Which D.Q. for You?

Please read 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 in your Bible.  I have used the NIV to prepare these remarks.

Once in a while a fictional story draws an exceptionally accurate picture of life and you’re pleasantly surprised to learn something and be entertained.  I had that experience recently reading James S.A. Corey’s book Babylon’s Ashes.  Early in the novel he wrote,

“All through human history, being a moral person and not being pulled into the dramatics and misbehavior of others has caused intelligent people grief.” (p. 88)

The rest of the story went on to prove this point.

Lesson learned: the “dramatics and misbehavior of others” can lead us into grief just as much as our own “dramatics and misbehavior.”  My opinion is that life inflicts enough drama, we don’t need to go around creating more for ourselves or others.

I’d better explain this message’s title.  When we think about ice cream, many of us think about “D.Q.” or “Dairy Queen.”  I saw a t-shirt once that co-opted the Dairy Queen logo but used the letters to refer to “Drama Queen!”

DQ

So my question is, which kind of D.Q. do you prefer?  One’s sweet, the other is sour.  Be careful how you answer, lest your life disprove what you claim.

In spite of the feminine noun, a drama queen is anyone – male or female – who acts in an overly-emotional way.  They habitually blow things out of proportion, brewing a “tempest in a teapot.”

The very best demonstration of a drama queen is a Dutch TV commercial made about seven years ago.  It begins with mom driving her daughter to school.  Maybe the little girl is moping because she doesn’t want to go to school that day.

A policeman’s lights and siren interrupted the mother’s lecture why the she must go to school.  After she pulled over, the policeman said she was speeding and instructed the mom to get out her license and registration.

As mom pokes through her purse, the policeman notices the girl in the back seat and says, “Mom is in a hurry today, isn’t she?”

The somber little girl quietly replied, “She’s not my mother,” and held up a note she scribbled on her pad of paper which read “HELP!”

drama queen

That is a drama queen.  Regardless of their motivation, drama queens cause a lot of problems at home, work, and church.  They leave behind them a lot of burned bridges and create an area of negativity all around them as they careen through life, feeding on the unhappiness they cause.

Not surprisingly, God does not want us to be a drama queen.  Instead, He calls us to a QUIET LIFE.  We will see this morning God’s way to building healthy relationships.

First, let’s note the context of this passage: Paul explained every disciple’s primary ambition is to please God.  He Paul offered three steps to achieve this ambition.

First Step = Remember your INSTRUCTIONS (1+2).

INSTRUCTIONS in this case being the commands of Jesus Christ to love God first, others second, self last.  This is part of the Gospel that Paul had given them, the foundation of their church and life in Christ.  As there is always room for improvement, he urged them to follow those INSTRUCTIONS MORE AND MORE.

Second Step: Love God by being holy (3-8).

In people and objects, holiness means to be set apart to God, exclusively working to fulfill His purpose.  In people, holiness also means moral purity.  That’s why Paul urged them to practice self-control.  Disciples of Jesus are distinguished from the world by their HOLY and HONORABLE behavior.

Third Step = Love others by avoiding drama (9-12).

God teaches His children how to LOVE EACH OTHER (9-10).  Paul encourages them first, congratulating them on their love.  The love these church folk had for one another was known throughout MACEDONIA.

Though he didn’t NEED to write them about their love, as any good teacher would, that’s exactly what Paul did.  For, just as he said in v. 1, Paul repeated in v. 10, to love MORE AND MORE.  I know we can get tired of hearing that; the call to improvement can become exhausting and discouraging.  But, as Paul observed in v. 8, God gives us HIS HOLY SPIRIT, so we get the power to love from Him; we don’t rely on our own strength.

God keeps calling us to growth in Christ, to become MORE AND MORE like Him.  One benefit of making this our priority is that we keep praying, keep relying on God, keep turning back to Him for strengthening.  Besides, this is the definition of ambition, isn’t it?  Ambitious people never quit, are never satisfied, and are always looking to do more or better?

God’s children enact love in their ambition to LEAD A QUIET LIFE (11-12).  It sounds strange to combine the words AMBITION and QUIET, doesn’t it?  Most of us experience ambitious people as loud or bossy, drawing attention to their self.  How do these words work together?

In general, A QUIET LIFE means an end to “drama.”  Life creates enough drama to satisfy a reasonable person.  It makes no sense to go around creating more strained relationships and negative emotions.  Godly people seek a QUIET LIFE to please God and find out that it is also pleasing to others and themselves.

Paul offers two specifics of what a QUIET LIFE involves.  One, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.  Being a “busybody” is identified in the Bible as a sin.  A busybody is not someone with a high energy level or a hard worker; this is someone who involves themselves in other people’s lives without permission.  No matter how we may rationalize it, offering unsolicited advice or comments of any kind is to be guilty of the sin of being a busybody.  God has identified this as a sin because busybodies have a negative effect on relationships and organizations.  Their intrusive and negative spirit makes everyone nervous around them and discourages creativity and/or risk-taking; all behaviors that might be good and necessary but are contrary to the busybody’s sense of the way things should be.

Two, WORK WITH YOUR HANDS.  One cure for busybodies is for them to MIND their OWN BUSINESS, as we’ve seen.  Another cure is to WORK WITH their HANDS because busybodies tend to be idle people.  This must’ve really been a problem in Thessalonica, because Paul addressed this issue again in 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12:

We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive.  They are not busy; they are busybodies.  Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.

I’ve heard church folk eagerly cite this verse as evidence against government welfare programs and flatly ignore the gossip and complaining they do as busybodies.  WORK WITH YOUR HANDS is a figure of speech for “honest labor.”  This is a cure for busybodies because instead of wasting their time and energy on negative incursions into other people’s business, they fruitfully expend themselves on doing good.

Working together is good for a church.  The old maxim is still true: “Votes divide, service unites.”  Churches that work together build up their unity.  Honest work is a way we can serve God and others and it prohibits us making convenient but sinful distinctions between our “work life” and “church life.”  That’s hypocrisy, bud.

There are two aims with respect to the QUIET LIFE, two good reasons to make it our AMBITION.  One, to WIN THE RESPECT OF OUTSIDERS.  A frequently-used excuse for not being involved in church is that churches are “full of hypocrites.”  There are snappy comebacks and reasonable responses to this excuse, but the most convincing reply is church folk earning the RESPECT OF OUTSIDERS by NOT being hypocrites.

We WIN RESPECT by having integrity; not just making claims of godliness, but by living in godliness.  Some people call this a “Silent Witness” or “Lifestyle Evangelism,” but to Paul, these were simply ways that all disciples were to live.  It is an important benefit to Christ-like living.

Two, to NOT BE DEPENDENT ON ANYBODY.  A secondary benefit to working with one’s hands is independence.  If you can provide for yourself, do so.  If you can’t, then don’t.   Being independent is not getting your own way as it is earning your own way.  Dependency has some negative social effects and God gave Paul the wisdom to see that capable people should be independent as long as they are capable.

This is Paul being practical but also Paul dealing with the culture of the Greek world of that time.  Greeks thought of physical labor as demeaning, while Jews had a strong work ethic they’d received from God.  Paul did not just teach this, he lived it.  Earlier in this letter he wrote;

Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.               (1 Thessalonians 2:9)

Laziness might be described as a lack of ambition.  So we understand two problems related to ambition in this passage.  Ambition for anything outside of God’s will is sin.  A lack of ambition is also sin.

God’s people are to behave in ways that are clearly more moral than people who are stuck on themselves, or in the world.  This passage is one of many in the Bible that sets God’s standard before us and then calls us to live accordingly.

This means deposing drama queens.  It means having as a goal for self first, then at home, in church, and in the community, a practice of life that drains the drama.  Here are some simple suggestions as to how you can do that.  I call them “Bumper Sticker Proverbs;” short, sweet, and hopefully, memorable.

#1 –No criticisms without compliments.  If you must complain or criticize, do not do so without making a genuine compliment before or after.

#2 – No advice without permission.  Unsolicited advice is detrimental to every kind of relationship in every context.  Ask first, and respect a “no” reply.

#3 – Nip negativity, push positivity.  Even if this requires a personality makeover, the peace achieved through positivity makes it worth all effort.

#4 – Pray before you say.  Ask God to set a guard at your lips and take away whatever is hurtful.

#5 – Tone down the teasing.  This is my worst thing.  A little bit goes a long way, even if the teasing is directed at yourself.  Humor with a cutting edge is a drama queen’s tool.

#6 – Follow your guide.  Asking yourself if your reaction is something Jesus would do is a handy way to both slow down our reaction time and eliminate sinful reactions.  Follow His example in word and deed.

#7 – Get in your time machine.  Before you react in any way, take a moment to imagine how important this matter will be in a year or 10 years.  A bigger perspective helps us avoid pettiness.

Do You Love Surprises?

(Please read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.  I used the NIV to research these remarks.)

Jesus’ Second Coming motivates us to be prepared.

You may have heard there is a football game today.  The winner will take a place among football immortality, the loser scorned.  I can tell you that from personal experience, having backed Super Bowl losers eight times.

Still, I don’t suppose the losing team at today’s game with have to bear the scorn that one college football coach suffered at the hands of the alumni after a few losing seasons and a particularly embarrassing loss to their traditional rival.   He received a text the next day which read, THE NEXT BUS OUT OF TOWN LEAVES IN AN HOUR.  BE UNDER IT!

Obviously, that is not the kind of message we who believe ought to be sending one another.  Throwing one another under the bus is behavior best left alone.

God commands us to do just the opposite, to encourage and build each other up.  Church families are functional families when we put each other in a greater priority one another than ourselves.

Love is to be the chief motive for this behavior, but in this passage Paul offers another powerful motive.  Jesus is coming again.  He will appear at any time and He wants to find His people following His commands.  Since His coming can happen at any time, we want to be ready NOW.

  1. Somebody’s going to be surprised. (1-3)

But it wasn’t going to be the Thessalonians.  They understood the TIMES and DATES.  Paul had confidence that they didn’t “need” a reminder.  He knew they were looking forward to the Second Coming of Jesus and were preparing for it.  The words he chose have particular meaning: TIMES meant indefinite chronological eras, like a king who was currently reigning.  When would his reign end?  Who knew?  DATES to us would refer to appointments on our calendars, but in the Greek, it was “opportune moments.”

Paul was sure the believers in Thessalonica had spiritual maturity to see the signs of the times and take advantage of opportune moments as they occurred.  This is the same kind of message expressed in Hebrews 10:25: we are to increase our encouragement of one another as we SEE THE DAY APPROACHING.

The expression THE DAY OF THE LORD references the Second Coming of Jesus.  The phrase is primarily found in the Old Testament; it appears just five times in the New Testament.  In the Old Testament, it looks ahead to the Messiah; to His overthrow of God’s enemies, the persecutors of His people, and the establishing of His eternal kingdom on earth.  Sound familiar?

The Jews believed there were two TIMES that divided human history.  The present, evil age would come to an end when the Messiah appeared and a new, golden age would replace it.  This concept carried over into the New Testament writers (understandably; it was written mostly by Jews) who saw Jesus as the Messiah and associated the DAY OF THE LORD with the Second Coming of Jesus.  (As – for example – Paul does here.)

Though we’ve been warned, it will happen suddenly.  The warning is in advance, but not immediately before.  For example, there will be no countdown, like on New Year’s Eve.

Paul uses an image of suddenness that will catch some surprised and unprepared: Jesus’ Second Coming will be like “a thief in the night.”  The emphasis here is on suddenness, not on illegality or stealth. His Second Coming will begin the Day of Judgment, the ultimate legal proceeding, judging the entire human race.  His Second Coming will not be stealthy, it will be obvious and every person, world-wide, will know who He is and why He has come.  Those who are prepared will react with praise.  Those who are unprepared will react with horror.  We are to wake each morning and live each day as if it were our last because there are two immanent and sudden events: death and the Second Coming.

The other part of the THIEF image is that even though one doesn’t usually know when a thief will come, one can prepare for him in the daylight and in advance.  For example, in our time, we can do things to our homes to deter and discourage thievery.  From something simple like locking our doors to something complex like a security alarm, we can do stuff to protect ourselves.  Americans are expected to spend more than 35 billion dollars on home security in 2017!

This illustrates preparedness without knowing the moment will occur.  That is how we think about the Second Coming.  We will not be surprised that it happens because we have been preparing for the moment every day of our life.

  1. Somebody’s going to be prepared.

Paul contrasts those who are prepared with those who are unprepared for the Second Coming.

Prepared (Believers)       Unprepared (Unbelievers)

Children o/t Light.                        Belonging to the Darkness.

– Know & accept the truth.       – Reject the truth.

– Do good.                                       – Do evil.

Children of the Day.                     Belonging to the Night.

– Good reputation,                          – Bad reputation, based

based on godly char.                       sinful character.

– Things are seen.                            – Things are hidden.

Alert.                                                  Asleep and drunk.

– Accurate view of self.                   – Purposely ignorant of self.

– High moral ambition.                   – Low/no moral ambition.

– Spiritual sensitivity.                     – Worldly sensitivity.

Self-controlled.                              Drunk.

– Practices self-denial.                    – Practices self-indulgence.

– Priorities in order.                          – Disordered priorities.

– Takes responsibility.                      – Makes excuses.

Those who are prepared exercise their preparations daily.  Prepared people put on spiritual armor (8).  In our passage, the armor pieces listed are the BREASTPLATE OF FAITH AND LOVE and the HELMET OF THE HOPE OF SALVATION.  See Ephesians 6 for a more complete use of this imagery.  Why armor?  Because God wants to protect us from the enemy’s attacks and help us to stand on the day of trial.

Prepared people encourage each other in order to build up our shared faith (11).  There’s an entire message to be had there!

Finally, let us claim the promises to the prepared.  First, GOD DID NOT APPOINT US TO SUFFER WRATH BUT TO RECEIVE SALVATION (v. 9).  Second, whether we are AWAKE OR ASLEEP (alive or dead) WE MAY LIVE TOGETHER WITH HIM (10).  Eternal life is the prize awaiting the prepared.

We don’t all like surprises, do we?  They frequently they end up blowing up in the face of the person plotting the surprise.  For example, in May of last year, college student McKenna Pilling’s mom wanted to surprise her by breaking into her dorm room and laying on the bed. She got into the room, laid down on the bed and took a selfie.  She texted this picture to her daughter with the text, “Guess where I am.  Where are you?”

Her daughter tweeted back, “Don’t tell me you are in the wrong dorm room.”  It was then that her mother realized she’d broken into the wrong room.

McKenna later wrote, “She came to surprise me from New York City to help clean out my dorm and apparently walked in the wrong dorm.  No one was in there so she laid down for five minutes in the wrong bed and decided to send me a picture as a surprise.”

McKenna’s tweet has been retweeted a total of over 13,000 times and favorited over 28,000 times.   In this information age, news of our failed surprises can become world-wide news!

As bad as that was, it is a much more serious fail to be caught unprepared for the second coming of Jesus.  By accepting Him as Savior and living for Him as Lord can you avoid the worst surprise ever; being unprepared for the Savior’s appearing.  There will be worse consequences to that surprise than world-wide embarrassment.