Work Hard This Year
So how are your New Year’s resolutions going? Still going strong? It’s about this time that the momentum and adrenaline is running low from with you made that resolution and it becomes easier to skip a day or a meal. Easier to watch just one episode, drink just one cup. This is why I don’t go to the gym in January. All the New Years Rezzies flood into the gym for all of January, and then as February gets rolling it starts to thin out a lot, and by March, back to normal and I can get a treadmill whenever I want.
But I hope yours are still going strong because Paul’s going to challenge us this morning to resolve to work hard at a few more things that could radically change our lives. So we’re gonna close our study of 2 Thessalonians by seeing 5 ways that we need to work hard together.
WORK HARD PRAYING FOR OTHERS
Alright let’s dig in to chapter 3, verse 1: “In addition, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen and guard you from the evil one.” Paul spent all of chapter 1 encouraging them because they were suffering for their faith. Most likely the city officials in Thessaloniki were pressuring them to reject Jesus, leave the church, or they’d be killed. And then in chapter 2 Paul encourages them because people claiming to be Christians were spreading a false rumor that Jesus had already returned. So for Paul to talk about prayer for deliverance from wicked and evil people makes total sense. But notice, he’s not praying for them here. He asks them to pray for him. He says brothers and sisters, pray for us! Us there is Paul and his band of church planters who are traveling around planting new churches and encouraging existing churches.
Now remember, Paul like just planted this church a few months ago. It’s a super young church, of mostly Gentile people, so they don’t even have the Jewish background of knowing the Old Testament and praying as they were growing up. Most of these people in the church have probably only been praying for a few months. But Paul knows that their prayers are just as powerful as his are. No matter what stage your at in your journey with Jesus, your prayers matter, and they are powerful.
And look what he’s asking prayer for: that the Word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored. Another way those words could be translated is that the Word of the Lord would run ahead and be victorious. They’re words that were used for like running a race and winning. He’s asking for prayer that God’s Word would go out to new people and be victorious over competing worldviews, ideologies, and beliefs. He’s asking for prayer that more people would submit to God’s Word and give their lives to Jesus.
Guys here’s the first thing we can resolve to work hard in this year: work hard praying for others. What if we as a church went into this year believing that God has us in specific places in life so that this would happen. What if we believed that our families, our job, our neighborhood, our friend group, our hobbies, our routines, God gave you all of those things so that His Word would spread rapidly and be honored.
So do you believe that? Do you believe that God wants to use you to spread the beauty of Jesus to others in your life? Here’s a way we can know if we believe this: how much do we pray for it to happen? How much do we pray for our family members who don’t know Jesus? Or our coworkers? Do we pray for our neighbors? Or pray that God would bring us into contact with more people in our community who need to hear about Jesus?
Work hard this year at praying for others God has put in your life.
WORK HARD AT KNOWING GOD
Look at verse 4: “We have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance.” Paul says he’s confident that the people in this church will obey and do what he commands, and Paul’s just sharing with them what God commands. And he says that the way that they’re gonna be able to do what God commands is if verse 5 happens: “may the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance.” So our hearts need to be set on who God is, his love, and what Christ has done. So if you have a desire to live a life of obedience to God, a life that pleases him, here’s the second resolution we should have together: work hard at knowing God.
Now Paul prays that the Lord would direct their hearts instead of telling them to direct their own hearts. That teaches us the truth that we can’t even muster up in our selves the motivation and ability to obey God’s commands, but that God has to do a work in us in order for us to obey any of his commands. And so we have to start there. The first way to work hard at knowing God is to submit to the fact that our pursuit of God is a work of God. God isn’t in heaven waiting on us to figure life out and pursue him. He condescends, he comes down to us to make us alive, change our hearts, and give us the power and motivation to love, serve, and know him. So if you want to know God, the first thing you need to do is confess to God that you need him to give you the desire to work hard at it.
I have to do this almost every time I sit down to read my Bible. I’m a millennial, alright, I’m finally admitting it. I was raised with Nintendo and the internet and a million ways to get instant entertainment and so when I’m faced with the choice of reading my Bible to know God more or watching Kobe’s career highlights on YouTube, or go surfing, one of those just sounds more experientially exciting to me and I’ve been trained to chase after the more exciting thing. AND to justify it, well I can praise God for his beauty in nature and learn about him while I’m surfing. I can see the beauty of a 18-foot fade away jump shot and praise God for that. And so I settle for less in my pursuit of knowing God because as good as those things are, they’re not Scripture, God’s special revelation of himself to us.
So I have to beg God sometimes to give me the motivation to read my Bible, or pray, or come to community group or journey group. So maybe that’s your first step in working hard at knowing God is that you wake up every morning and before you check Instagram, Snapchat, your texts, your emails, is that you just pray and ask God to give you the desire today to know him more. Better yet, you could pray that he’d give you the desire right then, and you could spend some time getting to know him, because that’s a great time to pursue God, right when you wake up.
David wrote this in Psalm 63: “God, you are my God; I eagerly seek you. I thirst for you; my body faints for you in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.” Another translation of the beginning of that verse is early in the morning I seek you. Because we seek things early in the morning what we want most, right? We run to the bathroom. We eat because we desperately want to. Do you hear the desperation in David’s voice to pursue God right when he wakes up? We’ve settled for less in the morning. Even people who don’t know God know that. Macklemore said in one of his songs: “Looking for a better way to get up out of bed instead of getting on the internet and checking a new hit me, get up!” He realizes that we’ve all settled for something that’s less than best right when we wake up!
So maybe that’s you’re next step in working hard to know God: after you pray that God will give you the motivation, and then spend time pursuing him before you do anything else. Ok, maybe run to the bathroom, but right after that.
WORK HARD AT YOUR WORK
Look at verse 6: “Now we command you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother or sister who is idle and does not live according to the tradition received from us. For you yourselves know how you should imitate us: We were not idle among you; we did not eat anyone’s food free of charge; instead, we labored and toiled, working night and day, so that we would not be a burden to any of you. It is not that we don’t have the right to support, but we did it to make ourselves an example to you so that you would imitate us. In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.” For we hear that there are some among you who are idle. They are not busy but busybodies. Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and provide for themselves. But as for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good.” So there were some people in this Thessalonian church who just weren’t working at all. Probably what had happened is that some people in this town put their faith in Jesus, lost their community, and were now living off of the kindness of wealthier Christians. But they weren’t even trying to get a job. Maybe they believed the lies being spread that Jesus had already returned, so they didn’t see a need to work. Or they were just lazy and being enabled by the kindness of others. Whatever the reason, Paul says they they should work. If they don’t work, they shouldn’t eat. That’s the example Paul set for these people. When he came into town, he worked about 14 hours a day both as a church planter and as a leather worker. But now he hears that some in this church are idle.
So here’s the next thing we can resolve together this year guys: work hard at your work. For some of you, that sounds like the worst point of a sermon you’ve ever heard. Because for 99% of us, life is all about finding ways to make our work easier, our work load lighter, and making sure we have a plan and enough savings so that we can hit a point in life where we don’t have to work anymore, right? Like, isn’t that the dream, to be able to retire young and not have to work anymore? Why should we want to work hard at work?
First, Our God is a working God. It’s literally how the Bible begins. In the beginning God worked creating the heavens and the earth and everything in it. He worked 6 days and rested on the 7th. And we are created in his image so we’re literally created to work.
Second, work is good. Adam worked before sin came into the world. Work isn’t a result of sin. Our view of work and enjoyment of it is a result of sin. When Jesus returns and makes all things new we will still work. We’ll work forever! But it’ll be good and we’ll enjoy it. Maybe you need to hear that this morning: The work you do everyday, even if you don’t enjoy your job, it is good. God wants you to work crunching numbers, changing diapers, cleaning, creating, writing, putting out fires, teaching. That work is good work because God created us to work.
Third, God commands that we work. It’s literally commanded Adam to work in and keep the garden flourishing. This wasn’t a punishment, it was actually a gift.
Fourth, our work glorifies God. It actually makes him happy when we work hard and reflect him. Maybe you need to hear that this morning, that when you work hard God is happy. Colossians 3 says this: “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord.” You serve the Lord Christ. In your work you serve Jesus!
Fifth, Jesus worked for the majority of his life. He doesn’t call us to do something that he never did. He was an apprentice to his father, Joseph, who was a carpenter, and for 20ish years of his life he was just a carpenter and then for about 3 years he was a traveling preacher. So if you think that the only work that matters to God is ministry, no way! Jesus did more manual labor than ministry.
So brothers and sisters let’s work hard at our jobs and callings. Let’s not be busybodies, looking like we’re working but really not getting anything worthwhile done.
WORK HARD AT YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Look at verse 14: “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take note of that person; don’t associate with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet don’t consider him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” So I see a fourth way here that we can work hard together: work hard at your relationships. Really what’s happening here is Paul is saying ok there are some in the church that aren’t pulling their weight, they aren’t working, and you should tell them that’s wrong. You should not be ok with your brothers and sisters sinning. So tell them, don’t follow their example, warn them. But don’t think of them as an enemy.
Now, why wouldn’t Paul just say to warn them once and they kick them out of your life? Right? Shouldn’t they BE your enemy with their bad example? No, they should still view these people as their brothers and sisters. Guys even when our brothers and sisters are doing what’s wrong, our goal is to love them like Jesus loves them. Jesus, who says to come to him with our sin and brokenness and failure.
So how can we both take note, don’t associate, let them feel some shame, and warn BUT YET also consider them family?
I don’t know. That sounds messy. That sounds like feelings are gonna get hurt, lots of forgiveness is gonna need to be given. Loads and loads of prayer will need to go into this. It sounds messy. Like a family.
And we, Harbor West, are a growing family. And we’re about to go through growing pains. We’re planting a new community group, which means that some people are going to leave our current groups. We’re relaunching a lot of our Journey Groups. We’re starting some new ministries. Hiring some new staff. There are so many new ways that people are interacting with each other which means there are so many new ways for us to drive each other crazy, offend each other, gossip, and slander, and backbite and judge and make passive aggressive comments and not pull our weight and mommy shame and realize that everyone here is just a hypocritical sinner! Welcome to Harbor West!
But that means that there are so many more opportunities for us to forebear (forgive in advance), so many more opportunities for us to confess when we’re wrong, opportunities to be reconciled, opportunities to grow, opportunities to display the beauty of Jesus by how we interact with each other.
Church, work hard at the relationships you have with each other. Fight the sin of bitterness. Fight the sin of being too easily offended. Fight the sin of not loving your brothers and sisters.
WORK HARD TO BE AT PEACE
And so verse 16: “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with all of you. I, Paul, am writing this greeting with my own hand, which is an authenticating mark in every letter; this is how I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Paul prays that the Lord of peace with give them peace. That’s number 5 guys: work hard to be at peace. You can live a life that’s totally at peace. And it’s not by getting things out of your life that disrupt your peace, it’s by what Paul says at the very end of the letter, the most important thing: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Because it’s the grace of Jesus that’s gonna allow us to work hard in all of these areas. It’s the grace of Jesus that will bring us peace.
The grace of Jesus is God giving us what we don’t deserve. The message we see all over the Bible is that mankind has rejected God, decided to pursue our own ways, and we live independently of our Creator. We deserve punishment for that. But God gave us grace, something we don’t deserve. He gave us forgiveness for our rejection of him.
It was purchased by Jesus. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection happened so that we can be forgiven or our rejection, rebellion, and sin. And when we realize that God has poured out that kind of grace on us, we’ll gladly give him our lives.
So the way you can work hard at being at peace is by first receiving the grace of Jesus for the first time, and then by constantly reminding yourself of the grace of Jesus.