Idleness Outside and Within the Church

Idleness Outside and Within the Church

7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10

Recall the phrase from saner times: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” or something similar? I think we all know this to be true. One only needs to look at Hollywood for clear examples. After they make millions on a movie, they’ll lounge around waiting for another role. In that down time they get into trouble just because they can.

We’ve experienced this firsthand as well. There’s something to be said about keeping busy and active even if you’re retired. We often think that not going to work each day will be heaven on earth, that is, until that actually happens. For some, the retired, unstructured life works well. For others they are lost.

This obviously goes well beyond retirees and Hollywood elite. It even fits in well with people who have free time on their hands and don’t know what to do with it.

I think, though, that an even broader principle is at play here as well. What does it mean to be idle in the church? Is it filling the church pews but having nothing to do with cleaning them or helping to pay for them, to use an example? Probably.

God wants us all engaged.

Now, engaged means something different for the parent with six kids than it does for the empty-nesters or single widow. It could means missions. It could just mean serving in your local church in some capacity. Even in the middle of the Covid mess, the church still needs workers of all varieties. Ministry still goes on even though the church is emptier each week than this time last year. I guarantee you that when you step up to help in the ministry, it makes the load lighter for everyone. Rare is the church that has too many workers for ministry. I’ve been in one, but it was the exception and not the norm.

My point in these posts isn’t to guilt or shame you for something you may not be doing now. It’s merely to encourage you (and me) to examine priorities to see if they align with God’s. Keeping aligned with God and His priorities is often an arduous task because we may not know what His priorities are for our lives. If that’s the case, then we keep doing what we’re doing until He wants us to realign.

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Of Idleness and Disruption

Of Idleness and Disruption

6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6

The key words in this passage are idle and disruptive.

There is much work to be done in the Kingdom of God. Wherever you go, you see the need. When I first became a believer, I remember thinking how easy the workload of everyone would be if they just pitched in somewhere. (Pastors around the world cheered that statement!). I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why more people weren’t doing more where they were planted. Of course I was single, naive, and ready to take on the world.

Then life happened.

Work, bills, family, chores, education, relationships, hobbies. They all seemed to crowd in.

But being idle and disruptive are two distinct actions. You can be idle and not be disruptive. In fact, many may very well be idle but they are far from disruptive.

So, what is this disruptive all about? Are you causing problems in your local church? Are you a hindrance to the ministry? Do you complain, bicker, and bellyache about every last thing?

That’s disruptive and very counterproductive. It makes leadership’s job doubly hard.

Instead, ask the pastor or leadership where and when you can pitch in is a pastor’s dream parishioner. He may even ask you what you’re suited to do and will find a place to plug into that fits your gifts.

Paul commanded the Thessalonian church not to be idle and disruptive. If you’re going to do nothing being idle, then definitely don’t be disruptive.

Quit your complaining and get busy.

There’s lots of work to be done in the Kingdom of God and for Christ.

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God’s Love and Christ’s Perseverance

God’s Love and Christ’s Perseverance

4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. 2 Thessalonians 3:4-5

Paul points the believers towards two distinct things: God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

God’s love, of course, is all of the attributes listed in the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13 – and then some.

Christ’s perseverance certainly has many of those same attributes. Is he referring to his perseverance on the cross, with his wayward disciples, with Judas, with evil in general. Yes, all of the above. Perseverance obviously emphasizes being long suffering or patient.

Recall yesterday we discussed the evil one. This verse directly applies to the evil one. The fight we’re in is a long one. The enemy plays for keeps and doesn’t relent. Fortunately, neither does our loving Heavenly Father. His Son, and the Holy Spirit. They too are on our side for keeps. They have a vested interest in our daily well-being. That’s why we need to be reminded of God’s love. We already know that the battle is long and we’ll need to persevere but we also need the love of God to wash over us regularly.

Most reading this will recognize that I don’t have all the answers to Bible’s many mysteries.

I do know that God loves me. If I know anything else, it’s merely a bonus to that love, and even then I need to be reminded often that He loves me and has my best interests at heart.

Brothers and Sisters, God loves you and cares for you. Walk into your day knowing that simple truth.

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Strength For the Day

Strength For the Day

3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 2:3

The key to this verse, of course is the very first part. God is faithful. He has always met my needs. He has always been there for me, even when I took a detour.

Yes, we need the strength that only God can give.

So, what about this prayer to protect us from the evil one.

Well, we know our place or our standing in the kingdom and no one can take us away from that.

Recall that in Romans 8:38-39, Paul stated this:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That is powerful stuff. So, when the Lord protects us from the evil one, you have no worries about being snatched from the hands of Jesus.

Now, a question that everyone is thinking is, what about evil? Will He protect us from evil? Yes, I believe He does but not always. What do I mean by that?

I would be dishonest if I didn’t acknowledge that bad and evil things happen to Christians. We live in a hopelessly fallen world. There are evil people here who are bent on creating chaos and destruction. They do bad things to people regardless of their standing in Christ.

A few verses prior to that passage above, Paul writes this:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28

So, when bad people do bad things, God gives us the strength to work through it and make something good out of it.

That then leads us to another question. Should we pray for protection around people? Absolutely. For most of us, prayer and answers to prayer is still a great mystery. He heals; he doesn’t heal. He protects; he doesn’t protect. He performs miracles; he lets us work through the problem.

I didn’t mean to get bogged down in this post, but felt it needed some clarification. And that’s just my take on it. Others may very well have a different worldview on it.

But the important part again is that God is faithful. We don’t understand His ways in the least.

But we can trust Him each day to provide for us and to be our guide through this life.

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Honoring the Message of God

Honoring the Message of God

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 Thessalonians 3:1

This is an interesting prayer request for Paul. We have all prayed that the word of God would spread rapidly, but be honored too?

BibleHub defines honor in this way: It always implies the recognition or acknowledgment of inherent admirable qualities.

Many reading this can remember a time when even among non-believers, the word of God was respected. They may not believe it or follow it, but they respected it. When they went into a church building, they were reverent. Movies from the 1960 and earlier were respectful.

But something’s changed in American culture over the last 40 or 50 years.

What was it? There’s very little respect for the Word of God in modern secular settings. Hollywood trashes Christians and the Bible left and right and no one bats an eye about it.

You could say society is turning more evil and godless and you’d probably be right. But why? Why complete disrespect?

I could posit a number of valid reasons.

Everyone reading this could add one or two more reasons. The issue is complicated to address in a short devotional.

But in the end, does part of the blame fall on Christians?

My goal certainly isn’t to lay a guilt trip on the believers reading this and worshiping God. The world is heavy enough without all that baggage.

I’m merely trying to find the answers myself. We may find there are a hundred answers to the question, but they still need solutions to address them.

Don’t misunderstand: God is still working in hearts and lives in this great land and around the world. Christianity is still a major influence on the sciences, medicine, hospitals, orphanages, homeless, nursing homes, and in the marketplace, and it’s another reason to praise God.

Yes, paganism and atheism is alive and well, but the living Word of God is more powerful than the forces of evil around us.

Daily, draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

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