At Bright Hope World we encourage people to become reliant on God and to strive to be economically self-sustaining. However, we constantly run into worldviews that trap people in poverty.
Despite the fact that people might be sitting on fertile land, with plenty of water and an abundance of time, they can't see what they can do. The lies they have learned from their culture trap them in poverty and they don't have enough to eat! The way out for them requires confrontation of the lies and learning to think in new ways. They need a fresh perspective.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:9 and 10 we come across some striking words about just this type of radical world-view transformation.
"For they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell 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 rescues us from the coming wrath.”
One is prompted to wonder why Paul uses the adjectives “living and true” to describe God’s character, and what waiting “for his Son from heaven” looks like?
Paul could have deployed many adjectives to describe God to these people. But “living and true” were the most pertinent, especially as his letter was written into a predominantly pagan culture and received by a diverse church demographic. Their world churned with ideas and diversity. You can read more about it in Acts 17.
Idolatry underpinned the majority culture of the day. Paul asserts that God is “living and true” because the ubiquitous idols are ‘dead and lying’. A great contrast is cast here between God and all other gods. Embedded in this is the need for a radical decision and transformation.
As new believers, they had to grapple with the many lies embedded in their society and the culture of death and defeat that grew out of that. They had been saved from this. The rampant lies and lifestyles were being confronted by the character of this ‘new God’ they were discovering and the radically different world-view they were embracing.
This new and diverse community was learning all of this in a vacuum created by at least three factors: Paul’s team was only there for a few weeks before they were forced to flee; they were being forced to endure constant persecution, and; they were “waiting for Jesus” who would rescue them. False teaching invaded this “waiting”
and there are frequent references to this in both First and Second Thessalonians.
Challenging diversity, pagan beliefs, persecution and a vacuum of truth hardly seem like a great environment in which to survive, let alone flourish. But flourish they did, becoming a church that others sought to emulate.
It’s hard to escape comparisons with our time and culture. Fake news, multiple personal ‘truths’, the enacting of death- producing laws, blatant false teaching in many churches and pressure from our pagan culture have created for us a similar kind of pluralistic cauldron. How do we thrive in this environment? How do we maintain a Christian world-view? What does joy look like as we live under the pressure?
The answer from these verses comes in two parts. The first is the awareness that our primary context is not our human culture or society, whatever that might be. We’re waiting for the Son from heaven, the rescuer from wrath. Our primary culture is that of a completely different world with revealed values that are confronting and radical.
The second is found in the radical nature of the turn described. We turn away from lies and death and we turn to the living and true God. This means we perceive the lies within our society and reject them. We cut the ties that drag us into believing the lies and from being drawn into death. At the same time, we see and understand the reality of God’s nature and throw ourselves into his character. He becomes our source, our food, our drink, our life. And we wait, secure in him, no matter what rages around us, for however long it takes. We don’t just turn away from idols, we turn towards the living and true God.
This is, of course, entirely radical. It is a different way of viewing the world that swirls around us. That’s why encouragement is so important in this book, even in the face of death.
What are the lies embedded in our culture right now? How are you building resilience and faith into your people in the face of these lies? What are you doing to instil courage into your people?
KEVIN HONORE | DAY 25, GC3 DAILY PRAYER GUIDE
Kevin and Helen have two adult children and three grandchildren. They are originally from Levin but now live on the Whangaparaoa Peninsular. They are part of the leadership team at Orewa Community Church and have been involved in missions since the early 80s. They spent almost nine years in Zambia and now serve with Bright Hope World. Their passion is to see the lost come into a transforming relationship with God and for the poor to have their world views reshaped by the Good News. They spend many months each year finding and developing partnerships in the majority world.