Suffering, Faith, and Doubt

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 – Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, 2 and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, 3 that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. 4 For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know. 5 For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.

It’s astounding to me how fragile our faith can be. Sometimes circumstances, trials, and difficulties can cause a shaking in the foundations of our faith and trust in the Lord. Paul’s words to the church at Thessalonica are incredibly revealing. Paul was separated from the church but was deeply concerned that the state of their faith might have been in jeopardy. To ensure that he could stave off any attack of the enemy, he sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage them. What strikes me in this passage is the source of the shaking. Paul and his ministry team experienced great persecution and difficulty as they carried the gospel through the known world (see 2 Corinthians 11:26).

Upon hearing of Paul’s afflictions, it seems as though the church was experiencing a shaking of their faith. Perhaps they were asking questions like, “How could a loving God allow his servants to suffer so greatly?” Or, “If those terrible things are happening to Paul, would God allow them to happen to us?” These frightening and sobering questions were causing some to doubt the goodness, love, and even the reality of God. Paul’s response does not feed their doubt or give credibility to their insecurities. Instead, he addresses their questions and concerns with courage and truth.

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Shining in every arena

”You are the light of the world… You are the salt of the earth.” Jesus wasn’t making suggestions when He spoke these truths to His disciples. In this dark world, Christians must make their presence known through their love for each other, love for the world, and love for the truth. I’ve been guilty at times of only shining in the arenas that I’m comfortable shining in. It’s comfortable for me to shine in the church, at home, and with my neighbors and friends. The place I’ve struggled the most to shine is in the political arena (honest confession). Somehow many of our minds have been conditioned to believe that Christ’s Kingdom work is disconnected from the realm of politics.

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The Faith to Say No

We all understand that God’s economy runs on the currency of faith. Faith brings us into right relationship with God (Ephesians 2:8-9), sustains us as we wait for God’s promises that have yet to be seen or experienced (Hebrews 11:3), and allows us to be part of the supernatural things that only God can do (Matthew 17:20). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). When we consider what it means to walk in faith, many times we think about what God is calling us to say yes to. “Here I am Lord, send me!” This is the common cry of faith. We say things like, “Lord I’ll go where you want me to go, I’ll give what you want me to give, I’ll say YES!” We should think in these terms, for God frequently calls us to do things that are beyond us. For these things we need the faith to say yes.

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Our Gaps. God’s Grace.

The concept of grace is of the utmost importance, not only for the Christian, but for the human. Grace is paramount in understanding the gospel. The fact that grace is associated with God indicates that it is in His nature to extend supernatural favor to undeserving people. God predicated the incarnation of Christ, the cross, the hope of our salvation, and so much more on the concept of grace.  Grace imparts forgiveness where judgement was deserved, makes possible friendship with God where enmity once existed, and enables us to live, both physically and spiritually. God’s grace is at the core of everything you are.

So as the main theme of Paul’s writings, you would think that the subject of grace would be found everywhere in the gospels, scattered throughout the teachings of Jesus. A small  study quickly provides an intriguing insight… Jesus never uses the word grace. Not even once. Why is this? I believe the answer is found in John 1, the only place in the gospel we find the word grace used.

John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

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Today Matters

Have you ever become discouraged while thinking about the future? You end up asking yourself questions like, “How will I ever amount to anything significant?” Or, “How I will I ever achieve goals that seem so far away and impossible?” If so, you’re not alone.

Many times we become so consumed about our future that we get stuck in our present. The enemy will seek to use our discouragement as a distraction to effectively hinder our forward progress. We will hear things like, “What’s the point of trying anyway?”

This is when we must remember that the future is not ours to manage, but the present is ours to steward. Jesus would not have us worry about tomorrow, but simply walk by faith in the moment. It takes a great weight off one’s shoulders when they are able to surrender their future to Jesus.

Jesus is the best manager of your future.

So take a load off.

Rest in the good intentions of Jesus.

Always remember, the best thing you can do for your tomorrow is follow Jesus today.

Matthew 6:34 – Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.