Daily Devotion – November 9, 2020 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
5:1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you.
5:2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
5:3 When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!
5:4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief;
5:5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.
5:6 So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober;
5:7 for those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who are drunk, get drunk at night.
5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
5:9 For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
5:10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.
5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Humans have a deep desire to know about and prepare for things that will happen, and to be right when we predict something so that we can say afterward, “See? I told you that was about to happen!”  It makes us feel smart. Or at least smarter than someone else.

In the very early church there were many who believed that Jesus’s second coming would happen soon, while many of the believers were still alive. Some began trying to figure out exactly when. That continues to this day. Among especially the Christian Evangelicals and Pentecostals, it is important to be able to interpret scripture in order to help ensure salvation among your congregation and to predict when they will need to be ready to meet God. You will hear many of them interpret portents that scripture mentions – fires, floods, earthquakes, and so on – as indications that the end is near.

But Jesus says on several occasions and in many parables that we will know neither the day or the hour, so be always prepared. Here, in this letter to one of his most beloved communities in the city of Thessaloniki, the port city of Alexander the Great (named after his sister), Paul says we cannot know when Jesus will return any more than a pregnant mother can be certain at what hour her labor will begin or end. He tells them we don’t need to worry – that God will not come with wrathful judgment for us. And if we are afraid that the harshness meant for others will also fall upon us, put on a helmet and breastplate of protection that Jesus’s death and resurrection has given us. Fear not! We are beloved children of God, so whatever we are doing when Jesus returns, Jesus will gather us to himself.

Isn’t such assurance wonderful? We are God’s beloved children. We can be sure that we will be gathered into Christ to whom we belong. So now that we know we are safe, we can be fearless. And we can spend our remaining days in fearless service to one another, consoling and encouraging everyone, believers and unbelievers, using our faith. What a beautiful picture of life in the Spirit.

Gracious God, Thank you for loving us. Thank you for sending us Jesus, to be our gatherer and our Lord. Thank you for sending Paul to his beloved Thessalonians and writing these letters to them so that we too might be comforted. Our status as your children means we don’t have to be afraid. Help us to use our time fearlessly in service to our neighbors, encouraging them as well. Amen.