Finally, then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk) that you excel still more. 1 Thessalonians 4:1
Brother Gearl’s’ message Sunday had an underlying theme: Don’t give up. When we determine not to give up he taught us what to do instead: keep doing what you’re doing.
Stories about persistence in life are numerous, none more legendary than Winston Churchill’s speech in 1941 when he spoke to the Harrow School in London. “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give in. Never give in. Never give in. Never give in,” he told the students. Every fall a favorite Peanuts cartoon shows Lucy convincing Charlie Brown that she can be trusted not to jerk the football up so Charlie Brown can kick it. Charlie Brown always believes her and tries to kick it. Lucy always jerks it away and Charlie Brown falls down. But every fall Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the ball. He never gives up.
Brother Gearl taught us three important steps we can take to live on target when we determine not to give up. “Keep doing what you’re doing,” he said. All of us face situations that frustrate us and knock us down. The world jerks our football away, we swing and miss, and take hard falls. But Brother Gearl reminded us that persistence pays off. “Keep trusting, keep obeying, keep yielding, keep praying, keep studying God’s word,” he said. “Trust in God that He has the power to transform your life.”
Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 is a prime example of God’s faithfulness to his persistent, praying children. A widow kept coming to an unjust judge who did not fear God or respect man. All she wanted was justice and protection from her adversary. She hounded the unjust judge relentlessly. He rejected her for awhile, but finally said, “…because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out!” v.5. Jesus responded, “now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?” So, if you’re praying about something and don’t think God will answer you, keep praying. Don’t give up. Keep doing what you’re doing. Persistence pays.
Brother Gearl also reminded us to remember why we’re excelling more: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel (body) in sanctification and honor.” When you boil it down, God’s goal for our lives is to look like Jesus. God wants to chip away everything about us that doesn’t look like Jesus. Sometimes that’s painful. But it’s necessary if we’re going to allow Jesus to live His life through us. The Thessalonians lived in a permissive society, just like we live in a permissive society. In a permissive society people do what they want when they want without regard to how their behavior impacts others. People don’t want other people telling them what to do.
A third thing Brother Gearl encouraged us to do was to keep doing what will define our lives. Obedience is the key to defining our lives in such a way to live on target. “The more you do what God wants you to do,” Gearl said, “the more you will define your life by God’s direction and plan for your life.
And if we’re going to live on target we must commit ourselves to doing all three: keep doing what we’re doing, remember why we’re doing it, and keep doing the things that will define our lives on God’s terms. We must be willing to commit to obey God and apply to our lives what we learn from Him by following His truth. To remain committed requires discipline. The discipline Paul suggests in verse 11 is to make it our ambition, “to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you.”
The result, Brother Gearl said, is that we will impact others for Christ and experience fulfillment in our own lives.