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Mar 13, 2022

A Church for Which to Be Thankful

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: 1 Thessalonians

Keywords: truth, persecution, god's word, trouble, words


What are the characteristics of a church that would make the greatest Apostle thank God? This passage tells us it revolves around how they handle the Word of God and persecution. It also guides us on how to become this kind of church.


A Church for Which to be Thankful

I Thessalonians 2:13-16

March 13, 2022



Listening to a podcast this week by a sociologist speaking at Wheaton College in IL.  He was talking about the steep decline of the church in America and the massive loss we are experiencing in people born over the past 6 decades.  We are going the way of Europe.  Without a revival of people’s hearts and minds to God and His word, we will be a very spiritually dark place in less than 20 years. 

            But the good news is that this is precisely the kind of world the Apostle Paul spent his entire life evangelizing.  Every city he want to was a spiritual black hole.  As a result, he suffered tremendously in order to bring the truth of Jesus Christ and the word of God to people.  And God met him and people in those ancient cities in truly historic ways. 

            The result was that the ancient world of the Mediterranean was dotted with churches the Paul was really ‘jazzed’ about.  He didn’t say it that way, exactly.  But he was really ‘pumped’ about them.  Here’s how he said it in chapter 2 of 1 Thess.:

 13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it….

If we jump to the end of the chapter, we see Paul get even more excited about this church:

19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20 Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

            When is the last time you heard someone gush about the church they are a part of? More often today, it seems that people are disappointed with church or, worse yet, damaged by the church.  That wasn’t Paul’s experience with this rather young, not very well developed or terribly mature church in Thessalonica.  He’s truly jazzed about them!

Q:  When you think of your favorite churches…your favorite experiences in God’s family…what sorts of things come to mind?  WHAT was/is it about your experience with that group of people that makes you grateful to be/have been a part of them? 

  • How many of us have had those kinds of positive experiences in some church? (Hands)
  • Think of 1 or 2 things that made them so positive (in ONE WORD responses).

[20 seconds to write down some descriptive words; then RESPONSES]

            This passage points to things that really moved Paul to tears…of joy…or thanksgiving…when he thought back on this church.  Let’s see what they were…and if we’re experiencing any of that here at Mosaic.  1 Thess. 2:13

13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 

  1. A church for which to be thankful receives the Word of God.

We’re hearing different messages all day every day.  Just name all the different SOURCES of words you get every day:

  • News
  • Family—parents, children, spouses, siblings, grandparents, etc.
  • Work associates—boss, employees, coworkers, team members, office assistants, etc.
  • Fellow students and teachers
  • Radio—adds, songs, talk shows, news reports
  • TV—images, songs, shows, actors, scripts, etc.
  • Smart phone—people texting, calling, not answering,
  • Books we pick up and read, skim, ponder, look at pictures
  • Emails—to us, about us, against us; trying to convince us, recruit us, get money from us.
  • Passing comments of people—waiting on us, passing us on the street, talking to others, ignoring us…
  • Thoughts that pass through our conscious mind.

Our lives are filled with WORDS!  Every one of them we respond to in one way or another.  Many we ignore.  Some we believe. 

Others we question.  Some frustrate us.  Some make us happy. 

            When Paul went to Thessalonica and preached the Word of God, those people were faced with the same choices you and I are every day. 

  • “What am I going to do with these words?”
  • “Are they true or false?”
  • “Deceptive or honest?”
  • “Will I believe them?”
  • “How deeply?”

Q:  What are the marks of a church that actually believes the Word of God?

  • They are a people of ACTIVE FAITH.
    • When God says, “You all have been given spiritual gifts for the building up of the church,” what do they DO? (Serve using their gifts in the church.)
    • When God says, “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Him,” what do they DO? (Evangelize)
    • When God says, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace…”, what do they DO? (Help each other become holy in Christ.)
    • When God says, “Go and make disciples of all nations…” what do they DO? (Become, send, support, resources and develop missionaries.)

The churches I have been most thankful for in my life were not the ones that had lots of meetings or sermons or deep Bible studies or impressive worship teams or auditoriums full of people coming and going.  They were churches that DID a lot over and over in response to what the Word of God asked. 

  • They are a people who went out into their neighborhoods to help people in need.
  • They were people who built camps and schools and colleges to impact the next generation.
  • They are people who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on getting the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
  • They are people who took meals to each other when needed, spent time listening when others were hurting, they cried with those in pain and rejoiced with those rejoicing.
  • They prayed and prayed and prayed for people and needs.
  • They forgave when sinned against.
  • They coached each other through tragedies and crises.
  • They shared the Gospel with friends and relatives without Jesus.


  • They are a people under the power of God’s Word.
    • The word is like a double-edged sword in their lives, cutting away sin, convicting, cleansing, always performing spiritual surgery.
    • They have a hunger for God’s word, not man’s words.
    • They respond to God’s word with spiritual passion, not apathy.
    • When we say, “That man is held captive by her power,” what do we mean? (He orders his life around that woman.) Similarly, people under the power of God’s Word find their every move dominated by it.  People can see it and sense it.  God’s Word controls every move, every decision, every conversation.
    • Other signs???

Vs. 13--…we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it…

APPHow are we “receiving” or “accepting” God’s Word as a church and as individual Christ-followers? 

  • Looking for any even small way to apply the Word every time we encounter it (reading, sermons, on the radio, Bible study groups, etc.)
  • Pleading with God to cause His word to work in power in us?
  • Actually taking time to study it, read it, digest it?
  • Ordering what we think about ourselves, life, God… everything by God’s Word.
  • Other???


  1. A church for which to be thankful embraces this Word as distinctly unique from all other communication.

Vs. 13—“…you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God….” 

ILL:  Receiving mail.  We get all kinds—bills, circulars, junk mail, appeals for money, political groups, Christmas cards, hand-written letters from friends and family. 

            Living in the Philippines—had a post box at the Greenhills Mall.  Would go almost daily, hoping for a letter from Sandy (in Kenya at the time)…or my parents (in Portland)…or other family or friends.  How did I treat those letters in comparison to all the other kinds of mail I get today?  Vastly different…because it was the words of someone I loved, not the words of someone with whom I had no heart-connection. 

            If we feel that way about words we get from other mere humans, why don’t we feel differently about the words that come from God? 

  • God’s words can be hard to understand. It’s sometimes difficult to track with a genius…and God is SO much more.
  • Familiarity can breed contempt…or at least complacency.
  • Competing gods/allegiances/sins all work against spiritual passion and connection with God.

ILL:  how many times have I seen someone become critical of the church or begin to change their theology and pull away from God’s people who know them…because they first compromised in their sexual life?  

But when we treat this Word as truly God’s communication to us, what happens?

  • We revere God’s word above any other person’s word.
    • When your boyfriend/girlfriend says, “Move in with me. We can save money, try each other out, see if we’re a fit.  It will be fine.”  You say, “Sorry, I value and even believe God’s words to me more than yours…and He says, “Wait until marriage.  Don’t be unequally linked together with someone who doesn’t love me.  Flee youthful lusts.” 
    • The same goes for when someone says something false or contradictory about you from what God says about you. Maybe you heard from your mom or dad all your life, “You’ll never amount to anything.  You’re a loser…a quitter…a dummy.”  Now you have a choice to either believe them or believe God.  You have a choice to either counter those tapes in your head with God’s truth or believe them over God’s word.  This is why we MUST know what God says about us as His children as opposed to what others and the world may want to say about us. 
  • We hunger for God’s voice/word more than anyone else’s. Jesus himself said when confronted by the Devil himself, “Man does not live by bread alone BUT by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (Mt. 4:4) 
    • What’s the first thing you read in the morning or the last at night?
    • How long has it been since you tried to commit something new of God’s Word to memory?
    • Does what the people around us every day are saying about us (family, coworkers, friends) affect us more than what God is saying about us in His word?
  • We absorb and value God’s word in their hearts more than other words of the week.
    • What “words” are changing our moods and mental state most these days? News reports?  People’s criticisms?  A teachers comments or grade?  A family member’s hurtful comment? 
    • They ‘hide,’ ‘guard,’ and ‘commit to memory’ God’s word more than popular songs on the radio, catchy add slogans they see or hear, or verbal messages people dump on them be they praise or criticism.


  1. A church for which to be thankful puts God’s Word to work IN their life together. 13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 

APP:  How are we at Mosaicputting God’s Word to work” in our life together?

  • Praying for those in need? Our city?  Nation?  World?
  • Putting our money where our mouth is? (Missions, presence in the community, assisting widows, orphans)
  • Giving hundreds of hours of love to this needy community.
  • Making time with and for other believers a priority (Bible Studies, meals, coffee together, prayer groups)
  • ???

APP:  “Bible Revival” that our Congresswoman is promoting, praying for, and acting upon by giving Bibles and challenging national leaders to read the Bible daily.


  1. A church for which to be thankful expects and accepts persecution in solidarity with the persecuted church throughout history.

14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews….

Just as today, word had apparently circulated in the Christian community of the day about how brothers and sisters in other parts of the known world were being persecuted. 

Do we know how our brothers and sisters in this world today are currently suffering persecution?  Are we hearing the stories?  Looking to get reports?  Praying? 

EX:  The Church in Ukraine:  The church in Ukraine is not unfamiliar with persecution — the brutal oppression of the underground church by the Soviet Union remains in the minds of many.  In Russia today, religious freedom has “deteriorated,” 

according to an assessment by the U.S. Committee on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

The persecution many Christians in Russia currently face comes from laws which prohibit “non-traditional” religions from evangelizing. These and similar laws have been used to prosecute, fine and imprison Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims and Protestant groups — Baptists and Pentecostals for example.

Once Crimea was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, Russia’s anti-evangelism laws were implemented in the region. Christian denominations once legal in Ukraine became illegal under Russia. Of religious freedom in Crimea, USCIRF stated that “the occupation authorities continued to enforce Russia’s repressive laws and policies on religion, which has resulted in the prosecution of peaceful religious activity and bans on groups that were legal in Crimea under Ukrainian law.”

In Ukraine’s southeastern Donbas region, home to the self-declared and Russia-backed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, similar laws are in place that require religions to register with the government. Christian denominations such as Protestant, Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox have been designated as “extremist” and are allowed to register with the Donetsk or Luhansk governments. Authorities in Luhansk have threatened to cut off gas, electricity, and water to unregistered religious communities and forcibly close their churches.

In November, the European Evangelical Alliance referred to the Donbas region as “the area of Europe where the church suffers the most.”

Under a successful Russian occupation, many denominations of Ukrainian Christians will be forced to return underground. 

Yarsolav “Slavik” Pyzh, president of a Baptist-seminary-turned-refugee-center in Ukraine, emphasized this to Baptist Press as the pending reality for many Christians: “You have to understand that historically we had that experience before under the Soviet Union. So the church did not forget what does it mean to be persecuted, and I think that we will rearrange, reorganize, and still do what we always do, still preach the gospel.”  So the mission remains the same.

During the recent bombings, Orthodox and Protestant churches throughout Ukraine opened their basements to provide refuge. Ukrainian Catholics priests celebrated Divine Liturgy for those in underground bomb shelters. Christians gathered in the Kharkiv town square to pray for peace.

“The whole church prayed on their knees for our president, our country, and for peace,” Vadym Kulynchenko described to Christianity Today his church’s response. “After the service, we did a first-aid training.”  “We believe that God will take us through this,” Pyzh said in a video message on the invasion’s first day. “In the midst of the storm, behind the boat was Jesus. And Jesus is our stronghold. He is with us and he will never leave us or forsake us. This is the faith that we have. This is the time to show this faith to other people.”  [Found at https://forthemartyrs.com/what-a-russian-takeover-means-for-ukrainian-christians/ on 3.13.2022]


Until recently (and perhaps even including the present), we American Christians haven’t experienced much real persecution.  But I do not think that will continue for much longer…and that may well be for OUR GOOD! 

  • Some have already lost jobs in our congregation because of their faith-stand.
  • Some have been passed over for promotions because you won’t compromise your commitment to Christ.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the American church when persecution intensifies. I did not say, “if persecution intensifies,” but, “when.” Persecution for our faith has already begun in minor ways (compared to how those in other countries suffer), but unless there is widespread revival in America, persecution of Christians will grow stronger in the next few years.

            HOW are we preparing for this?  Have we really embraced this part of our faith in Jesus?  If so, how are we doing “spiritual first-aid training” so our children will know how to respond when they start losing their jobs, begin to be fined, have their homes confiscated for holding church in them, are rejected at jobs they have been training to enter, etc.? 

In recent years, we have already seen businesses in the Northwest fined and forced out of business for failure to affirm through their businesses a certain anti-Christian sexuality or sexual agenda. There is pressure both from the government and from corporations to force everyone to accept as normal and right men who identify themselves as women and want to use women’s restrooms, women’s shower facilities and women’s sports teams as their own.

Graduate students working on professional degrees have been forced out of their programs because they said they would simply refer homosexual or transgender clients to other counselors because of their religious beliefs. Multiple states (Washington included) have passed laws that prohibit licensed counselors from trying to help LGBTQ clients who want to change to experience healing. And, campus ministries have been forced off campus because they refuse to accept self-proclaimed LGBTQ students as leaders of their Christian groups.

I’m not a prophet, but in the near future, we’re going to see persecution in our culture against anyone who dares to go public about their biblical values and beliefs about sexuality. 

  • Churches and other ministries that hold to the biblical view on sexuality will lose their tax exempt status.
  • Military chaplains will be forced to perform homosexual weddings or lose their commissions.
  • Public school teachers will be fired for refusing to teach “diversity” tolerance to their students.
  • Christian colleges and seminaries will lose their accreditation when they do not endorse LGBT “rights.”
  • Those employed by secular institutions and businesses will lose their jobs when they refuse to embrace the LGBT agenda.

Already, pastors and leading politicians in Finland, Sweden, England, and Canada have been arrested for preaching what the Bible says about homosexuality. It is unlikely that America will be far behind this trend.

So, if we faithfully hold to what the Bible teaches about these and other moral issues, we are headed for increasing persecution. The question is, “Will you and I persevere and hold to the Bible’s truth under persecution, or will you capitulate to our godless culture to avoid persecution?”

            Will we be a church that Paul would be thankful for…and God will be proud of?  We will IF we love the Word of God as the Thessalonian church did 20 centuries ago.