Turning and Waiting

Sam Petitfils

“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)

In these two verses, the Apostle Paul spells out what God expects of believers in that church, but also everywhere. In this first chapter, Paul describes in detail the glorious conversion experience of the believers in Thessalonica, both in their first turning to Christ and in the fruit it produced.  Perhaps you’ve heard a sermon from 1 Thessalonians 1 on the ideal church.  Indeed these opening words summarize what God expects from His children, but let’s focus a bit on the last two verses:

Turning to God
Some would limit these words to a “profession of faith,” a simple statement by someone claiming to be a child of God.  But the verse rather describes an actual turning to God.  They heard the gospel and turned to God.  It doesn’t say they turned to God then shortly thereafter abandoned the faith.  No, they actually turned to God, trusting Him for their eternal salvation.  True Christians turn to God, they do not merely “try God,” to see if it works; no, they turn to God.

Turning from idols
Next we notice what they turned from: idols.  God required it of them and they knew it.  Paul preached the gospel to them of life and death.  They chose life, and readily gave up their idols and life of sin.  They did not become perfect, as none of us do in this life, but they did turn to God, leaving their idols in the dust.

Wait for Jesus
When they heard the message of Christ’s return they must have rejoiced greatly.  Paul had previously shared the truth of Christ’s return in some detail (2 Thessalonians 2:5).  They learned about the coming kingdom, heaven, and all the glorious happenings that would take place.  Paul now encourages them to wait for Him expectantly, which would change the way they approach life.

This seems like a simple formula for godly living, and indeed it is.  Yet many miss it. We live in a world surrounded by distractions and temptations and where difficulties abound.  To thrive, we need to set our hearts on things above, not on the things residing on this earth (Colossians 3:1-2).  We need to steer clear of the idols the world builds in the hopes that people will bow down to them.  But we have turned to God and cannot go back to the old haunts.  God changed us (2 Corinthians 5:17), and with that change gave us something better to live for.

How do we break off those old idols?  It’s best to make a clean break with them, and cast them off.  But we have something far better to take their place: a new life in Christ.  As we press on to our heavenly goal, we draw inspiration from the promises of God, particularly the second coming of Jesus Christ.  An old hymn I love called, “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus”, has a line that reminds us of what happens when we do turn our eyes upon Jesus: “. . .things of earth grow strangely dim. . .”  Yes they do, because God has something far better for us in the not too distant future.  Let us all turn to God with all our heart and soul, and wait for His beloved Son.

 

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