“Earthly Pleasures; Divine RELIEF”

“Earthly Pleasures; Divine RELIEF”

                  2 Thessalonians 1:3-10

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. 

Introduction – They simply never stop growing.  As long as it lives, the lobster just keeps molting and reproducing, molting and reproducing until it dies.  In 2012, one gigantic lobster was caught off the coast of Maine.  The size requirements to keep a lobster in that state are that it must be between 3 ¼ and 5 inches long.  But this one weighed 27 pounds and was 40 inches long, the size of a three-year-old child.  Can you imagine the look on the face of the fisherman?  It was estimated to be over 100 years old, and its claws were big enough and powerful enough to snap a man’s arm.  The interesting part is that as lobsters continue to grow and grow and grow, they don’t exactly slow down.  An 80-year old lobster can lay just as many eggs as it could when it was young, if not even more. 

As a lobster keeps growing and growing and growing all their lives, God wants your both your trust in him and your love for others to keep growing and growing all your life.  Why?  Because as long as you live, earthly pressures will also keep growing and growing and growing, whether you like it or not.  Do you really want to stare down all of these growing pressures with a withered faith and a skimpy amount of love?  

Today, God tells you, “Get your lobster on!”  As earthly pressures keep growing, so also you keep growing in love and faith, as long as you live.  

Background – We turn to the book of 2 Thessalonians, chapter one.  Thessalonica was a large, bustling city, and the apostle Paul had come there to preach about full, free forgiveness in Christ Jesus.  But he was there barely even three weeks, and some jealous enemies formed a mob.  They started a riot!  They were hunting for Paul and Silas, and when they couldn’t find them, they went after their Christian friends.  They dragged Jason and some other peaceful Christian men before their officials.  “These men have caused trouble all over the world!  And now they have come here!” they roared.  “They keep on saying that there is another king besides Caesar called ‘Jesus!’  And guys like this Jason keep welcoming them into their homes!”  That very night, Paul and his missionary comrade Silas had to slip away in the middle of the night.  But Jason and the other Christians didn’t have that option.  They had to stay in Thessalonica with the angry crowd.

Do you think there was some pressure, being a Christian living in Thessalonica at that time?  Do you think it was easy to doubt and hard to trust?  And that’s exactly why Paul was telling them to get their lobster on…to never stop growing in love and faith.   (read v.3-4)  In spite of being immersed in a city of non-Christian pressures, their faith kept growing and growing, and their love kept increasing more and more.  How did they do it?  What were they thinking about?

  1. V.5 – God’s judgment is right.  He never makes a mistake.  And he would judge them worthy in Christ.
  2. V.6 – God had their back.  They didn’t need to get vengeance.   Anyone who persecuted one of God’s precious people would have to answer to God for their decisions.  If they cornered and pressured a Christian, God would corner and bring eternal pressure back on them!
  3. V.7-10 – Relief was guaranteed!  They really had something special to look forward to – Judgment Day, when Jesus came with his powerful angels.  They could say, “Of course I’m willing to suffer for a little while now, because great glory is coming!”

These Thessalonian Christians were lobsters!  As they kept thinking, “God’s judgment is always right; God always has my back, and eternal relief is sure to come” – their faith kept growing and growing.  More and more, they were alert to the needs of others.  Never did their love run dry.  Why?  Even though earthly pressures kept growing, their love and faith kept growing more.

Of course, earthly pressure was not only happening in Thessalonica 2,000 years ago.  We face many pressures today too.  

  • Is it easy to grow in love and faith when there’s pressure in relationships?  You are helpless to make others soften, or change, or stop.  Yet you still must deal with that challenging person at work, or in your family.  How can you keep growing in love and faith when there’s that kind of pressure?
  • Is it easy to grow in love and faith when there are health pressures?  To trust in Jesus above all things, and yield to his will being done?  The hardest part about those pressures is that you aren’t in control, you don’t have all the answers, and you are helpless to change anything.  Yet the more you try to stay in control, the less loving and trusting you become.
  • Is it easy to grow in love and faith when there’s pressure with finances?  Admit it, deeply embedded in your soul is this wrong, nasty idea that if you only had more money, then life would be far better.  Keeping up with the Jones’s?  Everyone else says it’s normal, but God says it’s toxic.  And before you can blink, you’re consumed in a whirlwind of what you have, or don’t have, and always wanting something else, and never feeling good about any of it.  Trusting Jesus more doesn’t even cross our mind.
  • And what about the pressure we place on ourselves when we say, “I must be perfect.”  I must have the perfect marriage, the perfect kids, the perfect job, the perfect retirement, the perfect amount of money, the perfect church.  I must always make the perfect choice.  I must handle problems perfectly.  I must handle pressure perfectly.  

But guess what?  The more you think that you must be perfect, the less you care about trusting Jesus or loving others.  I’m going to say that again: the more you think that you must be perfect, the less you care about trusting Jesus or loving others.

Satan and all his evil angels really brought the pressure to Jesus!  Yet he lived a perfect life.

  • He never stopped loving, never stopped trusting, didn’t matter how high the pressure got.  He always said the right thing in relationship pressure.  He never let health pressures rob him of an opportunity to love others.  Financial pressures bounced off of him because he trusted the Lord with all his heart.  And he knew he must be perfect, yet there wasn’t any pressure as he lived a perfect life.  There was only perfect love.
  • Jesus Christ rejoiced because God’s judgment was always right.  He never doubted, but instead knew that God always had his back.  He knew that relief was coming both himself and all who would believe in him.  There wouldn’t be pressure on him forever!  And so, he went to the cross.  He rose from the dead!  He sits on heaven’s throne, commanding his angels to do whatever he wants them to do.  And one day – he will come back in blazing fire, with his powerful angels filling the sky, to take us home to glory!  Isn’t that something to look forward to!

Sometimes having something to look forward to really helps you handle pressure.  When you have a crazy-busy October, it helps to be looking forward to Thanksgiving break.  When you have a crazy-busy spring, it helps to know that summer vacation isn’t far away.  In that same way, we can handle any and all earthly pressures better as we look forward to DIVINE RELIEF coming when Jesus comes back in blazing fire with his powerful angels!

  • Keep growing in love as you handle relationship pressure!  You are helpless to make others soften, or change, or repent.  Don’t be held hostage in your emotions.  Show them love, without rank.  Kill them with kindness.
  • Keep increasing in trust as you handle health pressure!  No matter what, Jesus is still with you.  Yes, he is still watching over you.  One of two things is guaranteed to happen – either you wake up each day here on earth with people you love, or you wake up with your gracious God in heaven as your problems stop forever. 
  • Keep growing in love and trust as you handle money pressure!  Get rid of the GIMME MONSTER because it’s God’s money, not yours.  Keep growing in trust as you give absolutely nothing but your best to him.
  • Instead of scrambling and screaming, “I must be perfect in every area of life!” we announce to ourselves, “I am already perfect in Christ!”  And we love him and trust him more than ever.  

I know of a story from some missionaries who have been working with two brothers in a refugee camp in a different country.  These two men became Christians because a Christian showed them a movie about Jesus on a laptop, and the love of Christ took over their soul.  They simply couldn’t believe that God would think so highly of them!  They were astonished – in a good way – that he would send his Son to die in their place.  These two men keep sharing Jesus wherever they go.  In the last two years alone, one hundred families have also come to learn about peace in Jesus.

But kind of like what was happening in Thessalonica, these two men also face strong persecution.  They’ve been kicked out of their house – whatever kind of small house you have in a refugee camp, well, they don’t even have that because they got kicked out.  They got hauled into someone else’s house where they were yelled at, beaten up, and had their phone stolen and smashed.  They were threatened, “DON’T YOU EVER USE A PHONE LIKE THIS TO TELL PEOPLE ABOUT JESUS!”  And do you know what happened the next day?  The beaten-up Christian man went to the hospital, got some pain medication, and bought a new phone.  He met the missionaries and just kept talking about how he wanted to keep showing the love of Christ to people.  Yes, he knows he might not live past this week.  But he has his lobster on.

You get your lobster on too.  As long as you’re breathing, no matter what pressures are there, keep growing and growing and growing in your faith in Jesus and love for others.  DIVINE RELIEF is coming soon!  Come, Lord Jesus.  Soon.  Amen.