“They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of
his Son, whom he raised from the dead— Jesus,
who rescued us from certain doom.”
(I Thessalonians 1:9-10, The Message)
Thoughts… Are you expecting? Expecting the Lord to return at any moment, that is.
The believers in the city of Thessalonica to whom Paul wrote these words believed that Christ could come back at any second. They were young in their faith, only about one-year-old in the Lord, and they were already getting a reputation in the region for their action-oriented faith, their love-inspired good words, their unshakable hope in the face of persecution, and their passionate expectation of Jesus’ imminent return.
Their expectation of Christ’s soon return was not some silly pie-in-the-sky sort of wishful thinking. It was not a form of escapism to ease the pain of their persecution. It was not rooted in reality avoidance so they wouldn’t have to carry out the daily responsibilities of being good Christians. It was simply an authentic belief that Jesus was going to do as he promised: return soon and take them home to be with him.
Rather than writing them off as overly emotional or shallow new believers, Paul praises them for this spirit of expectation. Because there was a fundamental sense of the Lord’s return, these guys were turning up the heat up on their Christian living: They were busy doing the Lord’s work. They were paying attention to holy living. They were not shrinking back from their Christian testimony in spite of hardship. They were passionately living out their faith. They were fully engaged in what it means to be Christian precisely because they knew the Lord would come back at any moment, and they wanted to be the kind of church that Jesus would be proud of upon his return.
That is the way believers ought to live. We should be living with a passionate expectation that Jesus could return at any moment. And as a consequence of that belief, we ought to be living fully engaged Christianity so that the Master will be proud of us upon his return.
Let me ask you this: How would you live the rest of this week if you knew Jesus was returning exactly seven days from this moment? What would change about your behavior between now and then? What people would you share Christ with? What relationships would you make sure were reconciled? Would “I love you” be said more often around your house? How about “I’m sorry?” Or “how can I help you?” Would your church attendance, your tithing record, your daily devotions, and the way you relate to people improve between now and then?
The real possibility is that Jesus just might return between now and next week. We just don’t know. But what we do know is that Jesus has called us to live as if he could return at any moment. Paul teaches throughout I and II Thessalonians that since Christ could come at any moment, we are to live:
- In holiness—especially in the area of sexual purity…and he says this with a sense of urgency.
- In harmony—that is the result of truly loving each other…so much that we are willing to lay down our lives for one another.
- In humility—to live in such a way that we draw the attention of others, not because of how sensational we are, but because of how honest, hard working and honorable we are.
- In hopefulness—which occurs when we allow an eternal perspective to permeate the very core of our existence and affect everything we do, say and think.
- In helpfulness—living out faith so practically that our lives are characterized by servant-heartedness and sacrificial selflessness toward one another.
When we live in the kind of readiness that Christ could return at any moment—in holiness, harmony, humility, hopefulness and helpfulness—the natural bi-product will be that contagious faith will exude from our lives in much the same as it did from these amazing Thessalonian Christians.
Are you expecting? You should be!
Prayer… My affirmation of faith, O God, is that Jesus is coming again. He is coming for all who long for his appearance, who have readied themselves for his return. I want to be counted in that number. So again today, I ready myself for that possibility and I pray in my spirit, “even so, come Lord Jesus.”
One More Thing… “God destines us for an end beyond the grasp of reason.” —Thomas Aquinas