Hey, can we, can we just continue to praise the Lord for that song?
He will make a way. Man, what, what an encouraging, powerful way to get started for this service. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Jason Azzarello.
I am the campus pastor here at the regional campus. And for those who don't know me, I have a rather large family, not just my wife and I and our four kids, but we have an extended family. And within that extended family, we are nostalgia junkies. We just love, we love traditions.
We love the nostalgia. One of the traditions that we hold as a family, hold very dear and near to our hearts. And it happens around the same time every year.
I know you're thinking Thanksgiving. Yes, but also football season. We are right in the middle of, literally right in the middle of a football season. And one of the things that kind of, as I was studying this passage, I started to actually think about a particular game that we were watching as a family, as we got together. And we were sitting around the couch and we were watching our team as the San Francisco 49ers, Christian McCaffrey. Amen.
Oh, no, not, sorry. But we, we were sitting around and we were, we were watching this game together and it was, it was a pretty tense game. I actually don't remember exactly. I was, I was scouring YouTube for highlights and trying to remember exactly which game.
I don't remember the game, but here's what I remember about it. As we were sitting around, we were watching it, it was pretty tense. We like to really watch the game.
I mean, it's not like casually, we like to really watch the game and get into the game. And it was a part of the game where we desperately needed a turnover or, you know, we needed them to go punt the ball. Well, as we're sitting there, we're stressed out and all of a sudden my youngest son says, I think they're going to throw an interception right here. And about a play later, an interception happens. And we're like, what in the world?
Jayden's, Jayden's our little magic, you know, he's our, he's our, you know, fortune teller, our, our, our, our prophet here in the room. And then a few plays later, he would actually predict what was going to happen next. And it was almost like we were sitting there watching him, watching the game, watching him, watching the game. And, and then all of a sudden we realized we were behind.
But he had his fantasy football app open and he was not behind. You know, I think sometimes, I think sometimes in life as believers, it can be a little bit like that. You know, you know, as, as, as, as, as the world sort of shows itself and as we're living in this world and we're confused and bombarded, it can feel sometimes like, man, what in the world is going on? And the Bible has this way of being able to say, well, here's exactly what's going to happen.
And it's a little bit like that. And I feel like Second Thessalonians is a great place for us to be able to look and see the apostle Paul saying something very similar to that. And, and the reality is, is that we can sort of intellectually, we can know how it all shakes out in the end, right? I mean, like we can read the, we could read Thessalonians, we can go and read Revelation and we see like Jesus wins. If you didn't know that, and you're here for the first time tonight, man, when we read the back of the scriptures, like we see Jesus wins in the end. I mean, Jesus is coming back. He's going to close the loop on death and hell and Satan and evil, and then we will live in the new heavens and the new earth, and we will reign with it.
That's what the Bible says. We win with Christ in the end. So confidence that Jesus reigns on the last day, it should shape the way we live today.
Confidence because of the fact that Jesus wins in the end should give us confidence to live the life the way that we've been called to live it today. So, as Andrew mentioned in the video, we're jumping into part two of Waiting Well from the book of 2 Thessalonians, where Paul and Timothy and Silas wrote the second letter to the young Thessalonian church that's experiencing really extreme persecution affliction difficulty. Scholars have said that this was probably written one year after the first letter.
So those things that were sort of blossoming in the first letter seem to be in full bloom here in 2 Thessalonians. And as a result of that, there was quite a bit of confusion from the church on what was going on. Like, why in the world am I experiencing so much pain and loss and suffering?
Why in the world am I experiencing so much pain and loss and suffering? I think that there were some concerns of, did we miss the return of Christ? We were told about the return of Christ, but it doesn't feel like, is this judgment what we're experiencing? So, in typical Pauline fashion, he helps them to be able to see exactly how everything is connected. It's like the apostle Paul knew the outcome of the game as it was going, and he tries to help them to connect the dots here. So 2 Thessalonians, we're going to be in the whole chapter today. So starting in verses 1 and 2, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians and God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. So what we, you know, this is a pretty typical greeting as to what we would anticipate coming from the apostle Paul, but the typical, the nature of the greeting does not actually make it meaningless. See, the first words in this letter really set the stage for the type of spirit that God's people should have living in the midst of chaotic and turbulent times.
Grace and peace. And as we look to the horrors of evil around us, we find ourselves in a very similar place that many generations have found themselves in Babylon. Immersed in the world system that's governed by the enemy, by powers and principalities, and we have to ask ourselves, what should we do?
I mean, do we run for the hills? Do we just kind of hold on and just wait for the return of Christ? Well, we hopefully already know the answer to that, but we're going to go dig in just a little bit further because I want to encourage you today to know in confidence that Jesus is still in control, no matter how out of control the world may seem.
The end of the story hasn't changed, and this very fact should radically transform the way that we live our lives, not just in behavior, but in spirit and attitude. So we would be hard-pressed to find a better combination of words that we need and that our world needs than the two words, grace and peace. You know, we need grace. As a church, we need grace because we're constantly being sucked back into a works-based orientation of life.
See, here's what's interesting about the enemy. He doesn't actually care if someone's religious or not religious. In fact, I think that the enemy would actually be totally fine with everybody being religious because religion has a way of masking the beauty of God's grace in such a way that it's actually better for you to be religious as long as it's works-based. In other words, you would be thinking, hey, as long as I do X and X, God will love me. If I just can accomplish this, God will accept me. But guys, what the church needs to hear, what the world needs to hear is this, if you're striving to earn favor, there will never be enough good works to obtain the favor of God. Because we have received the favor of God in Christ.
We're going to talk more about that in just a little bit. And we need peace. How many of you guys know that anxiety and stress and fear are at an all-time high? We know this.
We feel this, right? Paul certainly knew this. He knew that this young church needed peace. Peace is a gift of the Holy Spirit. We need this peace no less than the church in Thessalonica did. Our world needs peace no less than the church did or that those who have lived through history have needed it. Peace defined is simply being safe from harm in your spirit, in your mind, and in your body. And the good news is that it's not only possible to have peace, even in a world where it seems like safety in mind and body and heart and spirit feels like that's impossible. It's the last thing that we're feeling. It's a gift from God. It's a fruit that is produced in us when we, by faith, trade in our worries and our anxieties for that gift of peace. Peter taught us, cast your care upon Him.
Why? Because He cares for you. What does that mean? Well, it means that Jesus actually knows exactly how we're created and what our capacity is for anxiety or for fear or for stress. So He says, I want you to cast it, which isn't a, it's not a passive activity.
It is an aggressive activity. When you think about casting, it should look more like you throwing a rock to the middle of a river than in for it should you just be simply trying to lay something down. We need to gain separation, casting our care on Him. And I want to encourage you, just a little side application for today, I want to encourage you, if you don't have a practice of casting your cares on Him, I want to encourage you to take on that practice. You say, well, what in the world does a practice look like? I learned this practice a few years back where the old Quakers used to put their hands on their lap or on a table, and they would begin to list the worries and the fears and the anxiety and the stress that was mounting in their life. And they would say, Lord Jesus, I'm casting all my care on you. And then they would turn their hands over and I receive your peace as a free gift. I don't know if you've ever been around someone who instantly helps the room feel more calm. I don't know if you know anybody like this, but you're maybe not really sure what is that thing that's the Spirit of God producing peace. Their highs are not too high. Their lows are not necessarily too low. There's a steadiness even in the midst of pain.
They're not robotic. They're not pretending and like there's not any effect to their lives, but they carry themselves in a calming presence. Guys, the world is starving for people who are filled with peace.
And I pray today we could be an army of people who go out filled with the Spirit of peace. So after the greeting to the Thessalonians, Paul gets right to the heart of their concerns. They really wanted to know what are we supposed to do with all this pain that we're experiencing? Did Jesus forget about us? Is this the judgment? So I love what Paul does. Paul kind of, he picks up a mirror and he points it at him and he says, If you want to know exactly what you should do, you should see what I see. And he says this in verses three and four, We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore, we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
I don't know if you guys have ever been around somebody who is, they're trying to give you a compliment, but instead they lead off with something like, I really don't want you to get a big head about this. You know what I'm talking about? But you did a pretty good job. Or, you know, I'm seeing some good things in your life. You know, I'm glad that Paul doesn't really take that approach, but instead he understands, much like what we need to understand today, and that's this, that most people are in danger of discouragement over the reality of their failures and their sin and their shortcomings more than they are in danger of being so overcome with pride because they're killing it. We are acutely aware of our failures.
We're acutely aware of our mistakes. And what the church needs today, what the world needs today is people who understand that our words hold incredible power. And that by merely encouraging somebody, saying, I see God working in your life, we don't know the impact and effect that it could have. Craig Groeschel in his book, Soul Detox, Clean Living in a Contaminated World, said this, what you say can give life to you and to other people, or it can take life away.
Think of it as, he says, creative words create, destructive words destroy, hurtful words crush, helpful words build up, toxic words poison, soothing words heal, faith-filled words bring life, and faithless words bring death. You know, one of the reasons why it's such a big deal that we have public baptisms is because of what it does. Being public in baptism invites the church to do exactly what the apostle Paul and Timothy and Silas are doing here. It invites accountability in the best sense of the word. It invites celebration.
It invites encouragement. You see, when you see somebody step into the tank, and they get baptized, and then you run into them in a few weeks, that's your opportunity to bring life to that person in your words. To encourage them and to say, man, I see God doing something in your life, and I just wanted to let you know God is working in your life.
I mean, turn it around. How would you feel if when you came to church or you were in your community group, if people, their objective was I want to breathe life, I want to speak life into somebody's existence today. I want to be able to encourage somebody with my words today.
Affirming others is right, and it brings God glory. So who can you encourage today? Like right now, I want us to be thinking, who can I send some encouragement to? Consider sending somebody a text message, maybe sending or calling somebody on the phone or sending an email and encouraging them today.
I'm not necessarily suggesting that we build someone up on false pretense. I'm advocating for awareness and follow-up. Tell somebody today what you see God doing in their life. So Paul affirms their growing faith, their increasing love and steadfastness in afflictions as a way of really saying this, guys, I know what you're going through is very hard.
But you guys are doing exactly what you should be doing. And here's why. Because faith and love and steadfastness through persecution is part of being made worthy for God's kingdom. Alright, let's continue reading in verse number 5. He says, this is evidence of the righteous judgment of God that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering, since indeed God considers it just to repay with afflictions those who afflict you and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us. When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels and flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of our Lord and from the glory of his might. When he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at among all who have believed because our testimony to you was believed. Alright, I recognize there is a ton going on in this passage.
Probably a lot of questions that popped up as we were reading that going, oh, I've never seen something like this before. But here's what I want you to stick with me. I want to summarize it by saying something like this, that the fact that you're being afflicted and persecuted is actually evidence that you are being made worthy of God's kingdom. And you need to understand that God sees everything.
And in the end, he's going to settle all of it. So don't worry, don't be afraid because Jesus sees and he's the best judge. So let's go back for just a moment because I think if we're reading this, we might be tempted to just kind of miss this part and maybe even build a little bit of a theology that's the exact opposite of what the Apostle Paul is saying. What he said was, and I want to point out, he talks about being made worthy. Being made worthy. Verse number 5 and verse number 11, he talks about this idea of being made worthy of his calling. So I think the question maybe we might be asking is, well, does this mean I'm not worthy of his calling?
I'm not deserving of the gift of salvation? Being made worthy does not mean being made deserving. It is being made suitable because of the worth of another.
I want you to think about this. If a person of royalty, a king or a queen from a country were to say, I am going to come to your home and I'm going to stay in your home, you would work to make that room worthy. Not deserving because what's deserving for a king or a queen is a palace.
They're living in a place that is deserving of their worth, but your house and the room can be made suitable. It can be made worthy. Or you can think of it like this, when we became Christians, it's like at salvation God gave us a uniform that was too big. In our whole life, God is doing the work of kind of beefing us up and preparing us and suiting us to be made worthy of the very uniform that He has already given to each and every one of us.
You see, God through His grace and through His Spirit, He uses every affliction, every bit of suffering, every hardship, all grief, all loss, all pain to make us suitable for the kingdom. He does this, I believe, for at least two reasons. Number one, to reveal what's actually inside of us.
This is not a gotcha thing from God. He's not saying, see, it's more of a refining. He wants to reveal what's in us so that He can refine. And secondly, to make us suitable for the kingdom, to make us the kind of person who will live in eternity in the kingdom of God. God uses suffering for the dual purpose of exposing and transforming.
And I don't know if you're asking the question that I wanted to know, why is that? You know, could God not have used something other than this as a way of being able to form us into the kind of person He wants us to be? And I think the question that I would ask back is, when you think of the most precious jewels, the most precious monetary valuable things, gold and silver and diamonds, what is used to be able to refine them? Fire and pressure.
Fire and pressure bring about the refining that God wants to do in our life. A picture popped up in my Facebook memories from 2009, November 7th, it was just a couple days ago, 2009. Don't show it just yet. My wife and I... My wife and I, we both worked for a school and a church. It was a church that had a school and both of us in the same day lost our jobs. And the school had to shut down. I mean, 2008, 2009, California, you know the rest of the story.
Go home and watch the big short and that'll give you kind of an idea. I can tell you we were pretty shaken. We were young parents with three little kiddos, a five-year-old, a two-and-a-half-year-old and a newborn. Jobs were scarce to come by. I mean, I remember thinking, okay, well, I'll just go and get a pastoral job or an education job somewhere at a local church.
Well, they were all experiencing the same stuff. So then I was like, okay, well, do I have any marketable skills that I can actually go and get a job in the workforce? And turns out I have no marketable skills.
So I showed up at Target and they were like, probably not, man. Starbucks, I mean, literally, it felt like for weeks there was just... It was no after no after no after no. You know, this situation, it did something to us. Because if there's one thing that pain and suffering or loss or whatever that it can't do is it can't leave you the same. It's either going to grow you or it's going to shrink us. That's just the reality.
We're either going to grow as a result of it or we're going to shrink as a result of it. So the picture that hasn't been shown yet but now is being shown. This is a picture of somebody who had dropped off literally hundreds of dollars of groceries at our home.
And there's a couple of kids sitting in there. I actually don't know where Gianna is at the moment in this picture but the point of the picture is this. That event caused us to get on our knees and to fast and to pray and to say, Lord, we don't actually know. We don't actually know where rent's coming from.
We don't know where the next meal's coming from. And if you've ever been put in that situation, you know the desperate position that that puts your heart and your spirit. You know what it did? It opened me up to that relationship with the Lord but it also did something else. It allowed me or it forced me.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-11 16:14:54 / 2023-11-11 16:24:25 / 10