On September 11th, 2001, I came to the office to begin my day. I took off my jacket and went to say hi to Ellen Bahr, our administrator at the time. She said, “Hey, come look at this. A plane has hit one of the Twin Towers in NYC.” And that changed the day. We were glued to the TV. Another plane, of course, smoke, fire and then the unexpected happened. One after another, each of the Towers completely collapsed into a pile of rubble. No one saw that coming.
In the subsequent years engineers have researched the question of why the Towers self destructed like that. Why didn’t they just fall over or stand but be burned on the upper floors.
And the answer has to do with the way the buildings were made. They weren’t victims of faulty construction. It was a sequence of catastrophic problems. First, the planes hit the building. They were relatively full of jet fuel, so they immediately caught fire. The fire didn’t burn hot enough to melt the steel in the building, but it did soften it. To the point where the steel columns in the upper floors began to bend outward. At that point the huge clips that held up the floors popped out of range and the upper floors fell down on the floor just below. Those clips couldn’t hold the weight of the 10 floors that fell on top of each other and so the floors collapsed on each other all the way down. They gained momentum and were travelling downward at about 124 mph at the bottom.
The reason that the towers collapsed was the breakdown of their structure, the system of columns and supports that held the buildings together.
Structure is important. In any building and in any life. Let’s read our text for the day.
2 Thessalonians 3.6-12:
“But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.”
Paul was dealing with the issue of personal structure.
In this case there were some folks who just didn’t work and create their own income, carry their own weight. Apparently this may have had something to do with a bad understanding of end times. They thought, “Hey, if Jesus is coming back any time now, why work? We’ve got some folks who seem to have plenty and give food away to the poor. And they won’t let us go hungry, so why not live off what they have and when Jesus comes it won’t really matter.” Maybe they were more than a little inclined to not work anyway, if they didn’t have to, so this sounded kinda spiritual.
These folks were capable of working, he isn’t talking about the disabled, handicapped. They had work skills, training, but they were non productive and even detrimental to the world around them.
They were hanging out, playing video games, binging on TV shows. When they were hungry they ate whatever they could guilt out of others. And they got into other people’s business and commented. And gossiped. They had no real structure to their lives or their days and became a problem. They were unhealthy Christians.
Paul said to withdraw from those kind of folks. The Greek word there means to unfurl your sail and get out of there. Because that kind of influence was catching and a problem.
Race car driver, Mario Andretti, once said “Don’t look at the wall. Your car goes where your eyes go.” That’s true especially at high speeds.
So first of all…
1. Get a vision for structure and stability.
Paul and his team provided an example. They actually worked a tent-making career at the times they weren’t preaching or teaching or discipling. They worked. Even though they rightfully could have accepted support from the folks they were ministering to. They worked night and day, presumably doing quality work, “to make ourselves an example to you”.
So in other words, whether you were raised to have good structure in your life or not, you can sail past the bad examples and focus on the good examples of people who live with healthy structure. The Bible is full of both and life is full of both. But get a vision of what that looks like by who you hang out with.
2. Take an objective look at your life. And include the comments of others that you trust.
Ask yourself the question: Does my life have a productive, helpful framework? In all the arenas of life.
You know one thermometer of disorder or a lack of life giving structure;
Do you have any consistent problems? Here’s verse 10 again.
“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
That didn’t mean that they were to starve someone into submission. It meant that they weren’t to enable someone, yes, but if you’re hungry all the time and eating everyone else’s food, you’ve got an issue.
Are you late all the time? Are you always using the credit card to pay bills and the debt is rising? Are you losing job after job? Those might be indicators.
3. Get your eyes off everyone else’s life and tend to your own.
Provide for yourself and your family. Work hard. Control your spending. Give to the Lord and to legit needs. Grow in your skill set.
But plainly that didn’t mean that you shouldn’t be sensitive to other people’s needs. In Philippians 2.3-4,
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
But what if you have structure in spades and it’s not life giving structure? It’s containing, restricting you.
4. Look out for traditions that don’t serve a purpose any longer.
People, businesses, churches and governments; have things they do that just don’t make sense anymore. But this is how we’ve always done it. That’s often the picture of structure that is no longer life giving.