Follow Your End Times Checklist with God’s Help
3rd Sunday of Advent
Follow Your End Times Checklist with God’s Help
Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
There’s a lot to do this time of year! Cooking. Cleaning. Shopping. Wrapping (unwrapping!). Traveling. Hosting. Partying. Cleaning (again!). Maybe you’ve thought this before—I have—“When Christmas is done, then I can finally catch my breath.” Then again, I say that every year. But things never do slow down. There’s always a lot to do.
So how do you remember to do the things you need to do? There are about as many ways to remember things to do as there are things to do. You might use sticky notes. You might write out a neat little list. You might use a marker board at home. You might use the more rudimentary string around the finger or write on the hand methods. Or you might use something more high tech. Maybe you use a smart phone, because yes, there is an app for that. In fact there are hundreds of different reminder and To Do list apps on smart phones and computers.
Well I don’t care if you use note cards, sticky notes, printed lists, or typed lists. I don’t care if you use an iPhone, an iMac, or yes even one of those other hideous computer products. It doesn’t matter to me—pick one of them or pick all of them . . . as long as you remember what the apostle Paul is about to tell you. Today he provides you with a daily To Do list to follow as we wait for Jesus to return. You might like to follow along with 1 Thessalonians 5 on page 6 of your service folder so you can take note and then Follow Your End Times Checklist with God’s Help.
Recently we studied 1 Thessalonians very carefully in our Sunday morning Bible study. We noted that this letter was written by Paul to this mission church in Thessalonica to strengthen them and encourage them. The second lesson today comprises some of the last few words of this letter. Paul is showing excitement and a sense of urgency as he spits out a rapid-fire list of things for Christians to do during the End Times while waiting for Jesus’ second coming.
Here’s what he says first: “Be joyful always.” It’s easy to be joyful at Christmas. It’s easy to be joyful when you are surrounded by friends and family. It’s easy to be joyful when you are opening up an unexpected and thoughtful Christmas gift. But this is the hard part. Paul tells us to be joyful always.
Are we joyful when we (and our kids) can’t seem to shake the sicknesses of cold and flu season? Are we joyful when we see red numbers in our bank account? How about when the market crashes again and all our investment money is gone? Are we joyful when we are overstressed and overworked? Are we joyful when a loved one dies? Paul doesn’t leave room for exceptions. He says, “Be joyful always.”
Next he says, “Pray continually.” Another phrase where the first part is much easier than the second part. I can remember to pray—sometimes. I pray fairly regularly. But Paul tells us to pray continually. Some of you may know the old King James Version of this verse—“Pray without ceasing.”
Do we pray all day every day? Do we pray at every meal? Do we pray every night before we fall asleep—not just the bedtime routine with kids but personally? Do we pray every morning when we wake up? Do we pray every time something goes wrong or when we need help? Or do we pray only when something goes wrong or when we need help? Paul doesn’t leave room for poor priorities. He says, “Pray continually.”
Phrase three is also like the first two. “Give thanks in all circumstances.” When my plate is full of pumpkin pie and my belly is full of turkey and stuffing it’s easy to give thanks. When I receive more Christmas presents than someone in another part of the world could hardly fathom it’s easy to give thanks.
But do we give thanks in all circumstances? Are we thankful when we can’t afford to buy as many Christmas presents as we might like? Are we thankful when we have headaches? Are we thankful when we have heartaches? To reinforce the phrase Paul says, “This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God wants us to be thankful at all times and in all circumstances.
Checklist item four: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.” These next few items from verses 19-22 are especially about spiritual matters. Paul tells us not to extinguish the fire of our faith. And that Spirit’s fire of faith shows itself in love and good deeds.
We are really fanning the fire right now. We’re in church! But what about when you walk out those doors? Does our faith burn and shine for all to see? Are we focused every day on living a life of love for all people? Do we actively pursue every way that we can possibly use our gifts and abilities to serve God? Or do we tend to step back and let others do all the work? Paul wants us to fan the flame, not put it out.
Verse 20 next: “Do not treat prophecies with contempt.” Prophecies are revelations from God. These days, God reveals and proclaims his will to us in only one way—through the Bible. So this verse could really say, “Do not treat [God’s Word] with contempt.”
Again, we’re using it now. We’re listening to it now. But what about when we walk out these doors and are away from church? Are family devotions a priority for you? Is reading God’s Word a priority for you? Is coming to Bible study a priority for you? Or are other things pushed to the forefront as more important at times? God doesn’t want us to treat his Word with contempt.
Lastly, checklist item six. I’ll combine the last three sentences into one To DO item: “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” Paul wants us to examine everything carefully and put it to the test. This starts with teachings about God’s Word but continues to everything in our lives. Everything good we can grasp on to and keep. Everything bad we can avoid and flee from.
Maybe this is easier for you when it comes to Bible teachings. Most of you know that if you have a question about something in the Bible you can just ask me and I can help clear things up. Many of you have done this before. But this is probably not as easy with other things in life. Do we always avoid evil and hold on to good when it comes to TV shows, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the books we read, the conversations we have, the jokes we tell? When evil presents itself do we avoid it and run away? Do we only look for what’s good and cling to it?
That takes us to the end of our End Times Checklist of things To Do. How do you feel about the list? I know when I look at these six To Dos I feel a lot like I do with my daily life To Do lists—terrible. Usually I have tons of things to do and I don’t always get everything done. Sometimes I get most of the things done, but then I don’t do them as well as I should. It doesn’t matter if I write a list, use my iPhone, or put a sticky note on my forehead. My To Do lists aren’t always accomplished like they should be.
That’s exactly how I feel about my End Times Checklist in 1 Thessalonians 5. Looking at the list, I realize that I don’t do a very good job preparing for Jesus to come back. Be joyful always? Pray continually? Give thanks in all circumstances? Oh boy! Serve God always? Be in his Word always? Hold on to the good and run from the evil? Oh no!
Each and every day I could review this checklist and say, “I could have done that better. I could have done that better. I didn’t do that at all.” Looking at this list makes me fall to my knees in sadness and sorrow for all the things left undone and unaccomplished. Looking at this list makes me realize how unprepared I am for Jesus to return. Looking at this list makes me realize that a sinner like I doesn’t stand a chance when standing before my eternal judge.
Good thing Paul didn’t end his letter there. There’s another paragraph yet. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul’s prayer is that we will be sanctified—set apart and made holy—through and through. He prays that everything we are—spirit, soul, and body—will be kept blameless and pure when Jesus returns. But Paul doesn’t leave us with that. Left to our sinful selves, we would be in big trouble. So Paul adds this last joy-filling sentence: “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
Christian friends, we need not worry about accomplishing all of these items on our own. God has called us to faith and to be his dear children. He is a faithful God. He will do it. He will make us ready and prepared for the coming of his Son. In fact, he already did so through his Son.
Have you ever wondered why the Bible is so detailed about so many things regarding Jesus, some things that even seem insignificant? Why do I need to know about Jesus breaking bread and looking to heaven every time when they ate? Why do I need to hear so many of his conversations with the Pharisees and other enemies? Why didn’t they just give me the short version—Jesus was born, he taught for a while, he died?
But you see one reason God has given us so many details in his Word is because we get to see how Jesus fulfilled all these things for us. He was joyful always. He did pray continually. He did give thanks in all things. He never treated the Scriptures with contempt. He always tested everything and clung to the good and avoided the evil. Jesus perfectly did everything we do not. He was our perfect substitute.
He was also our perfect sacrifice. First Jesus did the things we fail to do. Then Jesus died for the things we’ve failed to do. He was also our perfect substitute as the payment for the sins we’ve committed.
Paul is right! God is faithful. God is the God of peace. He will sanctify us through and through and make us blameless before Jesus on the last day. That’s because through Jesus, all our sins are forgiven and taken away.
Maybe our 1 Thessalonians To Do lists sometimes ends up like my every day life To Do List. It ends up looking really messy: I check off one item. I scratch off the next. I make some notes that I did a little bit of that one, but didn’t even start that one. Then I add more things to the list. Before I know it I can hardly keep track any more!
But Jesus has wiped our slate clean. He has taken out his giant eraser, dipped in blood, and erased all our sins. We get a fresh and new start! And with God’s help, we can tackle our End Times To Do list once more!
What a different outlook and attitude that gives us! Knowing that all my sins are forgiven makes me want to be joyful always. Knowing that my God listens to me and answers me makes me want to pray continually. Knowing that I will live in heaven forever makes me want to give thanks in all circumstances. Knowing that God has given me so many talents and abilities makes me want to fan into flame the Spirit’s fire. Knowing that God’s Word is the source of all truth and real knowledge makes me want to treat it with love and care and read it every day. Knowing that God has given me a new lease on life through his forgiveness makes me want to avoid every kind of evil and cling to everything that is good.
Paul gives us a lot to chew on today, and a lot to do as we prepare for Jesus to return. Choose whatever method you want—get a day planner, tie a string on your finger, write sticky notes, write on your hand, use your computer, use a smart phone, or do all of the above. And I literally mean this—do whatever you can to remember to do these things each and every day. They will make you prepared and ready for Jesus to return.
Seems like a lot? Not sure you can do it? Not sure you’ll be ready? Don’t worry! God is faithful! He has done it, and he will do it.
Posted on December 11, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged 1 Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 5, Checklist, Christmas, Church, End Times, Joy, Joyful, Judgment Day, Paul, Persistent Prayer, Pray Continually, Sermons, Test, Thanks, To Do List. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.