1 Thessalonians 3
Things are not easy for this newly planted Christian community in Thessalonica. Only a few short weeks after establishing the church, Paul is run out of the city. He agonizes over the fate of the new brothers and sisters in Christ he left behind. And not worried in a sense that they are in physical danger and harm – because he knows they are – but worried about their steadfastness; their souls.
Paul is worried that this present affliction will shake their faith; will cause them to retreat back to what is comfortable and acceptable in the corrupt culture they find themselves in.
“I hope they remember. God, please let them remember,” I imagine Paul praying on his calloused knees in refrain.
Praying they remember his words that suffering and affliction are part of the story. He told them time and again so they would not be surprised when it came; so they would know to hold fast to their faith.
No, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the tempter – the evil one, Satan – sits just on the edge of the sidelines, slithering closer, hissing in anticipation, waiting to pounce when the suffering comes. He knows we will be weak and let our guard down in the suffering. Unless…unless the opposite happens and we run to -- cling to -- Jesus. He wants to get there first. It is the age-old battle Satan knows he will ultimately lose, but for now, until Jesus returns, he still has some power and he isn’t about to waste one ounce of it.
Paul can no longer take the agony of the wondering and waiting so he sends Timothy for two purposes: to ESTABLISH and ENCOURAGE them in their faith. Because this is what we need in times of suffering and affliction. We need to know deep down in the depths of our soul that God is in control; that He is good; that He loves us.
The trials are part of the story and they have purpose. They teach us perseverance, compassion, deeper abiding, endurance, dependence on the One who holds it all in His hands. We need to establish and encourage our faith to press on through them. The end is coming and it will be worth it. It will be glorious.
Don’t be surprise or caught off guard, child of God, when suffering comes. Press on and lean in. Do the things you need to do to deepen and strengthen your faith in who God is. Let Him carry you through it with eyes and a heart wide open for every ounce of transforming that comes from it. Joy is coming in the morning.
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