Our Joy and Crown by Rick Burdette
1 Thessalonians 2:13-2:20
FOLLOW THE LEADER – Our Joy and Crown
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (pg. 824) August 16, 2015
There is an industry that’s grown by over 300% in the last decade…it’s not internet related or high tech…It’s the trophy industry
SHOW VIDEO (Real Sports Promo 45 seconds)
Don’t you love when the guy is asked “How many kids do you have out here today?” and he says “About 650.” “How many of them will get trophies?” “About 650!”
Trophies used to mean that you excelled at something…you finished first, second or at least third…Now they mean “you showed up.”
What motivation is there to win? What motivation is there to do your best and get better…if there is an assumption that I’ll get the same reward as everyone else?
The Apostle Paul writes to his son in the faith Timothy, who served with him in Thessalonica and said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 2:7)
All sports analogies…and yes, they had an emphasis on endurance, faithfulness, finishing well…but he also used a sports analogy when he wrote to the Corinthians and said, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)
Doesn’t quite have the same ring when it says, “Don’t you know there are a lot of runners in the race with different levels of self esteem…It doesn’t matter who runs the best…because we’re gonna award the prize to them all.”
Who cares about self denial and sacrifice? Who cares who trained hardest? Who cares who stretches for the finish line? It’s all about how I feel about myself.
That is a worldly philosophy that has invaded the hearts of many church attenders and members…It doesn’t matter how I run this race of faith…after all we all get the prize…Thom Rainer says in the book “I Will” “When we have this kind of mentality we do not serve. Instead we seek to be served…We’ve paid our “dues” so we expect others to work for us. Church is about me…He shares some statements that reveal this attitude:
– “I told the pastor what I wanted him to preach; he just doesn’t listen to me.”
– “I don’t like the temperature in the worship center.”
– “If we don’t change our music style, I’m not coming back. I’ll find another church that can meet my needs.”
– “Someone is in our seat/pew.”
– “The church decided not to offer the 7:30 am service anymore because only a few people are attending. Well, that’s my service. If it’s gone, so am I.”
– “The pastor did not visit my sister’s mother in law in the hospital, even though I told him to.”
– “The church voted to paint the worship center a hideous color. I am infuriated. I just might stop giving.”
You get the picture. Biblical church life is about serving, about sacrifice, about giving and about putting others before our own needs and desires…He uses a word he calls “churchianity” and says it’s about being served, receiving, getting your own way and on insisting on your needs and wants before others.
C’mon give me the prize…I showed up…C’mon give me heaven because we all get the trophy…make me feel better!
Jesus is a leader worth following…and his example was one of serving others, washing feet, taking up a cross…“for the joy that laid before Him.”
The trophy and crown for Jesus awaited for Him after the finish line. That finish line involved a cross, a tomb and a resurrection from the dead…Hebrews 12:2-3 uses this truth to encourage us “to fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
He did this to save us. He knew saving people and dying for our sins was the only way we could be forgiven.
This is the essence of the gospel…it’s the Word of God, it’s His powerful message. Those who hear it and accept it become transformed by its power…It begs an important question.
I. HOW DOES THE WORD OF GOD WORK IN BELIEVERS LIVES?
Paul couldn’t thank God enough that the church in Thessalonica listened to His message, accepted it as truth…Not human truth but God’s truth…and then he says “This word is indeed at work in you who believe.”
How can he know that it’s at work in their lives? How can “we” know God’s Word is at work in our lives? That’s a pretty important question for all believers!
Paul says the first evidence is:
1. You follow Godly examples…The Thessalonians “became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus.” (v. 14)
“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” the Thessalonians chose the Judean churches to imitate…Each of us know this truth – “we become like the group we align ourselves with.
It’s why Paul told the Corinthians and the Church as a whole… “Do not be misled “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:33)
One of the greatest dangers for the early church was groups within the family of God who chose to ignore “truth” and gather “cliques” that opposed Paul and other apostles…1 Cor. 15:33 is written to one of those groups who were questioning the “resurrection.” Some were saying “there is no resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor. 15:12)
There is always a temptation to follow and imitate the sensational, gossip, scandal and the controversial…it happens all the time as Satan seeks to lead astray those who are not grounded in God’s Word.
There are many who have heard the Word of God, but not really accepted it as life changing truth…resurrection truth.
Who you choose to imitate will always dictate the attitude of your heart and the spiritual growth you experience…or stifle.
Remember earlier in Chapter 1 where Paul says, “You became imitators of us and the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of sever suffering with joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
Choose the godly people, like Paul, Silas and Timothy that produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit, even in the midst of difficulty to align yourself with.
There are no perfect people, other than our Lord, but any group that produces dissension and disunity because it would rather be self focused, isn’t worth imitation…but those who serve, those who are letting the Word of God flow into their daily lives and actions…connect yourself with them…The Thessalonians did…so are many of you.
Another one of the best ways to identify the people who have accepted the Word of God and love letting it work in them is:
2. It creates an “other” focus instead of an “inner focus.”
Verses 14-16 in our text is a short synopsis of what the churches in Judea suffered and what the Thessalonians were now suffering.
The suffering…the pain came from “their own people” in Thessalonica…Jesus died because He willingly laid down His life…but the mechanism that drove this event was religious Jewish leaders who plotted His death…as they had the prophets…and as they had Paul, Silas and Timothy almost everywhere they went.
The result was “this group” displeased God and became hostile to everyone (This group had fruit as well, and it was rotten and nasty).
Their goal: “To keep us from speaking so the Gentiles could be saved.”
Ironically this was a group that studied God’s Word, God’s law constantly…but never let it work in them for His glory…They wore little boxes on their bodies filled with scripture, but never saw that each one pointed toward our sin and the need for a Savior.
They hated that Jesus would open His Kingdom to people they thought were totally undeserving…Gentiles, tax collectors, Samaritans…SINNERS!!! Ironically that’s what the gospel truth is all about…It’s why Dr. Jesus came to seek and save the lost.
II. PEOPLE NEED TO BE OUR JOY AND CROWN
Paul’s love for this Church in Thessalonica oozes out of every pore of his being…He felt orphaned in their absence…He intensely longed to be with them…He made every effort to see them…He considered it “Satanic work” when he was stopped.
Why? Because when he stands in the presence of Jesus at His return…It’s people like the Thessalonians being there with him that are His joy…His greatest accomplishment.
He says, “Our joy…our crown…the reason we hope…Is it not you?”
[The most precious possessions I have aren’t worth a lot of money…I have my Dad’s first toy…an Amos and Andy jalopy…it still works after 80 plus years…Dad grew up very poor…it was one of the only toys he had as a child…I’ve got the ring my mom gave me that my grandfather Dr. Back wore every day of his adult life, bent and worn through..but it’s something he treasured…This godly and good physician died before I was born…I can’t wait to meet him…I’ve got a couple of horseshoe trophies that I wouldn’t sell for any amount of money that are probably worth $5. But my most treasured is a book…it belonged to my godly grandfather…It’s not a first edition…It’s worn from constant use and it was given to me by my mother after my ordination into the ministry. It was the most influential book in my life, other than God’s Word. It’s called “In His Steps” written by Charles M. Sheldon…Its main theme “What Would Jesus Do” in our everyday lives.]
Henry Maxwell is a minister that seeks to do this and challenge his flock to do the same…Some follow his lead, some reject it as “too radical.” The book reveals the affect of those choices in both people’s lives.
The book ends with Henry Maxwell, the preacher dreaming of these people…Singers who chose service over worldly fame, Bank President who chose the kingdom of God over money. Store owners who sacrificed profit so they remained people of integrity and people who denied their master and who became “cold, and cynical” filled with bitter remorse that no worldly success could remove.”
God’s people are the key to unlocking eternity for a world that needs salvation…The New Testament is a picture of Jesus and what He did…How He loved…How He served…How He obeyed God’s will…What He did was all about people…He wore a physical crown of thorns…so Rick could be in heaven.
Paul and I have the same gratitude. A thankfulness that Jesus rescues “the worst of sinners” and then allows us to share that testimony.
My treasures…are all about the people they’re linked to…The toy, the ring, the book…And when I see Jesus face to face…after I get off the ground from hugging His feet…I’ll look for people…men and women I’ve poured my life into…people that I’ve served with, people who have helped me to be more like Jesus…and people I’ve helped be more like Jesus…each of us “casting our crowns” before the King of kings and Lord of Lords.