Flourish in Fear | 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:1–5:11
Introduction | Fearful Disciples
Good Morning! We are continuing our series on the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians. The series is titled Flourish: Hope and Holiness amid Hostility. Where do you find hope? How do you handle hostility? What does the word “holiness” mean and do we pursue it? How are hope and holiness related? Can you more than simply survive or endure hostility, but can you actually flourish in the midst of it? This letter is from Paul a pastor/church planter, to one of the churches he was involved in planting. This church is an example of a flourishing Gospel Community While there is much to affirm and celebrate in the life of the Thessalonian church, much hope seen, and there are issues to address. His pastoral love of God’s people leads him to practical teaching to encourage and exhort Godly living. He ended last chapter with a prayer for the growth of God’s people. Because life in our world is hostile he wants this church to even Flourish in Fear.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 | Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
PART I | Flourish in the Truth | v1-3
What are you most afraid of? What is the thing you fear will happen and what are the consequence if that actually came into reality?? How does that fear influence actions? Are those actions healthy? Because of uncertainty and brokenness in our world we are easily driven by our fears. How do we flourish in fear?
Remember what is true. This church has heard of the Gospel Truth of Jesus death in their place, resurrection for new life and His return to restore all things. In order to restore all things there needs to be judgement rendered of the state of what needs to be restored. This “Day of the Lord, is an OT day described in Joel 2:31 as “great and awesome” (but awesomely terrible where Judgement is concerned). This day is the final day of this age. When is that?! Should I be worried about that day? How long do I have to prepare? Dates and times are the big idea. But while this church is asking “When is this going to be happening? What do we need to be concerned with in advance of this? How do we prepare for this? Paul says, “You already know the answer! You don’t need further instruction you need be reminded of what is true. Rather than calculating which toe Obama was on the statue in Daniel or which beast Putin is, or “There is a Trump in Revelation!” We need to be reminded of the simple truth that Jesus is coming back, AND you won’t know specifically when. This is because the return “Judgement and restoration from the Lord” will come like a “Thief in the night” words of Jesus in Matt 24. The church is living in challenging times where it is experiencing great hostility and persecution so there is a sense of urgency as they fear greater trials. They want to know “will there be justice for those who oppress us?” When will Jesus come back? He reminds them what is true. It will be at Night. Night is a time of darkness. When is that? It has always been since sin has entered the world and as Rom 1 says our “foolish hearts were darkened” and we “exchange the truth about God for a lie” This theme will be teased out a bit more later in the text, but with a thief coming there is great uncertainty as to the timing, but not in the event itself. A “Day of the Lord” is coming. This is the day of God’s Judgement of the world and the end of this age. How should we respond to this? In The face of an uncertain outcome or even unknown results we fear. When we fear we crave peace and security. This was a big cultural value in the city of Thessalonica. Your city generations earlier had been assaulted by roving bandits from the main road, but when Rome came in their claim was “Pax et Securitas” Literally “Peace and Security” It brought great political stability that was so valued and cherished by the people eventually they had a temple to the emperor built where he was worshipped as a God. They were worshipping government because they found their peace in pluralism and their security in their military. Now, as Christians in Jesus, people were pledging their allegiance to Jesus as God’s son and prince of peace and that said it doesn’t come from the emperor. People still want “Peace and Security” Exit polls on Tuesday showed 70% of electorate said their PRIMARY CONCERN was “Security”. When you are concerned with security it is because you feel insecure, are experiencing fear, and so you want safety.
Let’s go from political too personal. What about you and your life in light of a day of judgment from the Creator. Many people spiritually have a false sense of security. There is a disconnect between the perception of “security and peace” and the reality of conflict and coming peril. What does that look like? “When I die or when I meet God I am pretty confident he’s going to see me and say you’re pretty awesome or you’re at least better than anyone else you know.” It is buying the lie from the beginning that our sin won’t lead to God’s wrath, when the serpent says “You will not surely die.” A state of conflict exists between a holy, just, perfect God and people who have rebelled. So if you’re not in some bit of tension and you’re resting in who you are or what you’ve done to be judged as “righteous” at God’s return, you actually have something to fear. Fear can be healthy and motivate us a AWAY from things that are negative and toward things that are life giving. Don’t settle for a false peace “We have a strong military and we tend to get along ok (Peace isn’t absence of conflict but wholeness with God) Or I am spiritual and religious guy said I’m good without resting in Jesus. In that Jeremiah 6:14 there were false prophets giving false security.
Jeremiah 6:13-15 | 13 “For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. 15 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the Lord.
Pregnant. There is an anticipation of what is next. Maybe even some fear. “what’s it going to be like” what will it look like? etc. There is unknown but it will bring joy! Labor pains means new life is coming!! So it’s a difficult painful thing but it produces so much life and hope for the future. So how are Christians to see this period before the “day of the Lord.”? Like Pregnancy where you are preparing for the new life that is to come. Where the thief comes when unexpected, so to labor pains do. But what labor pains are is unavoidable. As sure as a pregnant woman is going to give birth, judgement is coming for those who find their refuge apart from Jesus. For those who believe peace and security come from themselves before a just and mighty God the will see how false their sense of security is. There are lost people who look at this world and see peace and security in all the wrong things. Their perspective has been darkened by sin. It needs to be enlightened, not only to the spiritual reality of God’s Judgement but also His mercy and grace.
PART II | Flourish in Identity | v 4-6
Remember who you are. I am afraid of this judgement, I am afraid of what is next! Here we begin to see hope in our new identities. There is a certainty of refuge in your identity. You’re not defined but the evil or darkness around you, but the Holy Spirit in you! Darkness equates to sin where God’s light has been obscured by sin the separates and shades. Darkness is not an intellectual ignorance “think foggy” but moral evil spiritual darkness contrasted with the light of God. So we won’t know the date and the time of God’s judgement, but we don’t need to fear it either. We’re not looking at news reports and thinking this is it! But for those whose faith is in Christ that day may seem like a surprise based on timing, but not one of shock that “I didn’t believe this was possible or not the trajectory of History.” So we don’t calculate when, but we are always prepared. Why are we not shocked or even afraid? Because of our identity is in Christ.
Verse 5 says clearly “For you are children of the light, children of the day!” When you are something, you are not something else? So since you are children of the light/day that means you cannot be children of the night/dark. We are in this tension of living in a world where Day has dawned in the arrival of Jesus into History, but night has not concluded and will not before His final return. 1 John 2:8 | Darkness is passing away and true light is already shining. So we live “as lights in the darkness” Where you see distinction between “them, you, us” you should. And that distinction should lead you to healthy self-reflection of “where am I finding my identity” if not in Christ than darkness reigns. But if in Christ you are part of the day, children of light. And as such ambassadors of light to people in spiritual darkness offering them new life of light. It also means just we don’t morn like those with no hope in death we don’t fear like those with no security in life. We deal with fear differently because our identity is different. Our identities lead to what we do. WHO WE ARE LEADS TO WHAT WE DO not other way around. You’re going to deal with the darkness in the world differently that those who don’t have the security of the Lord. You’re not going to sleep. This world is difficult and I don’t understand it. I am fearful so I’m just going to disengage and take a nap. You’re actually going to be more engaged with the world, be sober don’t seek to escape. So we don’t sleep at night just surrendering to the darkness hopping to dream away what is true with the world, we are to be awake “sober minded” see things as they are and preparing for what is to come. Self- control. Especially in the face of uncertainty or times we are tempted to fear. God’s grace to us includes the gift of pursuing obedience we are equipped to act according to who we already are. We are fully alive in the midst of the darkness longing for greater light.
PART III | Flourish in Daylight Battle | v7-8
Remember where you belong. We “belong to the day” So since we belong (owned possessed, held) we don’t fear the night because we are held by the day. We don’t react to the darkness of the night the way others do. There are two ways to look at the world. We could sleep and try avoid the darkness. We can drink and escape the darkness OR we can be equipped to be vigilant and faithful flourish in the darkness. get drunk on distractions entertainment, and no longer be sober minded. We can act as though the night reigns and nothing of our life will ever come into the light. So we live dual lives, pursuing secret and more public sin all believing morning is not coming and judgement is never necessary. You fill yourself “liquid courage” embolden to ignore natural fear and in doing so you place yourself in peril. So you’re not sober minded but you are reactionary do the changing environments and hostilities of the world rather than settled. But we don’t have to respond to fear that way. When we remember where we belong, where we find peace and security, we are awake allowing us to look at the world not through drunk goggles, but sober minded. We have vision that recognizes there are battles worth fighting and we are to play a role in them. We belong to the day so we live in a time of night as kingdom citizen soldiers of the family army.
Remember how you are protected. When we see references in verse 8 to the armor of God implies a bit of a battle. What is our battle and how are we equipped to face our fears even during raging conflicts? Everything here he lists is defensive. Meaning as the arrows of the world start flying and we’re tempted to fear we can remain in the battle not be defeated but know where our peace and security rest.
Faith in God- Fear does not need to lead us to fight or flight but to faith. Our defense in the face of fear is not our greater courage, character or capacity to overcome but our faith in God’s good character and His ability to defend us from ultimate wrath covered with the armor of our new Christ armor.
Love for others- Fear doesn’t lead us to retreat from relationships but to press in as we realize we have been loved by God first and He calls us to love others. It means we don’t have be afraid of being hurt by others when we’re vulnerable because our defense isn’t our own; but God who’s love envelops us.
Hope of salvation – Fear doesn’t have to lead to despair. The salvation is comprehensive it comes from ourselves, the brokenness of the world and the wrath of God. We will be delivered.
PART IV |Flourish in Destiny and Community| v9-11
Remember who saved you. Wrath is NOT God’s destiny for God’s people. But it will be for some who do not have the hope of Salvation. You don’t have to be concerned with wrath on Judgement Day, because your Judgement Day isn’t to come but has already happen on a hill outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago when Jesus took your sin and all that separates you from God bared it, and endured the wrath we deserve for sin and did it FOR US. Verse 10 is a Gospel reminder. So if you’re only hearing the wrath of God and that leads you to greater fear, or rejection of God repent and look to the mercy of God in Christ on the Cross. Your sin does deserve wrath, in requires wrath. God says “I will not give you the wrath you deserve. Instead it will be endured for you in the Death of my Son Jesus on the Cross. That is His mercy. What is wrath? Eternal separation from God, dark and painful. With Christ there is light and life. He gifts this new life to us where we live now and forever “with him”. This is grace, getting what we could never earn. He’s already said there is new life coming after death and Jesus return. We don’t fear the future because God is there and His will for us in Christ is not wrath but life. So we remain frim standing sober on the rock of God’s will and Christ death not stumbling drunk on our own swaying emotions and circumstance.
Where do we ultimately look to find flourishing in fear? Jesus. We live lives in tension of God’s return and judgment, but live with assurance of the hope that is found salvation from Jesus. So if we’re awake or asleep our life is in Him, with Him, and for Him. United with Christ. Jesus faced the fear of death for us so we flourish when we look to the cross of Christ. He died so we could live, He rose so we could live with Him, he will return so we can be with Him and His people FOREVER.
Remember how to be family. to minister to one another. Because He died for the church He gives us each other to comfort love and care for. So we’re not individual troops stand alone on a battle field but we’re part of a unified army of light that will not be extinguished by persecution or anything outside but will ultimately overcome darkness at the return of Christ. These words are to be an encouragement to the fearful. We hope in Gospel Truth, because what is true about God is comforting. We continue in Gospel Living because we remember who we are, children of the light. We are comforted and built through Gospel Community, because we remember where we belong, in the day. It is in Christ our Fear turns to flourishing and used to build one another up in Community. We hope for the future, remain vigilant in the present, when we Trust Jesus.