(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
Well, 1 and 2 Thessalonians are essentially on the same topic; it is, “What does it look like to live with eternity in view?” The whole message of Scripture is, this right here, right now, time and place that we’re in, is not our final destination. It is a preparation for a final destination.
So, you can't live with a destination mentality, you can't try to turn this moment into paradise. Sorry, but your marriage will never be the paradise you want it to be, right here, right now. Your children won’t offer you paradise; your job won’t offer you paradise; your church won't offer you paradise; we are heading for paradise. And so, we have to know what it means to live with eternity in view.
Thessalonians are incredibly personal, loving, and affectionate. Paul says this, “So being affectionately desirous of you, we are ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves because you have become very dear to us.” How sweet and pastoral that is. We didn’t give you just the gospel; we gave you ourselves. I have to say that God makes His invisible love visible by sending people of love to give love to people who need love. Paul is a model of that.
And so, 1 Thessalonians, addressing that period of time between the ‘already’ of our conversion and the ‘not yet’ of our home going, is a call to action. I’m going to entitle this, “Waiting-Part I-Action,” because waiting, in Paul's understanding, is not like waiting in the dentist’s office. You know, you get an appointment with the dentist, and you're sitting there for forty-five minutes, and it’s just making you mad because it just seems like useless waiting. You’re a man and now you're reading ladies home magazine, reading recipes. You know if you're a man doing that, you’ve waited in the dentist’s office too long.
Waiting, in the New Testament, isn’t meaningless. Waiting is a call to action! Paul says, “Be committed to holiness, be self-controlled, stay alert, live quiet hard-working lives, win the respect of others, love one another, live at peace, give thanks for everything. All those things together define this life of waiting. Waiting is an action.
But it's more than that. You get this hinted at here in this book that waiting is not just about what you will get at the end of the wait, pay attention to what I'm about to say here, waiting is about what you become as you wait. Waiting is a tool of God's sanctifying grace. He uses waiting to transform us, to change us, to restore us, to reconcile us, to grow us, to mature us.
And so, waiting is a participatory action. I wait, committed to grow in holiness. I wait, committed to be self-controlled. I wait, committed to stay alert. I wait, committed to live in such a way that I gain the respect of others. I wait, committed to love others as Christ has loved me. I wait, committed to live at peace and in peace. I wait, committed to give thanks in everything.
I was thinking about this list that I just went through for myself and how good it would be for me to tick through this list every morning and say, “Am I committed as I wait for my Lord to do these things?” Listen, your marriage would change, your parenting would change, your work would change, your joy would change if you and I would be committed to wait in the way that Paul says. This kind of waiting is living with eternity in view!