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Walking in Faith, Hope & Love

In my last post we finished looking at the book of James, the first epistle given by the Holy Spirit to the church. During that time, a man named Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the believers.

After an encounter with Christ Himself, Saul became a Christian and his life was totally changed. He was eventually called to preach and became a missionary to the gentiles. The next revelation of God’s Word to the church was through this man, who changed his name to Paul.

On one of his journeys, Paul went to the city of Thessalonica and many were saved. (These events can be read in more detail in Acts 16-18.) Because of intense persecution, Paul had to leave quickly. This immediate exit caused him to be concerned about the health of the newly formed church.

Paul eventually traveled to Corinth, where he stayed for over a year. During that time, he sent Timothy to check-up on the church at Thessalonica. Timothy brought back a good report that the young believers were standing in the truth.

The letter of First Thessalonians was written to encourage this church, after Paul listened to Timothy’s report.

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1:1-3

Paul opens the letter by remembering their faith, hope, and love. These are the three things that the Bible says will be with us eternally. Too often we think about them only in spiritual terms.

We sometimes get the idea that they’re just good feelings that Christians should enjoy. Some believers act like they’re wonderful gifts that should be tucked quietly away in our hearts.

NO WAY!!! According to Paul, faith, hope, and love are the sparks that ignite our ministry before God. There are three different things that happen in us as a result of their influence upon us.

First, faith produces our work. That word literally means your assignment. It’s the task that God has given you. As you go before God in faith, He gives you grace for the calling He’s placed upon your life. As I trust God more and more, I learn to follow His ways. Eventually I start to understand why He wanted me in His kingdom. Faith causes me to stand in my assignment.

Then comes love – it prompts us to labor. That word labor, means to use up your strength in performing a task. Without the love of God, we’ll never pour ourselves into the calling He’s placed upon us. We’re called to work with all of our strength. Without love, that will never happen.

Finally, hope inspires endurance. It’s easy to start out strong, but it’s how we finish that matters the most. Hope is the biblical word for expectation. If I do my part, then I can expect God to show up and do His part.

That’s what keeps me going even when I don’t feel like it. I know what God says in His Word. Because I place my expectation on Him, I can continue to live for the Lord. Hope gives you the endurance to persevere to the end.

Let faith, hope, and love give you more than just a warm feeling. Let them spur you on to accomplishing your destiny in the Lord’s Kingdom.

Question: How have you seen faith, hope and love at work in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2017

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2017 in Faith, Ministry, Spiritual Walk

 

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Your Free Life Coach

weightsI’ve been posting about Scripture and the role it has in the lives of God’s people. We should be grateful that the Lord allowed His Word to be written down for our enrichment.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Scripture was given to thoroughly equip us for the good works God has prepared for us. Accordingly, Scripture is useful profitable – for certain things that we need. The first thing Scripture is useful for is teaching.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

We need to know who God is and how He operates. The Bible looks at people that the Lord has worked with in the past and how He dealt with them. It also shows us what the Lord likes and dislikes. That’s the place of Scripture. As I study its pages, I come to know who this God is, that I’m serving.

Endurance. The first thing that being teachable brings me is cheerful endurance. God has put certain things in writing so that I’ll know what to expect. I learn that as long as I’m in the world, there will be troubles and trials coming my way.

Because of this Word, I won’t be offended that the path before me isn’t an easy one. But I also know that God is with me, and He has already triumphed over my problems. All I have to do is keep walking forward in faith and trust in Him and I’ll see His deliverance manifest in my life.

Encouragement. The Scripture also encourages me. The closest concept we have to the Greek word for encouragement is coaching. The Bible is my life-coach.

I can see what others have done in my situation. I have the example of those who went their own way and lost out, as well as those who trusted God and were victorious. This gives me the strength to carry on even when I don’t feel like it. That’s what a coach does. It inspires me to a higher walk in the Lord.

Hope. The Scripture brings hope. It’s because of this endurance and encouragement that I can walk in the hope that only comes from knowing what God has promised to those who serve Him.

Please understand that the word hope in the Bible is not like the watered down version that the world uses. They say things like, “I hope it won’t rain tomorrow.” It’s more like wishful thinking. That’s not the hope found in the Scripture.

Our hope is fully expecting things to turn out the way God said it would. It means that I know in my heart that God doesn’t lie. It doesn’t matter what the situation looks like right now. It doesn’t even matter whether I can see a way out or not.

What I rely on is the fact that God said it, so therefore I expect it. That’s the hope that Scripture will equip us with if we let it be our teacher and life-coach.

Question: How has the Scripture helped you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Jesus Christ – Our Living Hope

Cloud2For a couple of posts we’ve looked at the first time Jesus mentioned the Last days in His teaching (John chapter 5). It’s the basis for constructing our picture of the future return of the Lord.

As I said before, we’ll build “line upon line, precept upon precept” as we go along. In future posts, we’ll be making the picture more complete.

“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
John 5:26-30

The cross is our starting point. We come along about 2000 years later. The physical resurrection of the dead that Jesus talked about hasn’t happened yet. But, we know for a certainty that someday the dead are going to rise and there’s going to be a time of judgment with the result being either eternal life or eternal condemnation.

We don’t know when it’s coming, but there will be a resurrection day. In Jesus’ teaching, that we looked at in my last post, the disciples hadn’t heard anything that was new to them. Jesus didn’t start with some new doctrine that they’d never heard before.

You can find teaching on the resurrection throughout the Old Testament, too. Job looked forward to it in the book of Job chapter 19. It’s a Scripture that’s probably familiar to most of you. It was Job’s statement of faith that one day he was going to see the Lord.

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”
Job 19:25-27

Even in the Old Testament, believers knew that there was going to be a resurrection. They understood that God was not going to leave His people in the grave. It’s in a few other places in the Old Testament as well. Not a lot, but enough to let us know that it was a recognized concept.

The Old Testament saints knew about it. Even the Pharisees, as a group, believed and taught that one day God would bring about the resurrection of the dead.

This is where Jesus starts out. It’s a very simple concept, but He begins where His disciples were familiar – the fact of the resurrection.

The only shocker in His teaching was that it will be the voice of Christ that causes the dead to rise. I’m sure that the Pharisees had some choice thoughts on that subject. We, however, are given a foundation upon which to build the rest of the teaching on the return of Christ.

It’s the Lord Himself who is our resurrection. It’s His voice who will call us from our graves to a place of victory. This is a day we can all look forward to as believers. Knowing this, we now have a proper foundation upon which to build the rest of our end-time teaching.

Question: How does the hope of the resurrection comfort you, especially in uncertain times?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2016 in Power of God, Return of Christ

 

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The Best Father

FallenAs we look forward to Father’s Day this weekend, the best example of a father that I could give is of God Himself.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
II Thessalonians 2:16-17

In this short passage I see four things that we, as godly fathers, need to take to heart. First, the most obvious…

A father loves his children.

This love is the choice to love our children. You might be thinking, “This is the easy part.” It might be easy to say it, but not to do it.

That’s because true love involves disciplining our children. That’s one of the most important aspects of a father’s love. It’s also the part I liked the least, yet it brought about the greatest rewards.

Unfortunately this is a generation of fatherless children. Fathers have either left home or are never home. As of the last census, fatherless homes produce:

90% of homeless and runaway children.

71% of pregnant teenagers

63% of teen suicides

85% of children with behavioral disorders

90% of teen repeat arsonists

71% of high school dropouts

75% of teens in rehab

85% of teens in prison

43% of U.S. children live without their father

We desperately need fathers who are there for their children.

The second thing I see is that a father encourages his children. This Greek word implies what a coach does. The coach can’t play the game for you. But he can give you everything you need to win. A true father gets his coaching from God in order to coach his children.

Next, a father gives hope to his children. We live in a generation with no hope. Teaching our children about Christ gives them a lasting hope. This will give them the strength to endure any challenge ahead of them.

The last thing I see is that a godly father is imitated by his children. Knowing this should drive us to our knees before God. That’s because a true father loves by both discipline and example.

This Father’s Day, I want to encourage any fathers reading this to look to our Father in heaven as their example. Spend time with Him to pick up His heartbeat. Your family will be all the stronger for it.

Question: What are some examples of godly fathers that you’ve seen?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2016 in Encouragement, Leadership, Spiritual Warfare

 

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Living Today with our Hope in View

SpotlightI’ve been posting about Paul’s view of the Second Coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians. We understand that the Resurrection Day is the great hope of the church. But it’s not just about the future.

You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
I Thessalonians 5:5-11

Paul tells us the attitude we need in the last days. He says that we’re to be alert and self-controlled. The literal meaning of these words are awake and sober. We can’t be in a spiritual stupor and be victorious as we approach the end of the age.

He also tells us to put on faith and love as a breastplate. As you know, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I believe that this is the oil and the lamp that we’re to keep burning. These are the two non-negotiable parts to serving God.

Without faith it’s impossible to please God, and without love your faith is worthless. You have to use both of these spiritual commodities. You can’t live for God without faith and love.

And so, these fruit need to be evident in all of our good works. Everything we do for the Lord has to spring from faith and love. Paul is in total agreement with the teaching of the Lord as found in the Gospels.

Finally, we must have the hope, or literally, the expectation of salvation as a helmet. We have to expect the salvation of God. We know what’s going to happen. We know that God is going to rescue us, so we might as well live like it.

Paul said that we’re not appointed to wrath. According to the Lord’s own words, wrath was not going to fall until the Last Day. Before it fell, however, Jesus said that He would gather up His elect to Himself. All of this happens on the last day of the age, according to Jesus. The Church will be taken to safety first, and then the wrath of God will fall.

It’s clear from both the teaching of Christ Himself and Paul the Apostle that God did not appoint us to wrath. What Paul is saying here is that we who are alive in the last days – who see the signs approaching as labor pains – must not get worried as people who don’t have any hope.

We must realize that we have the helmet of salvation on. We’re not appointed to wrath, so when The Day gets here, we’re going to be protected.

Don’t worry about the future, even though you see problems coming. Be prepared. Be self-controlled. Be alert. Be working for God, but don’t be afraid.

The last thing we need to remember is to continue to encourage one another, to build one another up and to exhort one another as, in fact, we should be doing.

That’s what being a part of the church is all about. We must help each other in areas of weakness. It’s only as we work together that we’ll gain the victory.

Question: How does your future hope affect your walk with Christ today?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Return of Christ, Revival, The Church

 

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The Resurrection – Our Great Hope

GravesI believe in the soon return of Jesus Christ. As I see what’s happening all around us, it looks like we should be working to bring in the end-time harvest of souls. I want to take a couple of posts to talk about what Paul wrote concerning the Second Coming in his first epistle to the Thessalonians.

First Thessalonians was written because Paul went there, evangelized that area, and then had to leave quickly. We learn in the Book of Acts that persecution broke out, and the people of that region threatened to kill Paul. The church sent him out of the city very quickly.

Because of this, he didn’t have time to really establish their church the way he usually did. When things started to calm down, he began to worry about them. He was afraid that they were not grounded well enough and that they were in danger of quickly falling away.

Paul sent his spiritual son, Timothy to check in with them and see how they were doing. When Timothy came back, his report was better than Paul could have hoped for.

The church was doing great. They were established in the Lord. They weathered the persecution and they were growing in grace and in the power of the Spirit. Paul then wrote this letter to thank God and encourage their church to continue on in the faith.

When Timothy got back to Paul, he also brought some questions that the church had asked during his visit. Paul sent the answer to these in his letter as well.

One of the questions they asked was this: When Christians die, does that mean they’re going to miss out on the Second Coming of Christ? That’s a good question. Another thing they asked was; when are all of these things going to happen? When is the END OF THE AGE going to take place?

The first question he answers is about those who die in the Lord, and whether or not they miss out on the coming of Christ.

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
I Thessalonians 4:13

Please realize that the term ignorant was not being used in a bad sense. Paul means that he did not want them to be without knowledge. He did not want them to be lacking in their teaching on the Lord.

He also uses the term fall asleep. The early church used this to signify that someone was dead. They realized that when a believer dies, they don’t cease to exist but rather enter the presence of the Lord. Their body, however, looks like it’s sleeping.

They would say, “Brother John fell asleep” as a nice way of saying that he died. So in effect, Paul is giving them more godly information on those who die in Christ.

His first instruction to them is that they’re not to grieve as the world does. We are not to act as people who don’t have any hope. We have an eternal hope.

We know about the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. Because of this knowledge, funerals don’t hold the same fear over us that the rest of the world has. We shouldn’t act like we’re never going to see the departed Christian again.

Yes, I realize that there’s a parting process. You’re not going to see that person for a long time – so there’s going to be that kind of grief. But don’t grieve as if you’ve lost them forever. Don’t mourn like somebody who has no hope.

Question: How should our future hope affect the believer’s view of death?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 

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Hope and Our Inheritance

BeamI’ve been posting about the living hope we have in Christ. In my last post I talked about how the Lord’s mercy brings about hope in us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you…
1 Peter 1:3-4

So far we’ve seen that this hope is birthed by mercy through the resurrection of Christ. But we also need to see that this Living Hope brings us into an inheritance.

The fact is that this hope points to an inheritance that we didn’t deserve. There was nothing we could have done to lay hold of it. It was all a work of Jesus Christ for us.

In the above verse there are three nots associated with this inheritance. First of all, it does not perish or decay. Praise God! That means that my inheritance in Christ is not affected by inflation.

It also says that it will not spoil. That means that it will not become soiled or dirty. It will always remain pure and new to us.

Finally, our inheritance will never fade. That means that it will never be used up or become worthless over time. Nothing on this earth meets those criteria. That’s why our hope, our treasure, is in Christ alone. I can look forward to His blessing in my life.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24

It’s because of this hope of the inheritance that we can work for God with all our heart. But there’s more. The above verse from Peter doesn’t end there.

…who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:5

Yes, we are birthed by mercy, through the resurrection, into an inheritance; but this Living Hope shields us by God’s power. I don’t need to remind you about the shield of faith. It keeps us secure in times of trial.

But it’s fed by the living expectation that’s fresh and new every morning. Paul puts it this way…

…a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time…
Titus 1:2

Paul mentions both faith and knowledge in this verse. Faith is our trust in God’s Word; while knowledge is what we have once our faith has been proven. It’s through these that we can rest on the hope of eternal life.

…so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:7

It’s this hope of eternal life that gives us joy in the trials that we face. This is because we know that the Lord is going to show up and work on our behalf. Never give up your hope; it will be richly rewarded.

Question: How has God proven Himself in your life?

© Nick Zaccardi 2016

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2016 in Faith, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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