“We have nothing to fear but fear itself!”  President Roosevelt spoke these words at his inaugural in 1933.  That’s the picture on the left.  In some ways, there was a lot to fear.  America was in the grips of the Great Depression.  Unemployment was over 20%, and they didn’t have unemployment insurance or social security or medicare to help people out. Instead they had breadlines and soup kitchens and families living in tents.  On top of all this, the government was out of money too.  They couldn’t even make payroll for government employees.  If you were one of those people standing in a breadline, and heard that, “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself”, would you believe it?  Would you keep your savings in a bank, trusting that your bank wouldn’t fail like many others had?  Would you keep on working, trusting that your boss would be able to pay you at the end of the week?  Would you buy a new house or a new car, trusting that the factory, where you were working, wouldn’t go out of business?  FDR’s point was that if everyone stopped spending and curled up in fear, everything they feared would happen.  On the other hand, if everyone would just keep a “can-do” spirit and work together, eventually America would get through the depression, and things would get back to normal.   

In 1933 America’s big problem was the economy.  Today America’s big problem is spiritual.  In 1933 people worried about having enough to eat or a place to sleep. Today Christians worry about where our country is headed morally, and will our churches survive, and will our children and grandchildren someday be worshipping in them?  We’re actually not the first people to live through a spiritual depression.  The Thessalonians were in one too.  This morning, let’s hear wht Paul said to lift them up.  Using the words of FDR: Believers Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself.  1.  We have every reason to rejoice.  2.  We have many reasons to pray.  3.  God is faithful to His Word.  
1.  We have every reason to rejoice
Our text reads: May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and in his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and establish you in every good work and word. – II Thessalonians 2:16-17   The Thessalonians had “eternal encouragement.”  Paul explained what that was in the previous verse.  He said that even before the creation of the world, God chose them to be His believers.  The Thessalonians had to agree with that.  The culture they were living in was like Hollywood on steroids, and some of them were very much a part of that.  Others wanted to be, but they were too poor.  Also, just like everyone else, the Thessalonians were dead to fearing, loving, and trusting God, even if they did know who God was.

All of that changed!  Now the Thessalonians trusted that God’s Son had become their brother, and had lived a holy life for them, and paid for their sins on the cross.  God gave them faith to believe this through Paul’s preaching, and so through faith, they knew they were heirs of heaven.  But there was a lot more to this than just having a nice eternity to look forward after they died.  Each day while on earth they enjoyed the Spirit’s gifts of love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.  Also, because they possessed these gifts, they enjoyed closeness with each other.  And while all of them still needed forgiveness, they knew they would be perfected when Jesus returned, and together they would ascend together to meet Jesus in the air.
Because the Thessalonians had this “good hope”, every other blessing they had in their life was like the icing on the cake, and they had a lot of icing!  God was working in all things for their good, and whenever they looked back on their life, they could see that.  Also, maybe they didn’t have as much money as some of their neighbors did.  But everyday God was giving them their daily bread.  Daily bread, according to Luther includes ...everything we need for our bodily welfare, such as food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, money and goods, a godly spouse, godly children, godly workers, godly and faithful leaders, good government, good weather, peace and order, health, a good name, good friends, faithful neighbors and the like – Luther’s Small Catechism – Explanation to the Fourth Petition.  

How many things on this list do you have?  Well, that may depend on where we’re at in our life, or in what ways God is testing your faith right now.  But as far as this life is concerned, like the Thessalonians, we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.  Rather, we have every reason to rejoice. Still, that doesn’t mean we don’t also have many reasons to pray.
2. We have many reasons to pray
We read on in our text: Finally, brothers, pray for us so that the word of the Lord may spread quickly and be glorified just as it was among you.  Pray also that we may be rescued from evil and wicked people. For not everyone has faith. – II Thessalonians 3:1-2   It’s good to pray for whatever is included in “daily bread.”  Jesus tells us to, and it’s through prayer that Jesus guides and blesses our work, so that when it’s all said and done, we do have everything we need for our bodies a day at a time.  Our spiritual needs are far more important.  

Here in America our faith is being attacked from every which direction.  Sometimes it’s through political correctness; sometimes it’s through government regulations, or through the media, or science, or just plain wicked people.  Another enemy of our faith are churches that teach that the Bible is NOT the inspired Word of God, which means if people want to say marriage can be between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, God’s okay with that.  Now, God does love all people the same.  But He loves us through Christ, and by the Spirit and the Word, He is ever leading us in the paths of His righteousness, not man’s.  

So, why aren’t we seeing this more?  Or, let me put it another way, in the face of all these dangers to faith, how can Christianity win?  Well, don’t be afraid.  Instead pray!  Pray as Moses did in our Old Testament reading.  Pray as Jesus did in our Gospel reading.  Pray that God raise up a new generation of pastors and teachers, who will preach and teach His Word just as it is without adding or subtracting a thing.   

God has done that for my generation.  Back in the early 70s, our professors often told us that they feared for the future of our church because of the way our class acted. Thankfully our professors kept praying for us, and somewhere along the way through God’s Word we grew up.  One of my friends is the district president in Minnesota.  Another is the president of our seminary.  Still another you can hear preach every week at Time of Grace ministries.  Everything good my class became was by God’s grace alone!  And so, let’s not fear for the church’s future, no matter what’s going on with society.  Instead let’s keep praying for the next generation of pastors and teachers.  Let’s also pray for their hearers!  May the Lord open their hearts and minds to receive His Word, and cause it to take root, so they believe it and live it. Especially, here, let’s pray for our academy staff and for the parents they will be witnessing to and for their children, so that New Hope may be a light of love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control, that many more may also be drawn to the Gospel.  

But now don’t expect any of this to be easy.  In all my years of ministry, it seems every time a new family is brought to the word, within a month or so Satan will attack them spiritually.  He’ll look for ways to make their lives harder, or to lure them away from hearing God’s Word.  But Satan is also working on people, who’ve been around for a long time.  And so, as we think about our church family or about our own family, just like Paul did in Thessalonica, we have many reasons to pray!  Yet at the same time we have nothing to fear, but fear itself because:
3. God is faithful to His Word.
Our text reads: The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and protect you from the Evil One. We also have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we are telling you. May the Lord continue to direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s patient endurance. – II Thessalonians 3:3-5   How could Paul believe this about the Thessalonians given their background and the culture they were living in?   Or, how can I, your pastor, believe this about all of you?  Or, how can you, parents, believe this about your children, because you know how they act sometimes and the temptations they’re facing?  Were Paul’s words here just wishful thinking?  

Paul was confident regarding the Thessalonians, He had witnessed the miracle of their coming to faith.  He also knew from God why they come to faith.  They had, because in eternity God chose them for faith.  Because of that, in time God brought Paul to their city.  Then God blessed what Paul said in their hearts, so that they believed it.  And now because God had gathered the Thessalonians around His Word, Paul knew that by that same word God would bring their faith to completion in heaven someday.  So, what did all of this do for Paul?  It inspired him to keep on preaching and teaching God’s Word to them, and then to pray for them every time He saw something that might hinder them from the Word.  

And now, how do you think the Thessalonians felt after Paul told them these things?  Well, keep in mind they were well aware of their sins and weaknesses, and they were well aware of all the dangers to their faith.   Yet when the Thessalonians heard that God loved them in eternity, and that God had planned and was working in all things to bring them safely home, they knew they had nothing to fear, but fear itself.  As a result, they could confidently go about their daily life, loving and serving the Lord, and loving and serving one another.  And by the way this is how Christianity eventually took over the entire Roman empire.  

A popular song in 1933 was “Happy Days Are Here Again.”  People then were looking forward to the great depression being over.  We are looking forward to a far happier day.  In the meanwhile, let’s not let Satan discourage us so that we give up and sit on our hands.  That’s what Satan wants!  Rather, be joyful, for we have every reason to rejoice!  Be alert, for we have many reasons to pray.  And be confident in all God gives us to do, for He is faithful to His Word.  And so, you see, this is real and true and just hopeful thinking: Believers have nothing to fear, but fear itself.  Amen.

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