What Are We Doing?
Have you ever found yourself in a place that made you feel uncomfortable? Maybe it is a store that made you feel out of place (men, I’m talking about Victoria’s Secret) or a conversation that you were not privy to the information being discussed. This happened recently when I was talking with some people, and they launched into a conversation about some people and issues and details that I had no idea about. It wasn’t until they saw my face and realized that I was in the dark about the entire topic that they stopped and proceeded to fill me in. I was out of place.
Today I want to talk a little about that type of feeling. We are going to turn in scripture to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.
1 As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.
Here’s the little bit of background that you need to understand this passage of scripture. Paul is writing to the people of Thessalonica only a few months after writing to them the first letter. Some theologians debate that this letter was actually written by Paul’s disciple Timothy on Paul’s behalf, but the message remains clear to the people, regardless of the author. The church at Thessalonica was under persecution from the local religions in this area of Macedonia. They were being given false information from traveling priests, and were struggling to maintain their faith among the other religions of the area. Paul encourages them in chapter 1 and then begins to address specific areas of questions or teachings they likely had. Paul visited this region several times during his missionary journeys and likely stopped at this particular church somewhat frequently. He was known and liked by the people so much that Paul often sent his younger disciples there to help learn the ways of spreading a new church.
The issue that the people of Thessalonica are dealing with that Paul is addressing in this passage is the coming of Christ. There are two things that the people have heard and neither of them are correct according to Paul. First, they heard that Jesus had already come back from heaven and that they missed their chance to go to heaven with him. Second, they heard that Jesus is coming back so soon that many of the people in the church have stopped working or caring for their families because of their impending departure to heaven. Paul makes quick work of these lies in his message here. He reminds the people of the teachings they have that there would be a mighty uprising and that the anti-Christ would rise to power and be defeated by God. Because the people had not seen any of this even begin to happen, Paul puts a better timeframe in their minds. They haven’t been forgotten but they also need to carry on with their earthly lives. Paul goes on to reassure the people that their faith is well-founded and that this type of fear is only natural when we are struggling to understand heavenly things.
As I read through this passage this week, I thought about how silly these people were. First, they thought that they had missed the second coming of Christ. Now I know that we have the benefit of a complete bible, including that pesky book at the end titled, “Revelation” that gives us all the information we need about the end times, but these people were operating under the assumption that they might miss Jesus a second time. The second group of people, I like as well, they are the ones that were literally just lying around waiting for Jesus because he could come at any point. They stopped working. They stopped caring for themselves and their families. They stopped doing everything. I just picture a church filled with people just laying on all the pews doing absolutely nothing. They weren’t doing this out of laziness or sloth. They honestly believed that their time was better spent preparing for Christ than by doing anything else. Let’s not forget that it took 400 years between the last page of the Old Testament and the first coming of Jesus. The people assumed that it would happen immediately; like he was just running out to the store and would be right back.
Paul points out to these new Christians that while they are mistaken on these two facts, their faith is still good. They may be confused, but they aren’t turning away or living a sinful life. Paul goes on to encourage them to spread the gospel of Jesus and live as he commanded them, and us, to live.
Like I said, I first thought that these people were just silly. Who honestly thinks these types of things? We missed Jesus? It just seems so odd to me two thousand years later that these people would just assume it was all about to go down.
But then I take a look at my own faith and the faith of the church today. Am I any less “silly” for assuming that Jesus isn’t going to come back for a very long time? Are people within the church any less wrong with ignoring their duties to God because they know they will have time when they get older? Our timeframes may have flipped from these people that Paul is writing to, but our faults and follies are the same. We start to believe that God is working on our timeframe. We start to believe that it is this world’s time, not heavenly time, that God cares about. Yes, Jesus ascended to Heaven and told his disciples that he would return. They thought it meant soon, we think it means so far in the future it won’t affect us.
I think about my kids and their various concepts of time in our lives. Allie is particularly sensitive to my nerves right now when she asks how much longer until something is going to happen. How long until we go to Grandma’s? How long until mommy is home? How long until we get there? I like to tell her honestly whenever I can so that she can learn and develop a sense of time. “It will be an hour and a half.” “That’s so long!” “It will be another 10 minutes.” “That’s so long!” “We need to walk out the door in 2 minutes.” “That means I can start this ten-minute video and not put on my shoes.” Are the parent’s out there feeling me on this one? Her concept of time and mine are vastly different. I can sit in a chair and do practically nothing for an hour and it seems like time just races past. She cannot fathom an hour when there’s something to look forward to.
People say that as you get older, time seems to go by faster. I’ve begun to experience that phenomenon so I think that means I’m getting older. I think that September and October lasted about three weeks this year total. So what must time be like to an eternal God like ours?
Here’s the point I want to make with you all today. Each and every day is a gift from God. We are not promised another day on earth and we cannot know when the end times will begin. So what are we doing with the time that we have? Are we just laying around, not accomplishing anything like the Thessalonians? Are we using the time that God has given us, as His followers and as His church, to the best? What are we doing?
Individually we have to remember that we are not guaranteed another day. We have to live each and every day to the plan that God has for us. We cannot assume that we will have time to have that tough conversation, or share the Gospel with that friend from work, because we do not know if we will have another time. We cannot let our comfort in our own faith fail to make us active and obedient followers of God.
As a church, we cannot waste our time talking, strategizing, or planning ahead. If God gives us a mission then we need to be prepared to act upon that mission. I’ve been praying that God gives this church our mission. I think we are ready. I believe that God has something planned and I don’t want to waste another day waiting or missing that opportunity.
So take a look at your life this week and ask, “What am I doing?” What are you doing with the day that God has gifted you with? Are you living the best day that you can, with no regard for the next day ahead of you? We are called to live for Christ and spread the Gospel and that doesn’t mean in the future. That means right now, today. So figure out what you’re doing. If its wasting time or worrying about things you cannot control, it’s time to let those things go. Instead, go out and make a change in the world for Christ, right now.