1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
“Are we there yet?”
“How much longer now?”
“Can I now?”
These questions all rotate around the concept of time. For a small child who does not understand time fully, waiting is a very hard thing to do. Whether it’s sitting in a car on a long drive, waiting for a special treat, or a movie to come on, the difference between a couple of minutes or hours can be a painful experience for parents. In the meantime, there’s trying to fill the time with something to do while waiting.
Now imagine for a moment you are a disciple, and Jesus says, “I’ll be coming back, don’t worry.” And then up he goes to heaven. What would you do? I imagine I’d be looking at my watch and trying to figure out how to fill my time till he gets back.
After all, he just left, so he’s probably going to be a few hours at least. Right? Maybe a couple days? He was dead for 3 days, maybe he needs a week this time. A month? Surely no more than a month! Right?
Well, two thousand years later, we’re still waiting. And in Paul’s letter he picks up on this waiting period, which has been about 50 years or so.
Paul says, “Don’t worry about those who have fallen asleep” (meaning those who have died). He reminds them that Jesus will come for those as well. He will call all God’s children home, dead or alive.
There are a number of theories out there about what happens when we die. There are the ones where we, if so chosen, go directly to heaven. Others think we lie in wait for the resurrection, when we all will be revived and then taken. Then there’s the Pearly Gates theory and so on.
The truth is, of course, we have no idea what’s going to happen. So Paul is somewhat saying, “Don’t worry about it… you’ll get there and so will everyone who is worthy, dead or alive.” He also tells us to be encouraged in knowing this.
And it’s true, we can’t worry about things beyond our control, can we? We don’t control the weather. We don’t have control over other people. In the end, we all make our own decisions, and the outcome of our lives echo these decisions.
There is one decision in our lives that has impact on our eternal lives. No one knows when we’ll be called to account on this decision. No one can tell you for certain when the full effects of this decision will come to bear. So it’s a decision that we cannot take lightly.
Paul says, “You yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” Jesus warned us as much in some of his parables about the coming of the kingdom of heaven.
This decision, of course, is to put our trust and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour, the one who has reconciled us to God in his death and resurrection.
Paul talks about being ready. He talks about staying out of the darkness which would hide the return of Jesus Christ from us. For there are people who Paul say are living in a way they believe is safe, but pain will come, Paul tells us. Pain that will not leave for those who live in darkness, drunk, unaware, uncaring, unknowing… things which don’t allow us to connect with our Lord in meaningful, powerful, understanding relationship for what He has done for us on the cross.
We must remain focused. Ready.
This weekend I took my son to watch his first live basketball games as the provincial championships were hosted in our town. Watching these high schoolers run the court brought back a lot of memories for me. Remembering all the practices, the drills, the running, the training, the travelling, the games, all we did to learn the game and to grow as players and as a team in order to achieve the highest level of play we could.
I remember the excitement of the gym, especially during the provincial championships. It was so electric. The fans who would come and cheer us on, parents, friends all caught up in the wave of energy flowing through the building.
I do miss it.
Coming out of those games, especially when we won, was such a high.
For those kids this weekend, they will carry these memories with them for a lifetime. Some may never wear a team jersey again in their lives. A few might go on to play some university. Others will float around gyms out of love for the game. Reliving memories with friends.
There’s some parallel here. Working so hard to reach the top of your selected field is no small feat. Whether it’s a sport, a musical instrument, a particular field of study, a type of work, it takes a lot of effort to reach the top.
To be the church is also a lot of work. We are the hands and feet of Christ, people called to be major players on God’s team.
The difference is this however, when we dedicate ourselves to the cause, when we commit to working as God would have us work, the reward is much greater than a trophy on the shelf.
We can have eternal life.
We can be with God forever.
And we can bring all our friends and family too.
What greater reward can there ever be? Nothing, nothing can compare with what God has in store for those who come to Him.
Paul says at the end of our reading, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
Let us be an encouragement to each other. Let us be an encouragement for those in our community who have not yet made such a decision.
This gift should be an incredible joy for each and all of us. A gift we cannot hide because it impacts our lives so profoundly.
In this season of Lent, a season of sombre reflection, a season of searching for the light of Christ within us, a season sometimes seen as a time of mourning, and maybe it is, but do not let it hide your joy, because there is nothing greater than a life lived for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Let us encourage. Let us be encouraged. Let us know God and His love for us and let us let that love shine for the whole world to see.
When the time comes, let us know we’ll be ready to be received by God. We know he’s coming…. he promised he would.