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.
Our state is hurting. From north to south, its deep wounds are gushing blood of fire and bullets. It desperately needs the healing touch of God; it needs a new heart. From where can such a healing touch come? Through whom will Jesus bring His restoring gospel? There is only one entity on earth that can be the delivery vehicle for such a thing–The Church of Jesus Christ.
I believe the more we as Christians become committed to fulfilling our mandate and mission to preach the gospel and make disciples, the less we will have to turn to the government to curb the evil actions brought forth from the human heart. Change people’s hearts, and you will need less gun control. Change people’s hearts, and abortion clinics will shut down due to lack of business. Change people’s hearts, and their identity in Christ will speak louder than their raging sexual confusion. Change people’s hearts, and our schools will become safer places for our children’s hearts and minds. Change people’s hearts, and the ”least of these” will be compassionately served. Sometimes I wonder if we as Christians in America hide behind political curtains because if we were exposed and naked, having to stand on our own, we would have to face how weak, apathetic, selfish, and powerless we’ve become. It’s easier to blame a political party than it is to pick up the torch of Christ and offer oneself as a living sacrifice to carry that torch courageously into the darkness.
Church, please don’t misunderstand me; as long as there is wickedness in the world, we will need government; and until Christ returns, there will always be wickedness in the world. Government is an institution that has been established by God to punish evil and praise good (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2). As citizens of heaven and temporary citizens of this nation, we should do all we can to ensure that the government we elect is an ethical, moral, and upright one. As best we can in this broken system, we should vote our biblical worldview, run for political offices, and be active, godly citizens. In the process of doing these things, we must be careful not to redirect our trust from God to government or forfeit our true spiritual identity and call! It is the church, not the government that is called to be, ”The pillar and ground of the truth.” Let’s arise, take up our crosses, and live radical faith-filled lives. We, as Christ’s ambassadors, have a divinely granted opportunity here and now to change our communities one life at a time.
I’m sorry to break it to you, but you are going to fail. At some point in your Christian life you will struggle with making the wise choice, and even occasionally do the right thing the wrong way. While this isn’t a life pattern that the Lord wants us to fall into, it’s a reality that we will find ourselves dealing with from time to time.
For those of us who love Jesus, this bothers us. To some degree this is healthy because it forces us to learn from our mistakes. But, we must be careful to never let a healthy discontentment over our failures turn into paralyzing discouragement.
The word discouragement contains the word courage. To be encouraged means to gain courage and fortitude to move forward. To be discouraged means to loose courage and become faint of heart. This is why Jesus exhorts us, “Be of good courage!”
“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” -Jesus
The encouragement of Christ wants to propel you forward into God’s plan.
The discouragement of the enemy wants to force you backwards into the mistakes of the past.
If discouragement has gripped you, take heart friend. If you’ve purposefully sinned, repent. If you’ve innocently failed, get up. If you’ve encountered obstacles, keep climbing. God is not hindered by your failure and wants to encourage you today!
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 – May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.