return to the main player
Return to the Main Player

No Clever Tricks

1 Thessalonians 2:1–6
Program

Some people think that when you serve God, He’ll make your path clear and effortless. The apostle Paul’s experience suggests otherwise. On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg examines Paul's journey to discover how he persevered in his mission despite adversity.

From the Sermon

No Clever Tricks

1 Thessalonians 2:1–6 Sermon Includes Transcript 36:36 ID: 1762

The Reality of Grief

The Reality of Grief

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

Grief is “a life-shaking sorrow over loss. Grief tears life to shreds; it shakes one from top to bottom. It pulls him loose; he comes apart at the seams. Grief is truly nothing less than a life-shattering loss.”[1] You may know this experience all too well. I remember its first intrusion into my life when I was a teenager and my mother died. Nothing could ever be quite as it had been before.

You do not have to live long as a believer to discover that faith does not insulate us from grief and the fear of it. Paul wrote about the near-death experience of his friend Epaphroditus: “Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow” (Philippians 2:27). The thought of losing Epaphroditus broke Paul’s heart. He understood that death was not the end, but he also recognized that in experiencing loss, or even in the prospect of that, there is true sorrow.

Grief is hard because something has been lost, and certain joys are now irretrievably gone. But we also know that grief is a reality to which Scripture plainly speaks—a reality that will one day be redeemed by a far greater joy. And we know that grief is a reality with which our Savior is personally acquainted. As Jesus stood at the grave of His friend Lazarus, He—the second Person of the Trinity—grieved with those who had gathered there. Though He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He still wept because He was sincerely sad. The mystery in this scene is that Jesus so identified with our humanity that He shed genuine tears at the loss of His beloved friend.

Although the Bible introduces us to the reality of Christ’s victory over death and the grave, it doesn’t call us to some kind of glossy, heartless triumphalism. Rather, as Alec Motyer writes, “tears are proper for believers—indeed they should be all the more copious, for Christians are more sensitively aware of every emotion, whether of joy or sorrow, than those who have known nothing of the softening and enlivening grace of God.”[2]

The fact that our loved ones who died in Christ are now with Him lightens but does not remove the anguish of loss and loneliness. We continue to long for the day when such pain will have ceased. Until that day comes, we can find comfort in knowing that Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) as we look to Him as our example, as we see that He is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), and as we look to Him for our eternity. Knowing this is what enables grief and hope to coexist in our hearts.

Questions for Thought

How is God calling me to think differently?

How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?

What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?

Further Reading

I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

1“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;1 believe also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?2 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4And you know the way to where I am going.”3 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.4 From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Open in Bible
Footnotes
1 14:1 Or You believe in God
2 14:2 Or In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you
3 14:4 Some manuscripts Where I am going you know, and the way you know
4 14:7 Or If you know me, you will know my Father also, or If you have known me, you will know my Father also
Topics: Grief Sorrow
Footnotes
1 Jay E. Adams, Shepherding God’s Flock: A Handbook on Pastoral Ministry, Counseling, and Leadership (Zondervan, 1975), p 136.
2 J. Alec Motyer, The Message of Philippians, The Bible Speaks Today (IVP Academic, 1984), p 90.

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotionals by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, 2022, The Good Book Company.

Lie Low Before the Throne

Lie Low Before the Throne

To us, O Lord, belongs open shame … Because we have sinned against you.

A deep sense and clear view of sin, its dreadfulness, and the punishment that it deserves should make us lie low before the throne. We have sinned as Christians. It is sad that it should be so. We have been favored, and yet we have been ungrateful; privileged beyond most, but we have not brought forth fruit in proportion. Who is there, although he may have been engaged in the Christian warfare for years, who will not blush when he looks back upon the past? As for our days before we were born again, may they be forgiven and forgotten; but since then, though we have not sinned as before, yet we have sinned against light and against love—light that has really penetrated our minds, and love in which we have rejoiced.

The sin of a pardoned soul is an atrocity! An unpardoned sinner sins cheaply compared with the sin of one of God's elect, who has had communion with Christ and leaned upon Him for his comfort. Look at David! Many will talk of his sin, but I ask you to look at his repentance and hear his broken bones as each one of them moans out its mournful confession! Consider his tears as they fall upon the ground, and the deep sighs with which he accompanies the softened music of his harp!

We have strayed: Let us, therefore, seek the spirit of penitence. Look again at Peter! We often speak of how he denied Christ. Remember, it is written, "He wept bitterly." Do we have no denials of our Lord to be lamented with tears? These sins of ours, before and after conversion, would consign us to the place of inextinguishable fire if it were not for God's sovereign mercy, which snatched us like sticks from the fire.

My soul, bow down under a sense of your natural sinfulness, and worship your God. Admire the grace that saves you—the mercy that spares you—the love that pardons you!

Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2003, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org. Used by Truth For Life with written permission.

Daily Bible Reading for June 14

Deuteronomy 19, Psalm 106, Isaiah 46, Revelation 16

Laws Concerning Cities of Refuge

1“When the Lord your God cuts off the nations whose land the Lord your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses, 2you shall set apart three cities for yourselves in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess. 3You shall measure the distances1 and divide into three parts the area of the land that the Lord your God gives you as a possession, so that any manslayer can flee to them.

4“This is the provision for the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past—5as when someone goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down a tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live, 6lest the avenger of blood in hot anger pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and strike him fatally, though the man did not deserve to die, since he had not hated his neighbor in the past. 7Therefore I command you, You shall set apart three cities. 8And if the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land that he promised to give to your fathers—9provided you are careful to keep all this commandment, which I command you today, by loving the Lord your God and by walking ever in his ways—then you shall add three other cities to these three, 10lest innocent blood be shed in your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, and so the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.

11“But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities, 12then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die. 13Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood2 from Israel, so that it may be well with you.

Property Boundaries

14“You shall not move your neighbor's landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.

Laws Concerning Witnesses

15“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil3 from your midst. 20And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Open in Bible
Footnotes
1 19:3 Hebrew road
2 19:13 Or the blood of the innocent
3 19:19 Or evil person

Give Thanks to the Lord, for He Is Good

1Praise the Lord!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever!

2Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,

or declare all his praise?

3Blessed are they who observe justice,

who do righteousness at all times!

4Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;

help me when you save them,1

5that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,

that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,

that I may glory with your inheritance.

6Both we and our fathers have sinned;

we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.

7Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,

did not consider your wondrous works;

they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,

but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.

8Yet he saved them for his name's sake,

that he might make known his mighty power.

9He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,

and he led them through the deep as through a desert.

10So he saved them from the hand of the foe

and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.

11And the waters covered their adversaries;

not one of them was left.

12Then they believed his words;

they sang his praise.

13But they soon forgot his works;

they did not wait for his counsel.

14But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,

and put God to the test in the desert;

15he gave them what they asked,

but sent a wasting disease among them.

16When men in the camp were jealous of Moses

and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord,

17the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,

and covered the company of Abiram.

18Fire also broke out in their company;

the flame burned up the wicked.

19They made a calf in Horeb

and worshiped a metal image.

20They exchanged the glory of God2

for the image of an ox that eats grass.

21They forgot God, their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22wondrous works in the land of Ham,

and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

23Therefore he said he would destroy them—

had not Moses, his chosen one,

stood in the breach before him,

to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

24Then they despised the pleasant land,

having no faith in his promise.

25They murmured in their tents,

and did not obey the voice of the Lord.

26Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them

that he would make them fall in the wilderness,

27and would make their offspring fall among the nations,

scattering them among the lands.

28Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,

and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;

29they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,

and a plague broke out among them.

30Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,

and the plague was stayed.

31And that was counted to him as righteousness

from generation to generation forever.

32They angered him at the waters of Meribah,

and it went ill with Moses on their account,

33for they made his spirit bitter,3

and he spoke rashly with his lips.

34They did not destroy the peoples,

as the Lord commanded them,

35but they mixed with the nations

and learned to do as they did.

36They served their idols,

which became a snare to them.

37They sacrificed their sons

and their daughters to the demons;

38they poured out innocent blood,

the blood of their sons and daughters,

whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,

and the land was polluted with blood.

39Thus they became unclean by their acts,

and played the whore in their deeds.

40Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,

and he abhorred his heritage;

41he gave them into the hand of the nations,

so that those who hated them ruled over them.

42Their enemies oppressed them,

and they were brought into subjection under their power.

43Many times he delivered them,

but they were rebellious in their purposes

and were brought low through their iniquity.

44Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,

when he heard their cry.

45For their sake he remembered his covenant,

and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

46He caused them to be pitied

by all those who held them captive.

47Save us, O Lord our God,

and gather us from among the nations,

that we may give thanks to your holy name

and glory in your praise.

48Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

from everlasting to everlasting!

And let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the Lord!

Open in Bible
Footnotes
1 106:4 Or Remember me, O Lord, with the favor you show to your people; help me with your salvation
2 106:20 Hebrew exchanged their glory
3 106:33 Or they rebelled against God's Spirit

The Idols of Babylon and the One True God

1Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;

their idols are on beasts and livestock;

these things you carry are borne

as burdens on weary beasts.

2They stoop; they bow down together;

they cannot save the burden,

but themselves go into captivity.

3“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,

all the remnant of the house of Israel,

who have been borne by me from before your birth,

carried from the womb;

4even to your old age I am he,

and to gray hairs I will carry you.

I have made, and I will bear;

I will carry and will save.

5“To whom will you liken me and make me equal,

and compare me, that we may be alike?

6Those who lavish gold from the purse,

and weigh out silver in the scales,

hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;

then they fall down and worship!

7They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,

they set it in its place, and it stands there;

it cannot move from its place.

If one cries to it, it does not answer

or save him from his trouble.

8“Remember this and stand firm,

recall it to mind, you transgressors,

9remember the former things of old;

for I am God, and there is no other;

I am God, and there is none like me,

10declaring the end from the beginning

and from ancient times things not yet done,

saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,

and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

11calling a bird of prey from the east,

the man of my counsel from a far country.

I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;

I have purposed, and I will do it.

12“Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,

you who are far from righteousness:

13I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,

and my salvation will not delay;

I will put salvation in Zion,

for Israel my glory.”

Open in Bible

The Seven Bowls of God's Wrath

1Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.”

2So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

3The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.

4The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5And I heard the angel in charge of the waters1 say,

“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,

for you brought these judgments.

6For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,

and you have given them blood to drink.

It is what they deserve!”

7And I heard the altar saying,

“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,

true and just are your judgments!”

8The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. 9They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed2 the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

10The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.

12The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. 14For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 15(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) 16And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

The Seventh Bowl

17The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings,3 peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds4 each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.

Open in Bible
Footnotes
1 16:5 Greek angel of the waters
2 16:9 Greek blasphemed; also verses 11, 21
3 16:18 Or voices, or sounds
4 16:21 Greek a talent in weight
Today’s Bible Reading material is taken from McCheyne Bible reading plan and used by Truth For Life with permission. Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Text provided by the Crossway Bibles Web Service.

Get the Program, Devotional, and Bible Reading Plan delivered daily right to your inbox.