“When will the Lord return?” “Are we living in the last days now?” These questions are being asked by many today because of the events going on in our world. In Luke 19, the Scriptures make it clear that Jesus came to “seek and to save” the lost. Then we are given the parable of the 10 servants where we are told to “occupy” until the nobleman returns. In other words, you and I are called to “engage” in His business until He comes, whenever that might be. The focus must continue to be on investing in the harvest by sowing His seed and watering it with every opportunity you have.
I Thessalonians 1 and 2 give us a great balance between working and waiting and what every church’s DNA should be. DNA has been described as “Divine Truth” (Embracing the Cross), “Nurturing Relationships” (Experiencing Community) and “Apostolic Mission” (Engaging the Culture). In I Thess. 1:3-4, Paul commends the followers of Christ for their faithful work, loving deeds and enduring hope. He gives us three steps to engaging in God’s business. Faithful works is believing in His truth and the power of the gospel. Loving deeds is belonging to a caring community that places others first. Enduring hope is blessing others.
The mission of every scriptural church is to bring the gospel to as many people as possible in their surrounding geography. Are you expanding your influence and impact by being imitators of Christ and by containing everything necessary to replicate New Testament DNA? In I Thess. 1:6-7 Paul commends these followers of the Way for imitating them and the Lord. Paul then states that they had become examples to others in their work of faith, labor of love and endurance of hope. They were not just waiting but were working by being fully engaged in the work into which the Lord calls every follower.
The followers had the right DNA to pass on, but so did the individual churches. In I Thess. 2:14, the churches were imitators of how every church is supposed to be engaged in His business. They were individual imitators, but they were also institutional imitators. Your DNA determines who you are and what you look like, and your church’s DNA determines who you are and what you are busy doing. If you look at the churches Paul planted, they all had very striking similarities. There was consistent biblical teaching (I Cor. 7:17), similar structures (Acts 14:23) and directions to do what they had demonstrated (Titus 1:5).
Paul makes it quite clear to them that they should “follow me as I follow Christ.” Every church will not look exactly the same, but it should have the same DNA. The church is always referred to as “she” (female) in the Scriptures. When a new church is planted, the sending church is the “mother” of her “daughter” congregation. The daughter will not look exactly like the mother and normally will have her own personality, but she should have the same DNA (Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships and Apostolic Mission). These churches continue the work the very first churches were involved in by carrying out His Great Commission.
Then in I Thess. 1:9-10, Paul makes the very clear point of working while we are waiting, “how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son…” (HCSB). Waiting is defined as sustained patient trust in the One you are waiting upon. It is not wasted time, but rather challenges, every authentic community of followers of Christ to be an expectant community while they are busy engaging in His business. Waiting on the Lord is not passive. It is an active engagement of life’s challenges within therevealed will of God as you hope for His deliverance. You must be obedient in doing what He has already told you to do.
Yes, sometimes God says wait and to hit the pause button until you know His direction. Here is a great thought on “occupying” until he comes from a friend of mine. “Just curious… I hear Christians say often, ‘we are living in the last days.’ I gotta say, that’s a huge statement to make and one I frankly don’t understand. Y’all realize the disciples who walked with Jesus thought He was coming back during their lifetime? He didn’t. The Bible is very clear that no one knows the hour of Christ’s return… only the Father.”
“May I suggest that instead of making statements that make us sound like we have crystal balls, we use Matt. 24:14 — “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.” — as our verse on this subject. If you want Christ to return soon, win people to Jesus! Go into all the world with the good news. Once we tell the whole world about Jesus, then the end will come. Friends, there is no need to try and read the crystal ball of Christ’s return. Tell people the only thing you know is that we are one day closer! Only Jesus knows that… and you don’t know more than Jesus!”
My goal in this article is not to defend or propose any eschatological viewpoint, but rather to call every church back to God’s intended DNA. That means “engaging” in His business until He comes, whenever that might be. May He find you faithful in taking the gospel to as many people as possible in your surrounding geography for which He has made you responsible. In I Thess. 2:2, Paul states, “As you know, we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel of God to you in spite of great opposition.”