Worthy of Trust

Trust is a belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, or effective. One of the most important questions of our society is, “Can I trust God?” Or “Is God trustworthy?” or “Is God good?” A common question that every non-believer has to wrestle with is the goodness of God. If God is good, why does He allow suffering? How do we explain the evil in the world? How do we explain the pain and suffering of people’s lives? These may sound like deep philosophical questions, but these are the type of questions we face every day. 

How do we deal with death of a loved one? How do we make it through losing a job or a change in our health? How do we handle the betrayal of a friend or the lies of a spouse? How do handle barely having enough money to eat or the crippling feelings of anxiety or the constant questioning of your character and competency at your job? Why did God allow my parents to divorce? Why does God not give me victory of pornography? Why does God not lift my feelings of unworthiness and despair? When you drill down to the root of all of these questions, what is left is the question, “Is God good? Do I trust God?

These questions are not new, but have been asked throughout the ages. The Thessalonians had to wrestle with the goodness of God. The apostles had to wrestle with the goodness of God. You have to wrestle with the goodness of God. All the questions listed above are things that people within our congregation are dealing with this morning. You are not alone in your problems. Do not believe the lies that you are the only one dealing with the goodness of God. I pray this morning that you will grow in your trust of God and are able to see His goodness.

Trusting God’s Eternal Peace

            As we close this letter, it is important to look back and remember all the issues that Paul addresses in this letter. The church is under intense persecutions from the government as the leaders have been incited by the Jews of Thessalonica. The Jews have spread rumors how the Thessalonian Christians are purposely stirring up trouble to create disorder for the empire. There are certain individuals within the church that are teaching false doctrine about the end times. They claim that the Day of the Lord had already happened. This teaching was upsetting the church and causing some to be greatly alarmed and shaken. The church was also facing certain individuals who were leeching resources from the church rather than contributing to the needs of others. Paul wrote to the church to warn them about idleness rebuking the those who are causing division because of their laziness and to give clear instructions how the church should handle those who are not living according to the tradition taught by the apostles.

            We have to keep in mind the whole letter to understand the importance of verse 16. Verse 16 is a wish-prayer that is often used throughout Paul’s letters. Scholars are not clear if this verse should be connected to the conclusion of the letter or the section on church discipline. The content of the verse is a fitting conclusion to the section on church discipline, but also fits with the themes discussed throughout the entire letter. I would see verse 16 as a prayer that covers the entire situation of the Thessalonians. Paul finishes his letter by giving the Thessalonians hope by grounding their current situation in the character and nature of God. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” Paul describes the Lord by a characteristic that defines his character: peace.

            This is the only time in the New Testament that Paul uses the Lord of peace. He typically uses the God of peace. First and Second Thessalonians have a very high Christology and Paul uses Lord to show the connection between Jesus and God the Father. Jesus is the exact representation of God the Father. God the Son and God the Father are defined by the same characteristic. The Triune God is characterized as peace. What exactly does Paul mean when he refers to the Lord of peace? God has brought peace through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul aims to bring the gospel to the forefront of his readers’ mind to put the entire letter in perspective.

            The wrath of God plays a prominent role in New Testament theology. Paul mentions the wrath of God numerous times in first and second Thessalonians. God’s wrath is his furious anger directed at sin and sinners. The wrath of God is depicted as powerful and fierce. It is will come like a thief in the night. It will come to destroy all who stand against Jesus even the Anti-Christ will be brought to nothing by the mere breath of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:1-3,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Every human being is by nature, meaning in their natural state from birth, are children of wrath. They are under God’s wrath because of their rebellion and sin. God’s wrath is the greatest problem of humanity. How do we deal with the wrath of God? That question is the crux of the problem, we can’t deal with it. We are sinners and rightly deserve God’s wrath because of our sin. And yet, Ephesians 2:3 says we, “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” We “were” under God’s wrath instead “are” under God’s wrath. So what happened? God sent One to make peace.

            Paul describes how God made peace for us in Colossians 1:19-20, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” The Lord made peace through the blood of his cross. Jesus died on the cross satisfying God’s wrath against sinners. So now everyone who turns to Jesus will be delivered from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Jesus died in the place of sinners drinking the full cup of God’s wrath and then God raised him from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s declaration to the world that all who want to escape His wrath and experience His peace can now come through Christ. God is a God of peace because He sent One to make peace through the blood of the cross. Do you have peace with God? The only way to experience peace with God is through Jesus Christ. He is the only source of true peace with God.

            As Paul is concluding his letter to a church dealing with intense persecutions, false teaching and divisive members, he reminds them of their God who has brought them peace. Their greatest need for peace has already been accomplished. Is God good? God had every right to destroy sinful humanity, but He chose to save them through sending His Son. God is good, because he always treats us better than we deserve. And yet the good news of the gospel, is not only for future hope we have in the resurrection, but it is for today. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” Paul is praying that the Lord of peace will give them peace at all times and in every way for the presence of the Lord is with us all. The Lord is with his people. Paul gives hope.

            Beloved, we are naturally prone to doubt God’s goodness. The natural tendency is to look at our problems and magnify their power. It is natural to be overwhelmed with life, but we have peace with God. And God has given us His peace, solving our greatest need, why should we doubt him with lesser needs? Romans 8:31-32, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” God wants us to look past our problems to the hope and peace given in the gospel of Christ. When we ground our lives in the peace of Christ, allowing that peace to rule in our hearts, we will be able to always see God’s goodness. And in seeing God’s goodness towards us, we will get the strength to persevere in the face of our problems.

            And we must always remember that we are Christ ambassadors on earth. We represent his character to a watching world. If God is a God of peace, then we are to be a people of peace. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Are we a congregation of peace? All of the letters in the New Testament are written to specific congregations at specific times dealing with specific issues. We have seen that in this letter. On Wednesday night, I asked the church as we began looking at 1 Timothy, what would the Apostle Paul address if he was writing to our church? What specific problems would Paul need to address if writing to the people of Park Baptist Church? I was able to discuss this with several members following the church and here were a few of the problems that they believed needed to be addressed with the peace of Christ:

·         Valuing traditions over the Scriptures

·         A lack of desire for unity between the generations

·         A greater love for certain styles (of dress and worship) than for people

·         A disrespect of and unwillingness to submit to leadership

·         An impatience for greater change

I am sure that you may see other things that need to be addressed in our congregation. As your spiritual leader, there are other things that I could add, but whatever happens in our congregation, we, as a people of the Lord’s peace, have to strive to live in that peace. We have to strive to let the peace of Christ rule our hearts. We all need to ask ourselves, “How am I contributing to disharmony among the body? How can I work for peace?”

            The problems we are facing today will not be the problems we will face tomorrow, but rest assured we will face problems tomorrow. We will face things in the corporate life of our body as well as in our own personal lives that may cause us to doubt God’s goodness. Things that may cause us to feel overwhelmed and to slowly drift from trusting in God’s peace. Beloved, know that it is coming, and arm yourselves with the peace of God. We have been given peace, now let us rest in it. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all who will he not through him give us all things. He did not abandon us, but the Lord will be with us always even to the end of the age.

Trusting God’s Eternal Word

            If we are going to have the peace of Christ, we also have to trust the source where we learn of that peace. We have to trust God’s Word. We have to view God’s Word as reliable and effective. Paul wanted to make sure that the Thessalonian church knew that this letter was from his own hand. 2 Thess. 3:17, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is a sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.” It was not uncommon for letters to have an amanuensis or secretary to transcribe the letter. When Paul made this statement, there was probably a visible change in the handwriting so everyone saw that his was written from Paul’s own hand. We do not know exactly what Paul meant from the sign, but it would have been clear to the recipients that he was responsible for this letter. Remember how important it was for the church to know that this was a real letter. There had been some imposter letters written claiming to be from the apostles that were false.

            The early church based their entire lives on the letters of the apostles. All of the letters of the New Testament were either written by an apostle, were closely linked to an apostle, or were written by those intimately connected to Jesus. Even though we do not know the author of Hebrews, we can assume that the author would have been known to the original audience and his relationship with the apostles would have not been questioned. We do not have time to unpack all the reasons for the reliability of the New Testament. There have been scores of volumes written about why we should trust the New Testament. The Bible has been scrutinized more than any book in the history of the world and has passed the examination. Scholars accept historical writings from the same period with far less evidence as irrefutable. No objective scholar doubts the veracity of the New Testament.

            Paul wanted to make sure his readers knew that the letter came from him. The early church placed the letters of Paul and the other apostles on par with the Scriptures of the Old Testament.  Peter writes at the end of his second epistle,

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. (2 Peter 3:14-17)

Peter placed the Paul’s letters alongside the Scriptures of the New Testament.

            These letters were not mere suggestions, but commands handed down by God’s apostles carried along by the Holy Spirit. The New Testament is vital for all of life. It holds everything we need for life and godliness. It may not give specific details about how we should approach embryonic stem cell research or the movement of tectonic plates or how Christians should use social media. Although it may not give us specific details, God’s Word provides wisdom and a worldview that through careful and prayerful study, we can make decisions that would honor the Lord and represent him well to a lost and hurting world.

            We want to continue to trust God’s Word. We have to be serious students of the Word of God. Take advantages of the various opportunities you have to study the Word. We have three opportunities every Sunday to grow in your understanding of God’s Word and various opportunities throughout the week. One of the ways we can protect ourselves from self-deception is to be in community with other believers studying God’s Word. My prayer is that we will have every member of our church involved in both our corporate gatherings and small groups (community home groups, Sunday School or discipleship meetings) to study the Word so that we can grow in our trust of God’s eternal Word. It is life changing. Hebrews 4:12-13, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” We all must give an account so we better know of what we will be accountable to. 

Trusting God’s Eternal Grace

            Paul last word of this letter should be a favorite word of all believers. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Grace is the unmerited favor of God. It is a gift. We do not deserve grace, but God gives it to us. God gives us himself. God gives us peace. God gives us His Word. God loves to give good gifts to his children. All good and perfect gifts come from His hand. This is a customary ending of Paul’s letter with the exception of the last word: all. Paul wanted the grace of Jesus Christ extended to all even those who currently living in a manner contrary to the faith.

            If we live righteous lives, it is because of grace. If people turn from their sins, it is because of grace. If God allows unity in the church, it is because of grace. If God gives us eyes to see his goodness in the face of suffering, it is because of grace. God’s grace is greater than all our sin and all our problems. When we are tempted to doubt God’s goodness, we must remember God’s amazing grace. Charles Spurgeon said during his ministry,

I sometimes wonder that you do not get tired of my preaching, because I do nothing but hammer away on this one nail. With me it is, year after year, ‘None but Jesus!’ Oh, you great saints, if you have outgrown the need of a sinner’s trust in the Lord Jesus, you have outgrown your sins, but you have also outgrown your grace, and your saintship has ruined you![1]

Beloved, you will never outgrow your need to hear of God’s grace. Whatever you are facing today, remember your need of Jesus. Jesus stands ready to save you. Come to Jesus and doubt no more. Let us live hammering away at that one nail. None, but Jesus. Let us trust the eternal peace of Jesus, the eternal word of Jesus and the eternal grace of our beloved Jesus. None, but Jesus.

 

[1] http://escapetoreality.org/2010/11/15/spurgeon-on-grace/ accessed 1.24.2016