to Fill the Void
A study by the Surgeon General found that our nation's college students drink nearly four billion cans of beer and enough wine and liquor to bring their annual consumption of alcoholic beverages to thirty-four gallons per person. College students suffer from a more fundamental malaise than alcohol and drug abuse. Their lives are meaningless.

We are living in the midst of a spiritual crisis of unprecedented proportions. Our nation has lost its way. We suffer from meaninglessness, which in turn leads to separation, alienation, and ultimately to despair. The same is true for much of Europe. There is no sense of community and, as one German leader commented, "the specter of nihilism looms over us."

II. God Wants to Bring Meaning to Our Lives
Although we think that we are searching for meaning, it is really God who does the searching. The Bible records God's search for mankind. He called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees; he came to Isaiah in the temple; he came to Hosea in his marital tragedy; he came to Amos on the hills of Tekoa; he came to Samuel as a boy in the temple; and today, God finds us.

Our search is so scattered. Life is not a search for Easter eggs. Perhaps we should "be still and know," in order to be found.

III. Finding God's Meaning for Us Makes a Radical Change in Life
When Jesus wanted a disciple, he did not say, "Come and get (something)," or "Look, I have (this) to give you." He made remarkably few promises. There was much to be done and rarely a word about anything to be had. There was not so much a bounty to be grasped as a hurdle to be leaped and a road to be traveled.

Meaning comes not in getting but in doing. Zacchaeus does not enter the Christian life by negotiating a contract. He immediately saw his task: feed the hungry, set the record straight.

The prodigal (Luke 15) should have returned to the Far Country, set the record straight, and balanced the books of those he damaged. Zacchaeus, in searching for himself, determined it was futile but when he was found, he discovered also his neighbor. (William L. Self)

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