Sunday, December 25, 2011

1 Thessalonians 5:14

Now we exhort you brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all

Is there someone in your life that you have given up on?  Perhaps a family member, friend, co-worker or neighbor who has rejected and maybe even been hostile toward God and His Word.  Might you have reached the point where you try and avoid interaction with this person when possible and tolerate him or her when necessary? While there was a time when you were eager to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ by way of your example and your words, you have now given up trying and even praying for what you have deemed a "lost cause". We all have people like this in our life and we all struggle to overcome the rejection that has confronted us each time we try to express our love with our words and actions.  We wince when met with this person's overt antagonism toward Jesus Christ.  Paul's exhortation to the believers in Thessalonica richly pertains to us today as we struggle to be patient with those who are unruly, weak, and fainthearted.  By patience, Paul is not offering a substitute for the great command of our Lord and Savior when He said: "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34)".  Patience is not toleration but waiting patiently for the next opportunity for you to love as Christ loves you!  It is not for us to deem someone a "lost cause" for this is God's business.

Paul, perhaps more than any other believer in history would know about "lost causes".  In his own words to the believers in Galatia Paul provides some dark autobiographical details about his life in unbelief: "For you have heard of my former manner of conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it (Gal. 1:13)".  Paul made it his life's work to eradicate as many Christians as he could. While he had no doubt heard many times that which the Messiah had said and done, he was unimpressed and clearly hostile.  Saul of Tarsus in the eyes of the Christians of his day was the ultimate "lost cause".  Then in a moment in time the Truth convicted Saul of Tarsus when Christ brought him to his knees on the Damascus road.  Paul was convicted, he was now a believer in Jesus Christ!  This "lost cause" who was responsible for persecuting and murdering countless Christians was now one of the brethren.  Who would have ever thought to speak the Gospel to Saul of Tarsus?  The answer is Jesus Christ, Himself.  Now that Paul had received Christ as his Savior his fellow believers were sure to welcome him into the faith, right!   Not exactly, for when Paul entered Jerusalem "he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple (Acts 9:26)".  How welcoming would you be if the same person who tortured, tormented, and killed your friends and family members now wanted to count himself as one of your brothers?  Paul was now being pursued by the Pharisees who viewed him as a traitor and sought to kill him and he was being rejected by his fellow believers.  Enter Barnabas: "But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.  And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road and that He had spoken to him and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27)".  Paul was neither a lost cause to God nor God's servant Barnabas.  

We are all lost causes apart from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We are all weak, unruly, and fainthearted apart from the grace of God which is sufficient for us.  As you sit down this afternoon to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, remember that there are no "lost causes" on this earth.  Consider the life of Saul of Tarsus and compare him to the person in your life that you have deemed unworthy of your efforts- there is no comparison- Saul was the worst of the worst!  Engage this person (or more likely people) in your life who needs the truth.  Pray for this person, maybe even pray with this person.  Set aside your trepidation that you be rejected or embarrassed and instead orient your thinking to that of Christ, Himself!  Remember Barnabas who welcomed Paul and ensured that Paul was received by other believers. Heed the words of Paul to be patient with others in order that you love as Christ loves you!  Forgo the notion that anyone in your life is a lost cause and take the opportunity that Christmas Day provides to sit down and engage with others who are in need of the Truth! Don't hesitate!  Love them, pray for them, encourage them, and tell them the truth.  Merry Christmas!