Faith in the Face of Overwhelming Doubt

Series: How to Live in the Last Days

Sermon by Gabe Fluhrer on Jan 4, 2016

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

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As you’re being seated, please turn with me in your Bibles to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians. You’ll find it on page 986 if you’re using a pew Bible. Again, Happy New Year to you! In the next couple of months we’ll be preaching through this entire book of 1 Thessalonians. Tonight we will study chapter 1 together and the title of this series is “How To Live In the Last Days.” So we will talk about the last days, the end times, that subject of perennial fascination. But spoiler alert, I don’t have any big charts to go behind me and I don’t think we’ll need them as I hope to show you from God’s Word by the end.

1 Thessalonians chapter 1 beginning at verse 1. This is God’s holy, inspired, and therefore inerrant Word:

“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

 

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

 

Grace to you and peace.

 

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of God shall stand forever. Let us pray and ask His blessing on it!

Father, we can’t understand a thing of what we read unless we receive that Word by the power of the Holy Spirit like this ancient congregation did. Would You cause that to happen this evening? We admit our utter inability to do that on our own and so we look to Christ to do that for us by the Spirit. We pray in His mighty name, amen.

A few years ago, scientists discovered a snake that was quite literally double-minded. It was born with two heads, two different brains, and each one seeming to have a will of its own. And so this snake, as they studied it, could never get anywhere. One head was doing one thing, the other head was doing another thing, and it never went the right direction. And as they studied and tried to figure out what was going on, they recognized that because the snake had two minds it could never overcome its disability. And so often, our lives feel just like that, don’t they, especially if doubt enters in and we profess to be Christians. We find ourselves double-minded, unstable as James put it, in all our ways. And as we come to this series this evening on how to live in the last days, maybe somewhat surprisingly Paul begins by encouraging the infant faith of this congregation, a faith that as we’ll see was already being talked about everywhere in the world. This was a kind of a faith that was well known. They had a strong faith and yet it had come under attack. Maybe you are struggling with doubts this evening? Maybe there are doubts, big time doubts about whether or not you are a Christian? Maybe even bigger than that, you wonder if Christianity is even true? Maybe you wonder if the Bible it true? Whatever it is, doubt and a lack of faith is something that every one of us who are Christians will wrestle with for our entire lives. And so the question before us is this. If the Gospel is true, and it is, what are we do to in the face of overwhelming doubt or when our faith is threatened? And Paul will answer that for us this evening.

Just a brief overview of this book and a couple of things right before that as well. As we launch into a series on the last days, again this is a subject that so many people are fascinated by and usually we come to the point after seeing so many different opinions on what’s going to happen in the last days that we just kind of all become pan-millenialists - it will all pan out in the end! And so we kind of leave it to the experts and don’t worry any more about prophecy. I want to suggest to you that studying things like the last times in the Scriptures is one of the most profitable and practical things Christians can do. And so as we launch, let me give you two propositions that will guide our study about the last days. I’ll defend them later on; I’m just going to state them now. The first is this. The last days began two thousand years ago at Christ’s first coming and will continue until His second coming. The last days began two thousand years ago at Christ’s first coming and they will continue until His second coming. Thus when you read the phrase, “the latter days” in the Old Testament or “the last days” in the New Testament, almost without exception that phrase refers to the time between Christ’s two comings; not just prior to His second coming but the entire time between Christ’s two comings. Second proposition is this. According to the Bible, what marks out the last days in that whole period between Christ’s coming is at least two things - deceptive false teaching and persecution. Deceptive false teaching and persecution will always, always plague the Christian church. So those are going to be propositions that guide us through this study.

Now what about the context here? We are looking at probably the oldest New Testament letter. Maybe only Galatians and James are older and maybe the gospel of Mark, but most scholars agree that 1 Thessalonians was probably written between AD 51 and AD 53, so somewhere around eighteen to twenty years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thessalonica was a city located on the main Roman road about ninety miles east of Philippi, so about from here to Meridian. That’s about how far it was between Thessalonica and Philippi. It was a major city. It was known around the ancient world because it was on that main Roman road. You can read about the founding of this church in Acts chapter 17 verses 1 through 9. Now why did Paul write this letter? At least three reasons; First, he wrote, as we’re going to see tonight, to encourage their faith in the face of hostile persecution. To encourage their faith. There’s so much encouragement from Paul’s pen to these weak and beleaguered believers here in Thessalonica. Second, he wrote this to defend his apostolic ministry. If you read again in Acts 17 they had to get out of there in a hurry and some people were coming along saying, “See, Paul didn’t care about you. That’s why he got out of here so fast, and therefore the Gospel isn’t true.” Part of that deceptive false teaching we just mentioned. Then the third reason was this. To answer practical questions about Christian discipleship, questions like sexual ethics. “How does Christianity change my sexual life?” Work - “What are we supposed to do about work? What do our daily lives look like with regards to work?” And then of course major questions about the second coming of Christ. This congregation had a large struggle with that and we’re still plagued with those struggles today. But here’s what Paul’s getting at for us this evening. When doubt arises, the only solution is a Spirit-wrought, God-given, tested faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the main idea here tonight. When doubt arises, the only solution is a Spirit-wrought, God-given, tested faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ. And to get at this idea we’ll do it under three headings tonight - faith’s origin, faith’s outworking, and faith’s reward. Origin, outworking, and reward.

  1. Faith’s Origin

Well Paul begins typically with his greeting here with one notable exception. He says, “To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Typically, he reserves that “in” language for Jesus and not just God the Father. What he’s doing here, again this is an early letter of his, is so closely identifying, while keeping separate, God and the Lord Jesus Christ to teach them at the outset that Jesus is fully God. That’s what he’s doing here. He’s starting off reminding them Jesus is God come in the flesh. And then he begins in verse 2 with a prayer that will continue down really to verse 12 of chapter 2. That makes this the longest thanksgiving section in any of Paul’s letters. He likes to begin by giving thanks for what God is doing. And in this prayer he starts giving thanks and then he goes into a narrative and then he goes back to giving thanks. And really this section ends in chapter 2 verse 12. And he begins by thanking for those three cardinal Christian virtues that he usually gives thanks for - faith, hope, and love. But notice what he says about their hope here. He uses a very specific word. He says “the steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why would he do that? Because he’s dealing with a congregation that has questions about the coming of Christ and what to do in the meantime. He’s got to make sure they realize you need to stay steadfast in your hope in Jesus. Don’t be moved. And that’s what he’s praying for and giving thanks for. It’s a common theme in this letter. And it matters to us because as we live in the last days, that we’ve been living in for two thousand years now, as we live in that time if our hope is uncertain, if we find ourselves hoping in other things one, that will let us down, and two, we won’t make it in the face of persecution. Any kind of persecution, any kind of trial, our faith will falter if we don’t have this steadfast hope. So at the outset, Paul is saying, “I’m thanking God for your real faith that is showing itself in real hope.”

Paul’s Doctrine of Election.

But as I mentioned, the Thessalonians were in danger of being moved from their faith. They were being threatened by these false teachers. They had perhaps expressed doubt to Paul or one of his fellow workers. And in verse 4 Paul does something wonderful here to encourage them. Look at what he prays. “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you. We know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.” Where does Paul go when he wants to encourage them? He goes to a very specific doctrine, namely election. Now in our day and age it’s kind of a bad thing to talk about doctrine, but I want you to see the cash value and the practicality of things like the doctrine of election because Paul is doing that right here. He says to them and he’s going to say this over ten times in this letter, “I know.” There’s a note of certainty struck there. He’s saying to these believers, “Don’t worry. I know.” And he’s going to give us evidences of why he knows that you were chosen by God.

The Doctrine of Election is for the Christians Comfort.

Why is that so important for us to understand? Election and the doctrine of election, my friends, is not simply a bullet point to debate among fellow believers. That arises all the time and usually with unhappy results. No, no, no. If you read the Scriptures, almost without exception the doctrine of election is brought forth for our comfort, for encouragement, to grow our faith. And that’s what Paul is doing here. And that little word, “know” contains a world of theses if we could put it that way. Because you see, here again is where Christianity differs from everything else, everything! If you look at other world religions or worldviews none of them can say this. None of them can say, “I know.” And we know Paul says that other places, doesn’t he? “I know whom I have believed. For we know that neither death nor life nor things present nor things to come will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That definite, often struck note of certainty in the apostle’s letters practically oozes out of all of them. And only Gospel Christianity can give you the sure hope of knowing you’re saved.

I had a friend who was doing evangelism among Muslims in the UK and they were talking about the deity of Christ and the doctrine of God. And finally the Imam looked at my friend who was a pastor and said, “The biggest difference between us is you think you can know for sure you’re going to heaven. We would never say that.” And that’s everything else; Islam and everything teaches the same thing. Why is that? Because only Christianity teaches that God chose us! In everything else, we choose God by an act of the so-called “free will” and that is a myth in the Scriptures. And that’s really good news for us because left to ourselves none of us would choose God. He moves towards us first and we see that over and over again in the Scriptures. Let me say this to you. If you wonder tonight, “Do I matter? Am I loved? Does anybody care about me or my struggles? Am I somebody who is valuable?” Start here. Start where Paul does. He says, “Before you were born, before you had made a mess of your life if you have made a mess of your life, before any of that happened, God chose you, not the other way around, knowing that all of that was going to happen, knowing that you were not a safe, as it were, investment. Knowing that there was that risk He said anyway, “I love you. I’ll take that one.” And that’s what Paul does to encourage these believers. And understanding our election is one strategy to combat doubt when it arises in our own lives. Do you go back to that again and again? “God chose me. He didn’t have to. He did it because He loves me. He chose me.” That’s faith’s origin that Paul draws their attention to.

  1. Faith’s Outworking.

Then he moves to faith’s outworking. Look at verse 5. He gives us the reason. We know “He has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” So the first reason he says is this. The outworking is that faith is Spirit-wrought and anchored in God’s Word. You see, their faith was not just a matter of doctrine. It wasn’t less than that. Christianity is a doctrinal religion. You cannot escape that. But it was not less than that; however it was always and is always more than that. You see, they had a powerful experience of the truth did these Thessalonian believers. Notice Paul’s language here - “because the gospel came not only in word, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and in full conviction.” Paul uses that word, the Greek word that we translate “full conviction” only one other time in the New Testament, in Colossians chapter 2 and verse 2. And the word signifies something that lacks nothing. It’s complete.

The Convicting Power of the Gospel.

And Paul, what is he doing here? Why is he saying this to these believers? He’s saying this is what the Gospel does when it comes to hearts that the Spirit prepares. It comes with conviction. It comes with a power to transform our lives. The Gospel is that power; not the preacher, not our good works, not things we do for God, not our own experiences even in that sense. It’s the Gospel worked on by the Spirit embedded in our hearts that produces power that is powerful to produce fruit in our lives, rather. That’s what Paul is saying here. It comes with the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. And what he’s also holding out for us is this. If you wrestle with doubt, if you wonder if this is true, Paul says come back to the Gospel, meditate on that, imbed that in your soul, work that into your lives. It’s powerful! He assures us of its power.

The Transforming Power of the Gospel.

The second thing then he says there to them at the end of verse 5 - “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” And then in verse 6 - “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord for you received the word in much affliction and with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” He says not only has your faith been Spirit-wrought and anchored in God’s perfect Word; it shows itself in holiness in your lives. “You became imitators of us and of the Lord.” Again he uses that “you know” language. He starts to defend his apostolic ministry here but immediately he turns and says, “One of the reasons I know God chose you is you became imitators of us and more importantly of the Lord. You began to look more like Christ.” Now that can be discouraging, can’t it? We can look at our lives so many times and say, ‘There’s not a lot here to encourage me that I am imitating the Lord. In fact, so many times I imitate the devil and not the Lord.” Paul has an answer for that as well. He goes to them and says, “I’m encouraged by your discipleship but I know that God chose you and He’s not done with you yet.” He’s going to tell us more about that in a moment.

But here’s something to ask ourselves this evening. And what Paul is doing here really is he’s saying to them, “I’ve seen a change in your desires. That’s what happened when you became a Christian, Thessalonians.” And that’s the same thing that happens to us today. When we become Christians our desires change. And you see, that may take a long time to work out in our lives. There may be sins that beset us that take a long time for us to overcome, but fundamentally at the core of our being our desires have been profoundly changed by the work of the Holy Spirit. And the question that the text would ask of us this evening is, “Have your desires been changed? What do you desire above all? Is it to imitate the Lord and other people who are following closely after Him? Have you experienced any change where, no matter how imperfectly it happens, you can say, ‘More and more I want to be like Jesus. Less and less I want to be like the world’?” Has that happened to you? That’s what Paul is asking us. And he says, “I see this in you Thessalonians.”

Joy in the Midst of Affliction.

Another example, another evidence he says, so that you became an example - rather, the end of verse 6, “for you received the word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” This faith that Paul is commending and that he’s encouraging them in, it results in joy in trials, it’s Spirit-wrought, it leads to holiness and it results in joy in trials. And you see, for Paul, the very definition of a Christian if you read through his letters is someone who suffers in union with the resurrected Christ. And furthermore, Paul will write again and again as believers suffer in union with Christ, and by that language I simply mean this - that if Jesus, our Master, as He Himself told us, “No student is above his master,” if Jesus suffered and then was taken to glory, we will follow that same route, all of us. But the great news of the Gospel is this. And this is what Paul was commending to them. And in them he says, “In the midst of that affliction, in the midst of that suffering, there was joy! You received the word and you were persecuted for it” and he’s going to tell us why. They had turned away from idols. “And when you received that word and you were persecuted and trials came, you didn’t get discouraged; joy bubbled over!” Only Christianity gives us that. Do you see how unique the faith we profess is? Only Christianity can give you joy in the middle of trials.

Why is that? Because only Christianity gives you a God who suffers. Only Christianity says to you, “Your suffering is never meaningless and it’s never solitary. It’s never meaningless because God Himself suffered and it’s never solitary because God Himself suffered with us.” That is, when doubt enters your minds about God’s goodness, about His love, or about His existence, Paul says to you, “You are not alone. Jesus is with you.” And Paul is saying to us here we can suffer with Jesus only and always because He has suffered for us in the first place. We can suffer with Him because He’s suffered for us already. Do you want joy in the midst of trials in a new year? Paul says to us, “The Holy Spirit, working on that word of God, deeply taken into our lives daily” - it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? He says that’s what’s going to produce joy in our lives, when trials come. And trials will come, won’t they? Some of you know by painful experience that far outweighs anything I’ve ever experienced and maybe others here as well, that trials have come and Paul says the Gospel holds out the promise for us by the power of the Spirit and the resurrected Son of God that those trials need not cause our faith to disappear like so much morning midst, but rather be built up, and not even just be built up but to overflow in joy. So we have something the world can never offer in that.

Faith’s “Missionary” Effect.

Finally Paul says their faith had a missionary effect, verses 7 and 8. “So that you became an example to all believers in these regions. But not only,” Paul says, verse 8, “has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere so that we need not say anything.” Do you see the cycle that’s happened here? Because of the Spirit’s work in their lives they begin to imitate God. They became more holy. And their imitation led to further imitation by others. In fact, so effective was their witness, and I would pray this for our church every day. As I was studying this week I said, “I need to pray this every day” and I would encourage all of us to do this - may we be the kind of church that Thessalonica was, where their witness was so effective Paul said, “You reduced my apostolic workload.” He said, “I don’t even need to preach in these regions, and neither does Timothy, and neither does Silas because your faith is that powerful by God’s grace.” Could we be the kind of church where as we grow in grace and as we fail together and show each other grace, but nonetheless as we grow that we could look around and say, “We don’t need to send missionaries there because somebody from First Presbyterian is there and their faith is being spoken about.” That’s what Paul is commending them for.

Let me say this too. Paul wants to encourage them. Don’t forget that. You may be struggling with something like depression and you may even wonder, “How do I even get out of bed with this?” Paul would say to you the moment you make that decision to get out of bed, to put your foot on the floor with the tiniest, slender, spider web-like faith, when everything at you is screaming to you, “Don’t do that. Stay where you are. Don’t move towards God” when you make that decision, your faith grows, you become a witness, maybe just to yourself but eventually to others, of the joy that the Gospel provides, of the sure and certain hope that only Jesus can provide. Take heart. Take comfort when you struggle. When that decision is made and there are times when that decision is the hardest thing in the world to do, when you do that, God meets you and meets your faith and says, “I will use that to make others imitators of that.” And the best news is, when we fail to suffer well we have One who suffered perfectly in our place.

  1. Faith’s Reward.

That leads us to that last point, quickly. Faith’s reward. What does Paul say about them? Verse 10, “For they themselves report,” verse 9, “concerning us the kind of reception we had among you and how you turned to God from idols to serve, turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.” What was faith’s reward? Three-fold - turn, serve, wait. Paul’s description of what it means to become a Christian. We turn from idols. What are idols? Not just stone carvings. Anything, anything at all in creation that you and I rely on to give us hope and security and peace. It could be money, it could be relationships, it could be knowledge - whatever it is, that’s an idol. Paul says, “In principle, not perfectly in practice, but in principle you’ve turned from those to God. Turning from idols to God.” In other words, more and more, because their desires had been changed by the Spirit they more and more turned to God every day and said, “You will satisfy me more than idols.”

We need to do that, don’t we? What does that look like practically? If you’re prone to over eat, when you look at that next bite, that next slice of pizza, that next piece of chocolate which you know you don’t need, we need to stop and think, “Why do I want this so badly when I know that I shouldn’t have it?” And usually the answer is, “I want this because I think it’s going to do something for me. It’s going to meet a lack that I feel I have.” And what Paul says is, in Christianity we can turn from that need and feeling that lack and say, “Jesus will satisfy me more than this. He’ll satisfy me more than food, more than pornography, more than an extra-marital affair, more than more money so that my family falls apart while I work endless hours. Jesus will satisfy me more than these idols.” And then he says, “We wait” - what one theologian called the waiting service of the church. What is the Christian life that Paul’s going to unfold for us in the next four chapters? Turning, serving, waiting. Turning to God, serving Him, imperfectly to be sure, beset with sin, and waiting for His Son from heaven. And that last phrase can be a bit ominous - “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Paul is saying when you doubt, don’t turn to your favorite God-substitute. Remember the risen Christ because only He can save you from the wrath to come. What is the high price of misplaced faith in idols rather than the living and true God? Paul tells us here - the everlasting wrath of God. Idolatry only brings wrath! Jesus alone delivers from wrath.

What do we say to these things? Paul is telling us here, God is telling us through Paul that Jesus should make you doubt your idols because they can never save; they can only enslave. Let me ask you, “What are you relying on for meaning in your life right now at the beginning of a new year?” Isn’t this a good time to take stock of that? Is it a relationship? “I’ll have meaning and purpose if that boy or that girl, that man or that woman likes me, loves me, approves of me.” Is it your co-workers? “I’ll have meaning and purpose and security in life if they all think well of me.” Is it your lifestyle? When you feel weak or insecure, maybe you’re in a room where you don’t know a lot of people, what runs through your mind to reassure yourself? “I have a luxury SUV, I live in the right zip code, I vacation at the right spots, therefore I have meaning and purpose and my life counts.”

Our Doubts Reveal our Idols.

What are we doing when we do that? Idolatry. Turning from God to serve idols. Just the opposite of what Paul is telling us here. You see, your doubts and my doubts tell us something about our idols. What do they do? What are they telling us? We’re certain of our idols so we doubt God, ironically. We become certain of what we shouldn’t be certain of and uncertain of what we should be certain of. It’s totally backwards! Never forget though that your doubts always come from a place of certainty about something. No one can doubt everything. If you doubt everything, then you need to doubt doubt itself and then you’d be in a self-defeating circle. All of us stand somewhere certain to doubt somewhere else. And if you stand anywhere besides Jesus, Paul says you will be disappointed. And therefore, ironically, the only way to be certain about anything is to doubt everything but Jesus and His Gospel truth. I’m not saying that we walk around as wholesale skeptics all the time, but doubt your idols, doubt what you’re looking to find meaning and purpose in that you think is going to deliver you and turn to God in simple faith in Christ and say, “You’re the only One who can satisfy me.”

Remember the Gospel in times of Doubt.

And then how do we move from doubt to faith or encouraging faith that is tempted to give in to despair? How does that happen? You remember the Gospel. That’s what Paul encourages the Thessalonians to do. Remember God’s election. Remember the Holy Spirit’s power in your lives. Look to His Word constantly, Paul says. Remember that the Holy Spirit isn’t done with you yet. Remember that Jesus has saved you from wrath. Let’s start the New Year thinking about that, shouldn’t we? That the best thing to happen to us ever is not more money, not easier children, not a spouse or a better spouse or a prettier spouse or a younger spouse, not the right place to vacation. None of that. The best thing that’s ever happened to us is Jesus saving us from the wrath to come. That’s the focus of our joy! We don’t go to hell because He saved us by His sheer grace. Remember the Gospel and then rejoice in the midst of your doubts. There’s the challenge, isn’t it? If doubt does one thing to us, it makes us uncertain like that snake and that makes us anxious, depressive, not a lot of fun to be around. Jesus tells us rejoice in the midst of your doubt.

How? David tells us in Psalm 40. “Joy comes. I waited for the Lord and He put my feet upon a rock.” Have you ever noticed how often that language of “waiting for the Lord” appears in Scripture? You may be without joy tonight, you may have been a long time without joy. What the Gospel calls us to do is to wait upon God as we beg Him for that joy and it only comes as we read the Gospel, as we hear it preached to us week by week, as we preach it to ourselves daily, as we take it into our souls and let it begin to bear this Spirit-wrought fruit that Paul saw in these believers. And when that happens, joy will come.

The great evangelist, D.L. Moody, told a story about a Christian woman who was always bright and cheerful and optimistic, even though she was an invalid. She was confined to her room because of an illness and lived in an apartment in an old building in downtown Chicago on the fifth floor. The building was run down. It wasn’t a good side of town. One day a friend decided to visit this bed-stricken woman and this friend decided to bring another friend with her who was very wealthy. And these two went to make their way to this dilapidated old building. And as they walked in, they started to climb and stairs. And when they reached the second floor the wealthy woman said to her friend, “This is a really difficult walk. What a dark and filthy place this is.” Her friend replied, “It’s better higher up.” So they made their way and continued to go up to the third landing. The remark from the wealthy woman was, “Things are even worse here!” Again her friend replied, “It’s better higher up.” Finally they reached the fifth floor and panting and huffing they opened the door and found this woman in her bed, her countenance radiant with joy. They walked in and she couldn’t get up to greet them but they looked around the room and it was clean but very stark - just a little vase of flowers in the corner, they heard sirens and things going outside, bells clanging at that time. And the wealthy woman, in spite of herself, trying to keep composure, looked at this woman flustered and said, “It must be very difficult for you to live in such circumstances!” And the woman in the bed didn’t miss a beat. She said, “My hope is not in my circumstances. It’s better higher up.”

You see for us, when our faith is fixed on Jesus we can say, “Because it’s better higher up where our heavenly High Priest is seated at the right hand of God, because it’s better higher up there, I can endure with joy for His sake down here.” Let us pray.

Father, we are so grateful for the Gospel this evening, for Jesus who saves us from the wrath to come. O Father, we want to smash our idols but they are going to look attractive to us the moment we walk out of here, maybe even right now. Help us to get rid of them. Help us to turn to You by the power of the Spirit, and may people say of us, “There goes a person full of joy!” We pray in Jesus’ mighty name, amen.

©2016 First Presbyterian Church.

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