Bob's Sermon for Sunday, January 7, 2017

 

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 “Do you get tired of doing right?” 

 

2 Thessalonians 3:11-15

 

     (2 Thessalonians 3:11 NIV)“We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. (12)Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.

(13) “And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

(14) “Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. (15) Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as you would a fellow believer.”

 

     During the holiday season, do you expect to hear news of goodwill among all people and God’s peace? Do you enjoy singing about joy and love, and seeing happy little children? If those were your hopes, do you wonder I why chose this text for Christmas Eve?

 

     This Scripture says nothing about Joseph, Mary, Jesus’ birth, or joyful angels. Does this seem like an odd choice for today? It is not a customary Christmas season text, is it? Yet this section of 2 Thessalonians does deal with feelings most of us experience this time of year. Let me repeat verse 13. “And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.”

 

     In the past days and hours, has one of the following thoughts come to mind? “Why do I work so hard--why all the extra effort when hardly anyone appreciates it?” Amidst the rushing, shopping, wrapping,   decorating, preparing special meals, parties, budgeting, do you feel a bit overloaded? When you give extra effort but hear little gratitude, do you get a tad frustrated? It is tough to please everyone, isn’t it?

 

     Have you heard about the three guys who had always done things together?

Since childhood, they had been inseparable. One day while they were walking happily along Santa Monica beach, a unique looking bottle washed up on the sand. One of the trio picked it up, brushed off the sand, and a genie popped out. They were taken aback, but the genie said to them, “I am here to give each of you three a wish, but you are restricted to one apiece.”

     The first guy said, “I really enjoy our friendship, but I’ve always wanted to go to Madrid, Spain, watch bull fights, and do Gypsy flamenco dancing.”

Poof, he was suddenly gone and standing in front of a bullfight arena in Spain with tickets to a flamenco dance at an exclusive club.

     The second guy told the genie that he’d always wanted to visit Paris, see the Eiffel Tower, and sip champagne at a sidewalk café on the Champs Élysées (sha-zay-lee-ZAY). 

Just like that he was looking up at the Eiffel Tower; a French waiter escorting him to a table with a great view.

     The genie asked the third guy: “Sir, where would you like to be right now?” “I have never liked to travel,” he said. “I’ve always loved the beach here in Santa Monica and I suddenly feel lonely. I just want my friends back.”

 

     Pleasing everyone is unattainable, and those who try eventually suffer sheer exhaustion. Years ago in a cartoon, the main character, CATHY, voiced the feelings of many. To her boss, Cathy said: "My left brain is making lists of people I haven't sent cards to yet. My right brain is at the craft store, thinking up creative gifts I could make before (Christmas)...

 

     "My nerves are at the mall, worrying   whether I should have gotten the other necktie for my Dad. My stomach is still at last night's party begging for more Christmas cookies.” "My heart is stuck in traffic somewhere between my mother's house, my boyfriend's house and the adorable man I saw at the post office." "What is it you want, Cathy?" her boss asked. Replied Cathy: "May what's left of me sneak home early and take a nap."

 

     That frazzled state frequently arrives at Christmas time. But weariness overwhelms us other times of the year, too. Events test our patience 24/7. Did you notice the context of our text? In the Thessalonica church, not all the people were pulling their own weight. That situation exists in many churches today. It also occurs in garden clubs, workplaces, fraternal organizations, and families. A few folks do the heavy lifting; some lift as little as possible (member involvement in this church is the exception). 

 

     In Thessalonica the “idle folks” were not just posited on their posteriors while others did all the work. They were not just workday do-nothings. The word translated “busybody” was first used to describe an army in a disorganized retreat. What would the term mean in a church context? It likely related to this type of situation: Most people work harmoniously and cooperate with others working toward set goals. Yet some never unite with the others. They gad about throwing monkey wrenches to disrupt the unity of God’s church. 

 

     Over the years at Hollywood, we experienced numerous situations. During one period of strong activity, it seemed as if “wild fires” kept erupting. One of our deacons worked in admissions at a large nearby hospital while he was trying to earn his doctorate in history. He observed and perceived something that had escaped me. “Have you noticed,” he said “that every time one of these controversies breaks out, “Harry Jackson”[1] is in the middle of it?” Not long afterward “Harry Jackson” went elsewhere; calm and cooperation returned to the congregation. The wise deacon had accurately assessed things. “Harry Jackson” was the culprit, but he was not lazy. He had been involved in many congregational activities, but spent major time busily judging what others were doing.

 

     The stem of the word translated “busybody” indicates that it relates to work. In our text, the term translated busy is erg with “peri” as a prefix. As you know, “peri” means around. If you walk the perimeter of your property, you walk around it. The term “erg” is used in physics to measure the amount of work performed.[2] So what would “work around” mean? Imagine someone walking around meddling in things that are not his/her business.

 

     Suppose you want to have a house built. That requires first, an architect, then excavators, cement workers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, roofers, tile and carpet installers, interior decorators, etc. I do not know what they now call the workers who prepare the mortar for bricklayers. On job sites where I worked as a laborer decades ago, they called those workers “hod carriers.” One particular hod carrier named Sammy reportedly worked better after he had nipped his breakfast-bottle several times. He got happier, and others less happy with him, as the day went on. Imagine Sammy or Sammy’s bricklaying boss spending most of the workday checking on the electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc. and judging their work. We would consider that inefficient, unfair, silly meddling, wouldn’t we?

 

     That’s what this word busybody (peri-erg) evidently signifies. But that is what happens when people pass judgment on the work others perform. It occurs on TV talk show panels and op-eds. It takes place at church committee meetings, church conferences, coffee times, card games, chat rooms, tweet sessions, texting and anywhere people pass judgment on what others do. Regardless of the venue, those who do this are busybodies.  The world unashamedly does this; God’s people should not.

 

     God is the architect of his church; only he can the judge the workers. When we criticize the work of others, it is best we remember my old acquaintance Sammy. The following passages validate what 2 Thessalonians 3: 13 teaches. From the Book of Romans: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”[3]

 

 

     From the Book of Ephesians: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, (20) built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (21) In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. (22) And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”[4]

 

     In case these readings do not convince you, the Book of Hebrews clearly states that God is in charge of the entire church operation. “For he (Abraham) was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”[5] So while we try to do God’s work and to please him, many others are either idle, or meddle, or judge.  

     It frustrates us so much, that we feel like quitting, giving up, or telling them off. Do you reach that point now and then? Do you spend silent nights wondering if the return is worth all the extra work involved? “Do you ever “tire of doing what is good.”? If so you are in good company.

 

     After demonstrating extraordinary faith, courage, and stamina, the prophet Elijah became severely disheartened.[6] Paul himself must have felt weary and frustrated at times. This is one of the reasons he wrote the first Thessalonian letter. While Paul was trying to encourage his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica, he felt anxious about their faith (note especially verse 5. “We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, (3) so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them.

     (4) In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.”

     (5) "For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.”[7] Christmas lights, choirs, and parties will never by themselves bring us peace.

 

     God’s Word assures us with positive, cheerful, encouraging news that helps us be at peace every month of the year. He wants you and me to succeed, and he made our success possible in Christ. Jesus’ path was not a smooth, peace-filled, glory road. The writer of Hebrews reminded us of the trials Jesus endured and he urged us to follow Jesus all the way to the cross. Only by going the full distance can we expect the joy of victory: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, (2) fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.( 3) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”[8]

 

     When we think of what God has already done for us, it should urge us on, and we  should find peace and joy: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”[9]

 

·         We are not working to please others.

·         We work to please God.

·         God tests us in many ways.

·         God alone is our judge and t judge of others.

·         He is fair.

 

    “And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.”

 

     May you find joy in Christ throughout the New Year! Trust God! Rest well in Him! He richly rewards those who humbly serve and endure faithfully with Christ to the end.

 


[1] Not his real name

[2] A foot-pound is 13, 560, 0 00 ergs.

[3] Romans 14: 4 NIV

[4] Ephesians 2: 19-22  NIV

[5] Hebrews 11:10  NIV

[6] See 1 Kings 16:29-19:21

[7] 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 NIV

[8] Hebrews 12:1b-3 NIV

[9] Romans 8: 31-32 NIV

 

Bob Blair

PO Box176

Cleghorn, IA 51014

 

 


 

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