By Brooke Holt
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:1-3
Getting mail is not nearly as much fun as it used to be. Typically, I find sales flyers, bills, and catalogs. Many of us use to receive personal letters. Do you remember those blessed days? The occasional letter I now receive is so meaningful to me. I love the handwritten notes as they convey a different warmth and love from the sender.
Paul begins his letter to the church in Thessalonica with such warmth and love. You may have thought he knew this church for many years and had invested much time there by his greeting. Yet, Paul did not plan his trip to Thessalonica, and the time he spent there was quite short - just three Sundays (see Acts 17:2). When he entered the city, Paul did what he always did in a new town. He headed straight for the synagogue where he would begin to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While he began in the synagogue, it was not only the Jews who heard and believed the Gospel message but also God-fearing Greeks and even pagan-idol worshippers. Hearts and minds were converted when they heard the Gospel message.
Christian conversions are typically exciting and wonderful to behold, but the Jewish people living in Thessalonica responded quite differently. They resented Paul’s use of the synagogue, and they were not keen on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Opposing both Paul and his message, they drove him out of town just three weeks after he had arrived.
Thankfully, the Gospel works powerfully and quickly. In just three weeks, Paul was able to constitute a church by teaching the words of Jesus Christ. After such a quick departure, Paul worried about the new congregation and sent Timothy to check on them. Timothy reported back the church continued to meet, and he found it full of faith, hope, and love. Paul’s heart rejoiced to hear such a good report, and he wrote this letter to encourage the young church to persevere in faith despite all the opposition they faced.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to encourage them. What a gift! Who encourages you and whom do you encourage? The Thessalonians were facing opposition and persecution in the new faith. It is likely you face similar challenges in our world today. Just as this young church needed to be encouraged in the faith and reminded of the goodness of God, so do Christians need to spur one another in faith today.
Surrounding yourself with people who encourage you in your Christian faith, encourage you to persevere through trials, to remember who God is and what he has done for you is vital. Just as you need encouragement, so do your Christian brothers and sisters. Take a few minutes today and write a hand-written note to encourage someone (or send a text/email if you are lacking time). Better yet, make an appointment to have lunch or coffee. Take the time to receive and speak the words of life.
Consider the company you keep on a regular basis. Are you being encouraged in your faith, and are you encouraging others? More than ever, we need to spur one another on to faithfulness, hope, and love. 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. Locals do not understand the fuss. 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. 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.
See all of our Advent Devotionals/Studies here.
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