28 June 2018

Welcome to Thursday’s podcast. Thanks again for joining us. As a team, our hope and prayer is that whenever and wherever you find yourselves listening to this today that God would speak to you through his word and that you would be encouraged to continue to walk in step with him, to continue to love those God places around you.

REFLECTION:

Encouragement is a word that’s repeated several times in today’s passage. Paul prays this over the Thessalonian church:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

‘May God encourage your hearts’, Paul prays. When we look at this word more closely in the Greek, we also see that this word encourage means to make an appeal, a call, something which urges us, moves us to action. As a sports fan, what first came to mind for me when thinking about this word appeal is when a bowler thinks that they have got an opposition batsmen out in cricket and they turn and appeal to the umpire. They urge, they plead with the umpire to make the decision, to raise the finger and give that person out.

How does God make his appeal to us? How does God urge us into living a life of serving, of loving and preferring others?

God doesn’t yell, get down on one knee and gesticulate wildly, like the desperate bowler trying to convince an umpire. God makes his appeal to our hearts. I once heard this described as a ‘holy discontent’. A dissatisfaction, a sense prompted by God’s spirit that when we look around us and see others that don’t know God, that don’t know his amazing love, that aren’t living life knowing their true value, that don’t know that their eternal future is secure in him – that it just isn’t right. It’s just not good enough. It’s something which we can’t just shake off. It’s something that weighs on our minds. That’s what Paul is praying God does in the hearts of the Thessalonian believers.

Like the Thessalonians, we too need to allow God to do that work in each of us – in order to take up Paul’s rallying cry and press on with the call God places on each of our lives – to make him known, to stand firm. We need to allow God to make his appeal to our hearts. To create within us a holy discontent which moves us to action.

God appeals to us as individuals. We each have within us a specific area, people group, maybe a ministry that is on our hearts, where there’s that sense that this just isn’t right. I recently read an article in the Guardian which reported on the recent rise in violent crime in the Sheffield region. The increase in the number of these crimes alone is shocking enough but even more disturbingly – it’s the fact that young people – some as young as 12 – were being dragged into this world where violent crime is increasingly more commonplace. The Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire explained that this was, in part, because young people without criminal records – known as ‘clean skins’ – were being used as drug mules by gangs not just in our region, but up and down the country. They were being pulled into a life of crime, of violence, of hopelessness, of brokenness. This is our young people, in our city. It’s not good enough. God continues to appeal to my heart through articles like this, to urge me to move to action – to be someone who leads and disciples young people – someone who desperately wants to point young people to Jesus – to recognise their true value and live a life that reflects that.

What is it that God has put on your heart? Where is your area of holy discontent? Maybe it’s something that’s been there for a long time. Maybe it’s been something you’ve been reflecting and praying about recently? What’s God saying to you about this today?

There may very well be something that we feel specifically called to like youth ministry – something which is just really obvious to us – but actually we can all think of individuals, of situations, of places where we feel can feel God making his appeal to our hearts.

Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonian church, and for us today, is that we would be moved action because of our relationship with God through Jesus. Because of God’s great love for us. Because of the eternal life he has won for us. And that it should lead us to hope. We know that when the Bible talks about hope – it’s not a ‘this might happen’, it’s a confident expectation, an assurance that God will move. That as we heard last week from 1 Thessalonians – the one who calls us, the one who call us to love others and keep on doing that, is faithful and will do it.

PRAYER:

God, we thank you that you love us. That you have saved and rescued us. That you have won for us eternal life. God, we thank you when you saved us, you also called us. You called us to go and love others. We pray that in each of us today we would sense you making your appeal to our hearts, spurring us on to keep on fulfilling your plans and purposes, making you known in the places you have called us to. Amen.

READING: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.