didn’t come here to walk.” The only negative comment I’ve heard in a dozen
marathons came in my first; Los Angeles, 1989. Mile 23 and I was trudging. The
voice of “encouragement” came from the curb – I looked to see a
large (pronounce that, obese) man, smoking and telling me I shouldn’t be walking.
received a treasured possession that day in LA. The poster says, “the end
is near, crawl if you have to”. Over 18,000 started, only 12,000 finished.
Some of us took the poster seriously.
we come to the end of the age (it’s always getting closer, is it not?), we face
the choice of how we will finish. Some will persevere, others will quit. Paul
would insist that perseverance is the only acceptable approach to the end
(vs. 5). In order to finish well we make choices along the way.
choose to participate as well as anticipate.
apparent that some have dropped out. They haven’t left the faith, they’ve simply
left the life of faith. Some suggest it’s because they were convinced of the soon
return of Jesus. Others believe it’s their Greek backgrounds, work being unworthy
of the cultured. In any case, they’ve stopped participating.
wasn’t new. Paul addressed the issue in his first letter (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12;
5:14). But it was out of hand. People were allowing others to work and then simply
expecting to be cared for.
a real temptation today, to see yourself as deserving care. Many new believers
simply don’t know better. They’ve been convinced the church is for them –
there to meet their needs. It’s a legitimate misunderstanding; but it has led
to many sitting in pews while others care for their children, teach them, entertain
them in worship, etc.
happens on the other end too. Some folks have served faithfully all their lives;
now it’s “their turn”. Somewhere they’ve learned to anticipate retirement.
They’re (re)tired of “babysitting; baking cookies; cleaning buildings.”
It’s their turn to be served.
either case, they clearly miss the point. We anticipate His coming. We live with
one eye on the horizon; yet we participate. We live as if serving were the natural
outcome of belief (Philippians 2:5-11).
choose between rights and responsibilities.
clearly understood it was acceptable to receive pay for preaching (1 Corinthians
9, esp. vs. 14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18). Yet he also understood that he might hinder
response if he took that pay. So, he sacrificed “right” and substituted
life of the believer determines the church’s reputation. About all unchurched
people know about Christ and His church is what they see in Christians on a day-to-day
basis. When the divorce rate is as high among Christians as it is in the world;
when Christians are nearly equally guilty of abuse, theft, cheating, lying, and
other obvious sins; when bankruptcy strikes the believer’s finances as often as
the unbeliever’s, it is little wonder the value of the church is questioned.
isn’t that Christians don’t have the right to divorce, bankruptcy and other legal,
moral decisions. It’s that it communicates we are no different than anybody else.
The community needs to see that we stand out for not “being a burden”
care must be taken, of course. This isn’t about those “who are willing to
work, but can’t”; it’s about those “who are able to work, but not willing.”
The “unable,” the church gladly helps. The “unwilling,” the
church confidently confronts.
choose between expectation and stipulation.
began with expectations – Christians should work. He repeatedly shared that
message (vs. 10). When they didn’t respond appropriately, he stepped up the demand.
In 2 Thessalonians, he stipulated – they would work, or they wouldn’t eat.
the nature of Christian community to help people grow. At first we state the expectations,
often, gently, and clearly. We encourage people to meet them. There comes a time,
however, when we go beyond stating the expectation. There comes a time when action
action is all that works. When it is obvious that certain believers don’t abide
by the commands of Scripture; when they don’t take seriously the demands of Christ
on their lives, something must be done. The Christian community is encouraged
to share in the discipline. Always redemptive, the church must care enough to
confront. We do so because the good of the church outweighs our personal discomfort.
in the light of Jesus’ coming shapes us all. We long to look on the horizon but
we dare not stop to stare. We learn to “keep one eye peeled” and the
other on the task at hand. We live so our lives are not only ready for His coming
but making it possible for others to be ready too.
brief provided by: Chuck Sackett, Professor of Preaching, Lincoln
Christian Seminary, Lincoln, IL