The Sustaining Spirit
Brothers, in preparation for today I couldn’t help but think of my Father. Hear me now that every illustration falls short at some point and especially so when we relate anything to our most powerful God. But today we will uncover through the text the many ways that the Spirit goes before us, sticks with us, and carries us through, and again while I know its not the case for many people I am humbled to my core in all the many ways that my dad points me to my Savior and I am so thankful that has never been a stumbling block for me.
Brothers, these past few weeks have been a touch more on the difficult side. As many of you know I was involved in a car accident, and while I am a 27 year old man, my dad has afforded me every help that one could want or need. But on a far more serious note, my family faced a health scare these past few weeks as my 36 year old brother who has at times been distant from my family was hospitalized with a blood clot. Further scans summoned further tests, cancer was discussed as a possibility, and despite hardship, despite previous hurt, my father was at my brother’s bedside as a dutiful and unconditionally loving father. Brothers, I’m left to rejoice for the people in our lives who faithfully love God, who are indwelt with this supernatural helper and point us to the eternal truth that we are loved by a most sovereign God.
It is with that in mind that I want us to open to 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 as we wade deeper into how it is that the Spirit invades our lives, our churches and carries us forward,
Hear the word of the Lord:
Main Idea: The work of the Holy Spirit will lead us to Christ, win us to Christ, and will sustain us to the return of Christ.
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth veverywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 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, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
This is God’s Word:
Father, pray with such joy knowing that you do not and will not forsake us. Thank you for being our help in our ever-present time of need. We lift this moment up to you and pray that you would open our ears, enrich our minds, soften our hearts and fill our spirits. It’s in your Son’s name we pray… Amen.
Brothers as we consider the Spirit’s work in and through the church, if I could synthesize this text down to a single statement it would be this:
Main Idea: The work of the Holy Spirit will lead us to Christ, will win us to Christ, and will sustain us to the return of Christ.
We see that in a number of ways in a number of ways here but I highlight four actions of the Spirit in God’s church. (Read your points)
; - The Spirit Precedes Us
; - The Spirit Precedes Us
First, the Spirit precedes. I know that we are in 1 Thessalonians, and we’re not going to flip there but we all know that as we dive into Paul’s epistles we can find the foundations of these first century churches in Acts. It is ; that are especially significant in light of today’s text as we see both how the Holy Spirit prompted the gospel being taken to the Thessalonians and how it blossomed against all earthly reasoning.
In we receive read about Paul’s vision of the Macedonian man in response to the Holy Spirit forbidding Paul to carry mission journey to the East. And what we see here in 1 Thessalonians is the fruit of that prompting. Paul desired to push into Asia but due to not just a sensitivity, but a wholesale submission to the Holy Spirit, Paul was directed a separate way altogether. From ; we see what the Holy Spirit accomplishes through an obedient servant. The church in Philippi was founded, finding its roots with a business woman (Lydia), a demon possessed girl, and a Philippian jailor. And immediately after we receive the account of the foundation of the church in Thessalonica.
We know that Paul strategically entered into cities and hit cultural epicenters of the town, such was the case in this popular port town that was home to Jews, Greeks, and various idol worshippers. Paul spoke boldly and “reasoned from the Scripture.”
Brothers, I, as I’m sure you are as well, am frequently convicted by Paul’s ministry in a day and age that is so full of strategic planning, risk assessment, and careful consideration. I am not at all suggesting you forego these things because they are so important but my challenge and my question to you today is, how are you submitting to the Spirit’s leading in your pastoral efforts, in your aspirations, in your planning? You see, the Spirit preceded and directed Paul, so too should we see how the Spirit is leading us.
- The Spirit Convicts Us
- The Spirit Convicts Us
Now that we have our bearings about this place in which the Spirit moved, let us now dive deeper into . In verses 2-5 we see the power of the Spirit to convict as the Word is rightly proclaimed. Paul displays that this wielding of this sword of the Spirit, pierced the stony hearts of a vast number of people and gave them hearts of flesh. “The gospel came to you not only in word, but in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction!” or as Luke accounted in Acts, “he reasoned with them from the Scriptures for three Sabbath days,” and what was the result? A great many of the devout Greeks and leading women came to follow Paul and Silas.
Brothers, what we get to be a part of is something very special, this ministry of the Word. Every time we climb behind a pulpit I hope that we echo the plea of many faithful servants who have gone before us and cry out with every step, “I need your Spirit. I need your Spirit. I need your Spirit.” Because we see here more true than ever that it is the work of the Spirit that goes before us in our preaching and causes a real gospel transformation. In a culture of pluralism, idolatry, legalism and much more, Paul, Silas and Timothy proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ and many came to salvation in the face of persecution, trial and heartache.
This Spirit convicts. It did so among the Thessalonians and it should to us still today as both believers and shepherds or aspiring shepherds. We see here in the opening chapter of this letter that Paul longs to be with the believers in Thessalonica. He longs for them because of the conviction of a pastor.
The old cliche is true, a pastor should smell like his sheep and that was the desire of Paul, here. So brothers, like I said we desire a noble thing, this office, this role of pastor, elder, shepherd, but we are so deeply misinformed if we think we can proclaim this gospel and not embody this gospel in our sacrificial love for God’s people.
- The Spirit Transforms Us
- The Spirit Transforms Us
So what was it that drew Paul so close? No doubt it was the movement of the Spirit of God and more specifically the gospel transformation that took place in the lives of the Thessalonians that made Paul so affectionate.
That leads us to the second action of the Spirit, that He transforms us.
We are speaking of a port town that was a hot bed for many cultures intermingling with one another. Though we are chronologically removed from this specific context, here, I can’t help but think that we can associate to a degree what it’s like to minister in a culture of pluralism. Jews, Greeks, pagans, Paul ministered in the presence of many worldviews just as we most assuredly will in our ministerial efforts.
But brothers, be encouraged, because what we see here in the counsel of Scripture is that as the gospel goes out, lives will be transformed. We labor in love and remain steadfast in our hope, yes, but make no mistake about it we wage in a war with a fixed outcome.
We see just that if we take a step back and analyze what all went on here... It is utter nonsense that the gospel spread given these circumstances. They received the word in much affliction. speaks of the mob that surrounded those sympathetic to the gospel and only until they received their bribe were they these 1st century believers let go.
Paul goes on later in his epistle to speak about those who have, “gone asleep,” a euphemism no doubt regarding those who have died because of persecution. What would inspire such a thing?
In the face of persecution, heartache, trial, sickness, whatever! There is hope that is continually at work in our lives through the provision of the Holy Spirit. Whatever this world has to throw at us, it should bring us much joy knowing that we are never without a perfect Helper.
- The Spirit Sustains Us
- The Spirit Sustains Us
And with that in mind I offer you this final point, that the Spirit sustains us.
Once more the work of the Spirit goes out before Paul, Silas and Timothy as word gets out of what this gospel did to this community of believers. It’s a beautiful cycle that we see playing out right in front of us and it reminds me of Dr. George Robinson in an encouragement he offered his evangelism class once upon a time, saying, “as soon as you are saved from your sin, you are saved onto God’s mission.” A lesson taken up by this Church in Thessalonica and the Spirit went forth and preceded the work of these faithful servants once more.
Word got out because in the face of much affliction they held onto the everlasting joy that can only be described as supernatural. We do not know a reality in our culture where our faith will cost us our lives. At least not now. Do we face opposition? Yes. Is culture growing more hostile to the gospel? Yes. But what we read of here is a church lamenting hard persecution but remaining faithful. They are weary but they remain steadfast in hope. Why? Because the Spirit perseveres for us. Paul had presented this gospel with a Spirit-filled fidelity and this is the result, that these believers, and all believers will be carried through by the Spirit of God, this day and every day, until “that day,” when our faith is turned into sight.
Brothers we can live boldly, with blessed assurance that because of the Helper given to us, the one promised long ago. We rest secure in the hands of our Lord. So let us go on with full conviction, heralding this gospel, because it will not be defeated. We will be sustained, brothers, not because of our resolve but because of the mighty work of the Spirit.