13 August 2018

1 Thessalonians 3
Psalm 88

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 3:7-8

‘Trials and suffering are part and parcel of life.’ This might not be a popular uplifting seminar topic but there is no getting away from it. At some time or times in our lives we will face difficulties. (Illness, bereavement, loneliness, disability, discrimination or financial pressures are some of the possibilities).

Christians in many parts of the world have faced severe persecution down through the centuries and still do today in places such as Iraq, Syria, North Korea and Pakistan. In South Africa, we do not face persecution from our government, but we grieve at the hardness of hearts of family, friends, fellow workers or students who invariably will not want to hear the Good News and respond with disbelief, apathy or even ridicule.

Paul’s time in Thessalonica was brief but fruitful. A new church was planted after a small number of people came to faith in Jesus following Paul’s witness to them. Sadly, trouble soon started after this and Paul, forced to flee, was forbidden to enter the city again. In Athens, the apostle’s greatest concern for the new Christians in Thessalonica was that they should go the distance in their faith and that they would be growing spiritually. He knew, from much personal experience, that trouble was never far away from those who believed and proclaimed the Good News. Indeed he wrote ‘we are destined for such trouble’.

Yet, despite the troubles Paul is hugely encouraged. Why? It is because the new believers are standing firm in spite of persecution. Their fruit is seen in their expressions of ‘faith and love’. (verse 6) Paul is so blessed by their faithfulness to the gospel that he is given a new lease of life, a new zest for living the Christian life.

Application: As God’s people it is wise to be prepared to endure trials. Consider how we encourage others when we are faithful and fruitful in the face of difficulties.