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Praying with Paul: Staying Strong in Opposition

Praying with Paul  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Intro:
1 Thessalonians 1:2 NKJV
2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,
Tonight, we will continue [Praying with Paul], looking at the subject of [Staying Strong in Opposition].
Opposition is inevitable. Throughout life there are people who will come against us, disagree with us, or dislike us.
Kid’s face opposition on the playground from a bully.
Adults face opposition by a boss or coworker
Nations face opposition from other nations
It would be great to say that once we come to Jesus, opposition will cease. However, the opposite is normally true. And we know that:
The closer we get to the Lord’s coming, opposition will increase.
Matthew 24:6–8 NKJV
6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
What then must we do to stay strong in the face of opposition?
As we read the first few verses of the book of 1 Thessalonians, we will see how they handled opposition. If ever there was a church that faced hostility, it was the Thessalonians.
Paul met them on his second missionary journey. As was his custom, he visited the synagogue where he spoke for three weeks teaching that Jesus is the Messiah.
Many believed, including both Jew and Gentile. But the Jews who did not believe came against Paul in great force.
One of the new converts, Jason, opened his home to Paul and the new church. But the Jews stirred up a riot against Paul and went to Jason’s home looking for him.
Acts 17:5–6 NKJV
5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.
They distorted Paul’s teaching and attempted to get him in trouble with the Romans. Once they released Jason from custody, Paul snuck away in the night, leaving Thessalonica.
What a way to start a church, in the face of intense opposition. Nevertheless, the Thessalonian church grew and increased, leading Paul to write them a letter.
Per his usual custom, he prayed for the churches and told them what He asked God to do for them.
I want to look at these verses and see how we can stay strong in opposition if we will [Stay Strong in Faith], [Stay Strong in Love], and [Stay Strong in Hope].
1. Stay Strong in Faith
1 Thessalonians 1:3 NKJV
3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,
When Paul prayed for them, he thought of their diligence to work out their faith.
1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NLT)
3 As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work..
1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)
3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith...
Notice the words work and faith.
The New Testament writers explained the delicate balance between faith and works.
Ephesians 2:8–9 NKJV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
James 2:18 NKJV
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Paul and James seem to contradict each other:
Paul emphasizes faith
James promotes works
Which is right?
Both of them. Evidently the Thessalonians showed this to Paul. They had sincere faith in God, but they translated that faith into DOING something for the Lord.
When we face opposition because of our faith, we have work to do.
It might feel like work to continue to live for God when others oppose us.
It might feel like work to continue to pray for those who oppose us.
It might feel like work to continue to believe God’s promises when others oppose us.
But our faith in Christ motivates us to see others come to Christ. So we stay strong in our faith and continue to work for the Lord even in the face of opposition.
Our work for God is always built off our faith in God.
We do not work to get to heaven, we work for God because we believe we are going to heaven!
When we face opposition, we keep having faith in God and working for Him.
2. Stay Strong in Love
1 Thessalonians 1:3 NKJV
3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,
Notice, the word labor of love.
1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)
3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love...
This is the second time I see work or labor attached to attributes we should have as Christians.
We often hear about faith, hope, and love, but Paul attaches the effort it takes to display these. If we have faith, we will work.
If we know love, we will labor to display love to others.
The word labor in the original language means to toil or work hard and the word love means self-sacrificing love.
The Thessalonians worked hard to display God’s self-sacrificing love to those who opposed them.
It is easy to show love to those who are kind to us, it is not as easy to show love to those who oppose us, it truly is a labor of love!
Where did the Thessalonians learn this type of self-giving love?
John 15:13 NKJV
13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
John 13:35 NKJV
35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Jesus modeled the labor of love as He died on the cross for us. But I might also add, He shows His labor of love every day. For all the times we miss the mark or make mistakes, He still loves us with an everlasting love!
Therefore, we are to have love for each other, even if it feels like work.
If we will fall more in love with Jesus, He will help us become more loving to others.
3. Stay Strong in Hope
1 Thessalonians 1:3 NKJV
3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,
Here is another example of what they did in the face of opposition, they never lost their hope.
The NKJV uses the word patience. We do not often equate patience with hope. Patience takes work. It is not always easy to be patient with those who constantly come against us.
I like the way the NIV translates this:
1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV
3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
When I think of endurance, I think of running a race with an end-goal in sight. There is something the runner working toward. It is what keeps the runner going.
The Thessalonians did not have a passive hope, that Jesus MIGHT come back for them. They were willing to do endure anything so for the hope that they had!
Bekah’s mom once sang a song that went:
I've lost some good friends along life's way Some loved ones departed in Heaven to stay But thank God I didn't lose everything
I've lost faith in people who said they cared In the time of my crisis they were never there But in my disappointment, in my season of pain One thing never wavered, one thing never changed
I never lost my hope I never lost my joy I never lost my faith But most of all I never lost my praise
Keeping the end-goal in sight will help us endure opposition with a hopeful mindset.
Close:
Faith, hope, and love.
I have heard these three attributes quoted and mentioned many times. But Paul summarizes the effort it takes to stay strong in faith, hope and love.
Our faith translates into works
Our love sometimes feels like labor
Our hope requires patience and endurance
What kept the Thessalonians strong in faith, hope, and love in the face of opposition?
1 Thessalonians 1:5–6 NKJV
5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. 6 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,
They did not believe in a dead religion, void of power and presence. Instead, their introduction to Jesus was accompanied by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, they received God’s word with joy in the Spirit!
We should NEVER minimize the work and the role of the Holy Spirit.
He is our helper and the one who leads us.
Jude 20 NKJV
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,
Romans 5:5 NKJV
5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
When we walk in the Spirit, pray in the Spirit, and worship in the Spirit, God will increase our faith, hope, and love.
The Holy Spirit helps us display faith, hope, and love.
And when we live in the Spirit, sure, there is work, labor, and endurance, but He give us supernatural power to do all that God desires of us!
So in the face of opposition, we need more of the Spirit!
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