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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Scripture Sunday, Week 7


This is the seventh part of an ongoing series going through 1 Thessalonians. The first part can be found here.

"In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain. But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 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. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?"
- 1 Thessalonians 3:4-9

Okay so jumping right back into where we left off last week! "In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know." So yes, let's jump back into the fact that persecution should be expected and not take us by surprise... I admit though I'm not very good at expecting it myself. Often we get a "that's only for the Bible" or "that's only for people doing something incredible in far off lands" or "that's only for the really, really righteous; you're not so prideful as to think that's you, are you?" All of that is baloney. The truth of the matter is, if you really follow Christ it will come. This is not to make you feel bad if you're not facing persecution. Though you should ask yourself am I really following Christ? But if the answer is yes don't let anyone make you doubt it! If you are, and you're not facing it now, Paul is saying here it will come. So just know that something will happen and don't let it shake your faith. It will come.

"For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain." This shows that the persecutions test Christians' faith. I also admit I cringe when I read that the tempter tempting them might mean the apostles' labors were in vain. My heart thinks on times when I have given into temptation and prays that my failings are forgiven. But of course in other letters (and maybe later in this one?) hope is given to those who do stumble, that they should get up again and hope in Christ. Still Jesus himself talks about how some are like seeds in good soil and how others wither and die, and the truth is how can we know who is who? Paul is saying his fear was that if persecuted they would fall away (meaning their roots of faith were never deep enough to begin with)...

"But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you." However, yay, the Thessalonians stay true to Christ! Timothy is bringing news of them and Paul is letting them know he's heard and been encouraged by Timothy's report and the tidings of the Thessalonians of friendship and love.

"Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith." I think this is important to note for you and I, when we face our own battles. Here Paul and Silvanus have been facing distress and persecution themselves and they're saying when they heard of how the Thessalonians also faced the same thing and stood firm, it encouraged them to persist as well. One way God has given us our brothers and sisters in Christ is so that we can encourage one another not only through direct ways (like coming to someone's aid or extending a loving bit of friendship, perhaps in the form of a letter like this one) but also in example. When we are struggling with the trials we face we can often learn from Christians who have gone there before us, or who are going through the same thing now. Or even who are facing worse, definitely showing us that if they can stand firm, so can we!

"For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?" And this is the capstone of this week, reflecting on the relationship believers can have with each other. Deep enough love that it can cause us to "really live" when we see our brethren really living for Christ. Deep enough love that our hearts overflow with gratitude to God because of the joy knowing them can bring to our hearts.

The next part, week 8, can be found here.

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