Faith and Resolve for Future Mission
Topic: Church Life Passage: 2 Thessalonians 1:1–1:12
On Missionâ€¨ -- Allen Snapp
â€¨Grace Community Church July 28, 2013
Faith and Resolve for Future Mission
If you’re visiting us this morning, we’ve spent the month of July looking at the mission of the church and in particular the mission of this church. We’ve looked at what we’re called to do: disciples making disciples. We’ve looked at why we should do it: motivated by love for a lost and dying world. And last week John Bennett reminded us of the vital role the word of God plays in training us for the mission.
I want to close this series on mission with a call to action. The mission calls for missionaries. The ripened fields call for laborers. Jesus’ last command to his disciples was to make disciples. The church is on mission because Jesus called us to obey the Great Commission. God takes imperfect people in need of change and uses them to reach imperfect people in need of change with the message of the gospel. Following Jesus is a call to action and in 2 Thess 1 I believe we find two key components that move us out of inaction and good intentions into risk-taking, obstacle-surmounting, inertia-overcoming, God- glorifying action.
Title: Faith and Resolve for Future Mission
2 Thess. 1:1-12 (we will be focusing on vv. 11-12)
The church in Thessalonica was planted by Paul, Tim, Silas, and it wasn’t an easy plant. In fact, the opposition to the gospel was so fierce that the three of them had to leave the city and go to a nearby town called Beria after just a few weeks. And the opposition followed them there and eventually Paul had to leave the region just to cool things down. But he sent Timothy back to see how the new church plant was faring. Timothy came back with an encouraging report that while the church had its issues, there was a growing faith and love among the believers and God was keeping the church by His grace.
So Paul writes two letters in succession – letters that address the issues and give thanks for the grace that is evident among them. But Paul also takes the occasion to call them to mission. Listen again to how Paul prays for them beginning in verse 11:
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s a prayer that is future oriented (this is what we pray God will do) and mission oriented (that they would do good works to the glory of Jesus). Paul looks into the future of this new church plant, and even though they are facing fierce hostility, Paul prays for more than their survival, he prays that they will fulfill all that God has for them to fulfill so that the Lord Jesus is glorified in them and they are glorified in Jesus! It’s a prayer that is future oriented and mission oriented!
As we look ahead into our future as a local church, we know that God also calls Grace Community to do more than survive. Years from now we want our testimony to be more than “we made it”. God has called us – and every church – to mission. The only reason Jesus has left his church on earth is to carry on his ministry on earth until he returns. His last commandment to his disciples was to mission: go into all the world and make disciples. Acts 29 pastor Darrin Patrick writes, “When the church loses its mission, it
loses its foundation, its power, and its influence.”
But how do we take that knowledge and convert it into action? Into doing? I think we find a clue in Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians, where he balances the sovereign doing of God and the faith-filled, resolved doing of the church. His prayer recognizes that it’s God’s power that does it:
...That our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power (vs. 11)..according to the grace of our God.
It is saturated with God’s power and grace in action. But God’s sovereign power and grace doesn’t remove the need for the church to do what God’s called us to do. God fulfills every resolve but we provide the resolve for good (good actions). God fulfills every work of faith, but we provide the works of faith! In other words, the combination of resolve and faith produce actions that result in Jesus being glorified. These two qualities – resolve and faith – are necessary if we are to do what God has called us to do as a church and as individuals.
I. Every resolve for goodâ€¨...may fulfill every resolve for good...(vs. 11)
Resolve for good is different than intending to do good. Intending is a weak word – it may happen, it may not. The old saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions has some truth to it. Resolve is a strong word – it’s got steel mixed in it. It means to reach a firm decision about something, to be determined to see something through to the end.
John Piper gives us a vivid picture of the word resolve:
...when I use the term "resolve" ... what I mean to exclude is a jelly-fish approach to life that just floats with the currents of the times and the spirit of the age. All Christians should be dolphins in the sea of secularism ... ~ John Piper
Resolve isn’t a “jellyfish” attitude, floating with whatever current is prevailing. Jellyfish have no destination in mind – wherever they are is where they meant to be. Resolved is a “dolphin” attitude – swimming against the current to a destination of their choosing. Resolve keeps a person on track when obstacles try to knock them off. Resolve mixes iron in the will when difficult times occur. Resolve presses on toward what is good, when expedience would take an easier path.
We see an example of strong resolve when Paul tells the Philippians, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. That’s not a description of jellyfish floating, but of dolphin swimming.
I press on. Resolve.
And we also see resolve fulfilled when Paul says, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Tim. 4:7
We need to be resolved to do the good God calls us to do, because the good He calls us to do won’t come easily or quickly and over time we will be tempted to grow discouraged or lazy or apathetic or cynical or proud– all things that sideline us from the mission Jesus has called us to.
We need to be resolved to do the good God calls us to because often we won’t feel like doing it. Resolve commands our feelings more than it consults them. The saying is true, it’s easier to act your way into feeling than to feel your way into acting. That’s a function of being resolved: acting when we don’t feel like it. Swimming against the current rather than being carried helplessly along by it.
II. Every work of faith
We need to be resolved for good, but not in a way that sees it as depending on us, but in a way that combines with faith and knows it all depends on God. As disciples everything we do needs to come from faith. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith is future oriented – it looks ahead and trusts God and acts. We aren’t saved by works, we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But we are saved for works.
If resolve looks within and steels the will to do what God has called us to do, faith looks up and believes God to do through us what we could never do on our own! I am sure that when I say that every one of us is called to make disciples, called to lead others to Christ, that every one of us has a place of ministry in the church, many of us struggle with seeing how God could use us in that way.
If you feel powerless and inadequate for the task, Paul would agree with you. Listen to the flow of his prayer when we pull out some words, without changing the meaning, so that we can see where Paul is saying the power for the works come from: that our God may...fulfill... every work of faith by His power so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him... (vs. 11)
It’s our God who fulfills every work of faith by His power. And Jesus gets the glory because it’s Jesus who did it. But he does it through weak vessels like you and me!
Last week John Bennett told me a story about a young woman we both know who was at Barnes and Nobles years ago looking at Christian books when a guy came in and began to look at New Age books just an aisle away from her. Now this woman isn’t one of those fearless, talk to anyone, kind of people. In fact she’s a very quiet and shy person. But she challenged this young man: if you read my book, I’ll read yours. He read it, became a Christian, and married her. John went on to disciple the two of them on a weekly basis. Don’t think God can use you to lead someone to Christ? Don’t think God can use you to disciple someone else? This is where faith produces a confidence in God that gives us the confidence to step out of our comfort zone and believe God to do His work through us.
III. Faith and resolve for GCC’s future mission
God has called us, this church family, to be about His mission– bringing the good news of salvation to those who have not heard, and helping believers to grow and deepen in their faith and knowledge of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.. But He has a way that He specifically has called us to do that and I have a sense that He is calling us into a new season of mission challenge.
We should pray that God fulfills every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power. And then we should ask God to give us a deeper resolve and a bigger faith to do what God has called us to do.
It won’t always be easy. Sometimes it will be very hard. At times it will call for sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. Often it will press us out of our comfort zone. The disciples were comfortable in the upper room but when the Spirit fell on them they spilled out onto the market streets of Jerusalem. Jesus will lead us into seasons of change. Some of us don’t like change. But God uses change to stretch us and grow our faith. While on vacation at Lake George last month I was sitting alone by the lake – it was a beautiful day with blue skies and a strong wind blowing across the lake and I felt the Lord stir in my heart that we were entering a season of change. That changes were coming and what we’ve known would look different. Already this year we’ve seen some significant changes.
In February we made the huge decision to leave SGM. A year ago if you had told me we’d do that, I’d have thought you were crazy. But one consequence has been to change how we find and support missionaries and the Lord is helping us get more engaged relationally with missionaries. That’s a good thing!
We have had a number of people leaving due to relocations, people who are dear to us, some have been with us a long time, some short time. But we will miss them. Means change.
And, after ten years of searching, we are in process of purchasing a facility that will be a home for our church. On Thursday I signed the purchase offer and it was sent over to Bill Thomas. I wondered if giving Bill just one week to get it back was too short. By 3pm that day he had signed and returned it! If the Lord continues to open doors and enables us to get the building, it will mean a big change in our history and trajectory as a church family. But as Rick said at the meeting last week, we don’t want this building to become a resting place or it will become a tomb for our church. We want it to be a place of expanding gospel mission for us as a church family. The building won’t be what determines that. What will determine whether this becomes a resting place or a launching pad will be our faith and resolve for future mission.
We are in a season of change – and there’s another significant change that the Lord is calling us as a church to walk through. I’m going to ask Matt to come up at this time and tell us more about that.
No question that this will be a loss for our church. And that loss may deepen even more as Jordan and Jenn are seriously praying and feeling a strong sense that the Lord is calling them to join them on this church plant. I don’t need to tell you that that has a particularly strong emotional impact for Janice and me!
So there is loss, but there is also joy that as a church we can send them off with our prayers and love and support, to spread the gospel in another place. And as this church plant bears gospel fruit, we can rejoice that we had a part to play in that fruit!
There are many months for praying and saying goodbye, but Matt and Siobhan have a lot that needs to happen between now and then and I think the most appropriate way for us to end this service is to pray for them. So I want to call the board dudes to come up, and wives, and anyone else and I’m going to lead us in praying for them.