2020-8-09 “Always…”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          August 9, 2020

“Always…”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Imagine being in a new church plant on the very first Sunday that the plant meets for worship.  Further imagine that you attend the first three Sundays without fail, and then, just after the third Sunday, strong opponents in the area create such a furor that the church planter must leave town by night.  How will that church plant fare?  How will you fare as growing Christian in such an infant church—now bereft of its founding spiritual leadership?

Though this is hardly the ideal situation for a successful church plant, it is exactly the situation in Thessalonica, ca. A. D. 49 (cf. Acts 17:1-9).  The Apostle Paul reasoned in the Jewish synagogue on three Sabbaths, and the Lord gave to him Gospel fruit for his labors.  Some Jews, many devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women of the area believed the truth about Jesus Christ and were saved.  Yet Dr. Luke, through the Spirit, notes that the main body of Jews, abetted by wicked men, stirred up trouble, and the believers sent Paul and Silas by night from Thessalonica to Berea.  Hence, Paul left behind an infant, struggling church—struggling under persecution from without and under incomplete equipping from with.  We learn as we read 1 Thessalonians, to our joy and amazement, that the Thessalonian church, despite all, made it.  The church, however, needs much teaching and encouragement for maximal health and strength.  The two letters from Paul to Thessalonica, among the earliest of the Pauline correspondence, fit this bill to a tee.

We here at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, though not exactly an infant church, also endure conditions right now that conduce to struggle.  We, too, like the Thessalonians, get great encouragement from today’s text as well.  May the Lord give us ears to hear as His Word is read and proclaimed once again in this place.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Today’s sermon is entitled, “Always….”  Each of Paul’s three Spirit-led injunctions upon us may be prefaced with the word always.  First, rejoice always.  Paul, over a decade later, will write the Philippian Christians, and us, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).  Moreover, we are to rejoice, as Paul enjoins the Romans, in hope (Romans 12:12).  From the foregoing we deduce that we are to rejoice in every time and in every circumstance.  True, not everything that happens in life is good, but we can rejoice in the overarching sovereignty and providence of Almighty God.  Recall, furthermore, that, for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)—and I do not throw this verse around lightly.

Second, pray always.  Various translators render verse seventeen as, “Pray continuously,” or, “Pray without ceasing.”[1]  Let us note first what this verse does not mean.  It does not mean, “Do nothing except pray,” for if it did, we would not fulfill other legitimate callings on our lives—our work, for one.  The Matthew Henry Commentary notes, “The meaning is not that men should do nothing but pray, but that nothing else we do should hinder prayer in its proper season.”[2]  Pray, then, in faith, in Christ, believing that He hears and that He acts consistent with His own will—which, after all, outworks best for us.  Pray often, and pray urgently, and see what God will do for His glory and our good in such tumultuous times as ours.

Third, always give thanks (or be thankful).  Do this, by the Spirit’s empowerment, in all circumstances.  Give thanks, or be thankful, in circumstances apparently favorable.  Forget not the Lord, by His grace, when things go well.  Also, give thanks, or be thankful, in circumstances apparently adverse.  Yield not to despair in such circumstances, for God is working yet in them to develop your faith, to deepen your walk with Him, and the like.  Also, remember in adverse times that things are never so bad that they couldn’t be worse.  At the very least, then, we may be thankful our situation, be it ever so bad, is no worse.  Giving thanks, or being thankful, is God’s will for you, and for me, in Christ Jesus.  Such pleases the Lord, and such is good for our souls too.  How good it is of God to make His commands the best possible action for us to take.

As noted earlier, we continue to struggle in this season.  We continue to have a host of difficulties due to the COVID-19 virus.  We have difficulties related to the sickness and symptoms proper.  Some have minimal to mild symptoms, whereas others have severe, even fatal, symptoms—and all of these must be borne in God’s good providence.  We also struggle with the very measures designed to reduce transmission rate.  We have inconveniences associated with protective measures, such as fogged eyeglasses from wearing masks.  We also must remember to have protective face-gear, to wear it as directed or encouraged, and to remove it at the right time.  Moreover, some find themselves undergoing inner-being breakdowns from the pandemic.  The isolation, the uncertainties, and the fears combine to render folks unwell mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Add to these our economic uncertainties, including financial disruptions and supply chain issues—plus a host of other non-COVID-19 stuff that clings to our lives in this world—and we must admit that we struggle indeed, even at our peak outer and inner strength.

Therefore, as we, like the Thessalonians, struggle against providential adversity, let us, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, rejoice, pray, and give thanks always.  May the Lord, in our doing of these, pour His blessing upon our needy souls just now.  AMEN.

[1] Greek adialeiptos (adialeiptwV).

[2] The Matthew Henry Commentary, 1 Thessalonians 5:17.  The author of these words is Daniel Mayo (1672-1733), who was one of thirteen continuators who completed The Matthew Henry Commentary after the death of Rev. Henry.  See the link http://virginiahuguenot.blogspot.com/2009/07/continuators-part-1.html (accessed August 7, 2020), accessed from reformedbooksonline.com/commentaries/whole-bible-commentaries/#best (accessed ibid).