Singing In The Rain

Let’s take one last look at Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.  This is our ninth lesson.  I rather hate to leave these letters.  I have had much to apply, have you?  I’ve also wondered what happened to these new, embattled Christians. Did they learn to work hard and put aside their culture’s sexual freedoms?  Did they plant churches in today’s Bulgaria and Turkey and Czechoslavokia?  Did more of them have to die for the preservation of the gospel?  Did they sing amidst their troubles?  Did they give up when Jesus did not come back right away?  Hmmm. Speculation is entertaining, but not nearly as profitable as applying the simple life model and doctrine of the Second Coming that Paul wrote about in these two letters.

Paul recommends self-control in both of these letters.  Singing is one way to get control of your emotions when problems besiege you.   “Singing In the Rain;”  “Pick Yourself Up, Brush Yourself Off and Start all Over Again” are familiar refrains from America’s Songbook that speak to the power of singing to change our mood.  Good words put to a quality melody also help us to think about great themes of the Bible and redirect our emotions when we are under stress.   Paul advised these Greek Christians, who were also under stress, to think about the Second Coming of Christ (I Thess. 4:13-5:11).  They were to remember God’s special love illustrated to them by His actions upon His return when they would be given rest on the Judgment Day (2 Thess. 7-8).

I found it hard to find familiar songs about the Second Coming.  And when I thought about it, I realized how seldom we have sung about this theme in my adult years.

Charles Wesley wrote a poem about the Second Coming of Christ in the 1700’s.  I don’t know if it was put to music then, but, in the 1800’s, it was put to a tune written by Henry Smart.  It is the same melody we sing at Christmas, “Angels, from the Realms of Glory.”  You probably know this melody or can find it, so try to sing Wesley’s words below to it.

“Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending.”

Lo, He comes with clouds descending,  Once for favored sinners slain; Thousand thousand saints attending  Swell the triumph of His train:  Alleluia, alleluia! God appears on earth to reign.

 

Every eye shall now behold Him, Robed in splendor’s majesty;  Those who set at naught and sold Him, Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,  Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, Shall the true Messiah see.

 

Now the Savior, long expected, See, in solemn pomp appear;  All who have not Him rejected  Now shall meet Him in the air;  Alleluia, alleluia!  See the day of God appear.

 

Yea, amen, let all adore Thee,  High on Thine eternal throne;  Savior, take the power and glory,  Claim the kingdom for Thine own:  Oh, come quickly, oh, come quickly!  Everlasting God, come down.

Notice that as you sing the last verse, you are really praying, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Wesley’s words help us to visualize our King on his throne, and then, suddenly coming down to earth.    If we have only this one song, it is enough to lift our spirits as we think about the Second Coming of Christ in the midst of all our current troubles and the emotions they generate.  You might find that you have to sing it several times to get yourself out of the dumps.  The idea is to experience joy, thankfulness, comfort, anticipation, and awe instead of fear and worry and depression.  After all, Paul was a “warm-hearted Calvinist” who believed that doctrine should never be separated from the emotional response  generated through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Another great melody with words about the Second Coming is “The Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.”  George Handel was a contemporary of Charles Wesley.  Some consider “The Messiah” to be the greatest praise and worship composition ever written.  I have never forgotten standing, as a teenager, to sing this “Hallelujah Chorus” with full orchestra and choir. “The Messiah” is all over the internet so you can find the words and music easily. Part 2 and 3 are not as familiar, but the words and music focus our attention on the majestic wonders of Christ’s return. (Billy Ray Hearn’s production with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir is available on Amazon.)

What a delightful way to get control of ourselves and enjoy the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all (2 Thessalonians 3:18).   …. the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22).

Comments are usually closed because I want the focus to be on the Bible passage. But, I think we might all profit by a good discussion now.  So I am going to open our comments for awhile to give you an opportunity to tell others what is on your mind.

Thinking Under Stress

Let’s look again at Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians.

Doesn’t it seem odd that Paul’s advice was to focus on the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ instead of on implementing the practical advice he had given?   They had a lot of life difficulties accented by persecution for their Christianity.  Planting a church in the Greek-Roman world was trouble enough!

What are your troubles today?  I am in some of the most trying days of my life. Widowhood is not for sissies! I yearn for a simple “how to survive” booklet and some comfort or escape from my grief.  It takes a lot of self-discipline to focus on anything other than our immediate comfort or survival when we have a lot of problems.  Emotions rage. And they can control us if we aren’t careful.

I used to teach a government class to high school seniors.  The students were to examine current political issues and come to a logical conclusion as to the best way to solve problems like abortion, helping the poor, foreign relations etc.  The first step was to identify their emotions about the issue and put them up on a shelf until they gathered the facts.  My, it was hard for seventeen year olds to do!

Try putting your emotional responses to your troubles up on a shelf for awhile.  Take hold of yourself.  Exert self-discipline.  Paul was not talking about denial of emotions here, but an acknowledgement of the ones resulting from their problems and a refusal to be ruled by them.  Our culture today celebrates emotion, and looks at it as okay to be ruled by our emotional responses.  Paul recommended a different approach. He advised them to think about the Second Coming of Christ and let that stir their emotions in a different direction.

Gather The Facts

The first step is to think about what we know to be true about the Second Coming and to avoid all speculation.

Jesus will give Christians rewards.  There will be a public awards ceremony (I Thess. 1:19).  Paul believed his work with this church plant was worthy of a reward.   What might you receive a crown for?  Perhaps it will be for  your patience and long-suffering with a difficult family member?  Maybe it will be for standing up against an abusive spouse who was emotionally  or physically damaging you or your children. Perhaps it will warm your heart to visualize yourself getting a crown.  If you are in the middle of crying about something else, it will encourage you to think about receiving a crown when Jesus comes back.  Try it.

Jesus will declare you to be without blame and holy as He presents you to the Father (I Thess. 3:13).  When we are having troubles, it is easy to sin.  We lose our tempers. The stress is so uncomfortable we seek ways to feel better: misusing alcohol or drugs or sugar or sex.  When the One who never sinned presents you to the Father, He will cover your sins with His righteousness so you will not be embarrassed or rejected (I Thess. 5:23-24).  Are you burdened by your own sinful reactions to your stresses? Here is an appropriate way to seek comfort and relief:  imagine yourself being presented to the Father clothed in pure white linen. You will be accepted into His courts with praise, to live in His presence forever.

The Anti-Christ and all who are lawless will be blown away by the coming of the Lord Jesus (2Thessalonians 2:7-11).  They will not be presented blameless before the Father nor live in His presence.  How can thinking about this help you now?  Is there a person in your family who treats you with disregard, harshness, or who, if you are honest, shows no love, joy, peace, patience, or self-control?  They appear to consider themselves above God’s commandments; they are unable to break their habit patterns of treating you badly or with disregard.  They are ruled by their own agenda or emotional reactions to their problems.  Do these habitual patterns make it appear they are in danger of being blown away in that last day?  Then, get control of yourself. Pray for them that their minds may be enlighten with the truth and they may repent of their sinful attitudes and escape the condemnation which will surely come to all who are lawless and have rejected the Lord Jesus as their Savior.   As you pray for them over time, watch your own emotions soften to forgiveness and compassion. But, when their actions continue, you may have to take a firm stand against their abuse by bringing in outside help or even separating  yourself or your children from them.

Paul is not denying our emotional make-up.  But he is recommending self-control and right thinking.  And then an enjoyment of the warmed heart these generate.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word (2Thessalonians 2:16-17).