Read: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 with your family.
5 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (ESV)
When news first broke about a novel coronavirus, few of us expected it to lead to the situation we face today. What does the Bible say about how Christians should respond in uncertain times? In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Paul writes concerning the “day of the Lord.” Many commentators say that Paul is talking about the resurrection, which he had just mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Another possibility is that Paul refers to the impending judgment against Jerusalem and the temple.
Whether Paul refers to the resurrection or the destruction of Jerusalem, this passage has much to teach Christians, here and now. This is because, in one sense, the day of the Lord has already begun with the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the “light of the world” (John 8:12) At the transfiguration, Jesus’s face shines “like the sun (Matt. 17:2). Revelation calls him the “Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16). Luke says that “the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).
We could go on citing examples like these, but the point is that the “night is far gone; the day is at hand” (Romans 13:12). God is bringing us out of the darkness of the old creation, broken by sin and death, and into the light of the new heavens and new earth. In fact, the one who has turned to Jesus is already a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). And whomever God has made a new creation has passed from the darkness of sin and death into the daytime of eternal life (John 5:24).
On the other hand, to remain in unbelief is to be in the darkness. One sign of being in the darkness is when we find our peace and security in things other than God. Sometimes, we satisfy our desire for peace and security in ways that are clearly evil – for example, pornography or materialism. But often, the darkness is more subtle. We may try to find security in going to college or in a career. Or, we might find our identity in a spouse. In themselves, these are good things. But if we allow our desires for these things to supplant God and rule over us, then we are in the darkness. It is as if we are spiritually asleep or drunk.
But the darkness can only offer false peace and security. This false peace and security can be exposed in personal trials, but there are also moments in history when God shakes entire nations and even the whole world. Indeed, the present crisis seems like one of these moments. If we’ve been finding our peace and security in things other than God – if we worship the gifts rather than the Gift-giver – then we will feel as if we’ve been caught by a thief in the night.
Discuss: Where do you find your peace and security? What are the things that make you feel comfortable? What are the things that make you think that “all is well”? What challenges your sense of peace and security?
As Christians, our peace is not found in things that are shakable or in things that are passing away. This doesn’t mean that Christians never suffer loss or hardship. But it does mean that when the world is shaken, we are not caught off guard like someone who has been robbed. When God shakes the world and casts out the darkness, we aren’t overtaken as if by a thief. Why? Because we don’t find our identity, our peace, our security in the darkness nor in worldly desires.
Instead, we find our identity in Christ. Whereas the unbeliever is at home in the darkness, the believer is at home in the light of the Lord. Paul says that we are children of the light, children of the day. Note the connection: the day of the Lord is coming, but we are already children of the day. And because we are children of the day, we are called to live in the light.
How do we do this? Paul tells us. To live as children of the light means putting on faith, love, and hope. In 1 Thessalonians 1:2, Paul commends the Thessalonians for their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Faith, hope, and love are the hallmarks of a people who have been brought out of the darkness and into the light of Jesus.
What kind of faith, hopes and loves have you been putting on in the past few weeks? Take some time to reflect on these three areas:
Faith: Where are you putting your faith? Who are you paying attention to the most? Which voices are you allowing to shape the way you think, feel, and act? Faith is not just believing that God exists, for even the demons believe this (Jas. 2:19). More than that, faith is personal trust in God. It’s trusting him, just like you’d trust your parents, but you wouldn’t trust a stranger. Specifically, faith means trusting the message of the Gospel – that the living God has sent Jesus his Son to die and rise again for our salvation (1 Thess. 5:9-10). During this time, have you been anchoring yourself in God’s Word? Are you trusting God more than online articles, social media, politicians, the news, or even friends and family?
Love: What desires are you currently indulging? What pleasures are you pursuing? What gets you through the day? Ask yourself how your current behaviors reveal what or whom you love. Are you pursuing Christ, or do you find yourself reverting to sinful habits?
The first great commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. The second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-39). When our loves are rightly ordered towards God, they will also be rightly ordered towards other people and other things. But when our loves are directed away from God, that is when our desires get distorted and blown out of proportion. That is when ungodly lusts and desires hijack the throne of our hearts.
Hope: What are you looking forward to once this crisis is over? Are you simply hoping for things to get back to “normal” – going back to school, or college, or your job? Or is your hope to emerge with a deeper commitment God’s kingdom? Is your hope the “hope of salvation”?
At the end of our passage, Paul says that God has not chosen us for destruction, but to obtain salvation. This means that we will surely enter the newness of life, which has been promised to us by God and purchased for us by Jesus. Through Christ, we have an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4). Have you set your hope on temporary things or on things everlasting? Since our hope is in salvation, we can live with Jesus by trusting him and keeping his commandments, even through changing times and seasons.