By Brooke Holt
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.” 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4
Many people believe the moment you turn your life over to the Lord, you will walk a carefree, peaceful life. Jesus came that you may have life and life abundant, but does that mean you will not have struggles or challenges? If this is truly a question in your heart or mind, consider the way of Jesus. Though he was the perfect Son of God, he was betrayed, falsely accused, severely beaten, and left to die the most painful and humiliating death. Does that sound like an easy life?
In Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica, he commends the believers there for their steadfastness and faith in all their persecutions and afflictions (verse 4). Paul did not say they were being punished or this should never happen. Instead, he commends them for how they are learning through these challenges and growing because of them. Paul knew the Christian life was not easy; his life was a prime example of faithfulness throughout every kind of affliction (see 2 Corinthians 11:16-33).
These believers in Thessalonica are models for us today. We live in unprecedented times in which afflictions abound. How do we, the disciples of Jesus Christ, respond to the challenges? Is faith growing abundantly in our churches (verse 3)? Is our love for one another increasing (verse 3)? Are we following this example of spiritual growth, or are we following the model of the world—division, anger, even hatred toward those who disagree with us? These are difficult times, yet they can also be times for spiritual renewal and growth.
Paul praised these believers for accepting the persecutions and afflictions in faith; they learned resilience and what it means to overcome. Is that what Paul would write to you today? Would he commend you for your response to the persecutions and afflictions, or would he challenge you to move back toward faith and embrace the opportunities for spiritual growth and refinement?
Jesus persevered all the way to death so that you could live in his abundant life. May you receive these words of Paul today. The Christian life is not easy, but it is good because God is good, and his rewards are great for the one who perseveres to the very end.
Are you persevering in your personal trials and challenges? Are you growing spiritually through these difficult times, or are you falling away from the Lord? How does Paul’s letter inspire you today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Advent is like celebrating a national holiday in a foreign land — like observing the 4th of July as an expatriate. We invite those around us to join the celebration, but they don’t see what all the fuss is about. Advent is equal parts cherishing and missing home. AND it’s a mix of loving this world while getting ready to leave it behind. This makes Advent the most human and most complex celebration we have. We are in good company - Isaiah the prophet, David the psalmist, Paul the apostle, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, all lived in one world and longed for the next. They loved this world and loved the world to come even more. In these 28 devotions in Face the Dawn, join them in wearing the paradox of Christianity- this world may be our home, but that world is HOME.
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