Read His Words Before Ours!
As I sit savoring my tea, I recall learning about ancient trade routes in school. Of interest to me back then was The Tea Horse Road. Now I take particular interest in the most famous trade route linking ancient China to the Roman Empire, “The Silk Road.” It was for more than just trading silk, produce, leather, gold and grains; it also facilitated the exchange of knowledge, technology, arts and intellectual ideas.
Most importantly, it helped spread the Gospel. And Paul was one of the main “traders.”
I learned recently the Silk Road may have been instrumental in the spread of Black Death. How significant then that Paul was spreading the good news of “The Life,” Jesus Christ! (John 14:6)
In the church Paul planted in Thessalonica, there were a few Jews, “a large number of God-fearing Greeks, as well as a number of the leading women.” Paul wasn’t able to provide extensive teaching because the Jews from the synagogue threatened his team’s safety. So, the church sent Paul and Silas to Berea. (Acts 17:5-10) As a result, the new believers in Thessalonica were left . . . alone.
As newcomers to anything, our knowledge is limited and we need guidance. For example, if I don’t read the instructions for steeping time, I’ll brew bitter, nasty tea. Similarly, without experienced leaders present to offer instructions on how to live new life in Jesus, the church fell into discouragement and disarray due to persecution and bad theology. This made Paul’s two letters critical, because they instructed, corrected, and encouraged during his physical absence.
Discouragement. Troubles. Suffering. Even today, first-world Christians have a hard time believing we’ll endure such hardship. After all, we belong to Christ. Surely we should be exempt. Likely, these babes in the faith at Thessalonica thought and felt the same.
Here’s the rub. As a believer, suffering is certain. Jesus told us in John 16:33 to expect trouble in this world because we follow Him. Throughout his letters, Paul mentions the Thessalonians’ suffering and persecution, as well as his own. Consider Romans 8:35, which speaks of affliction, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and sword. Honestly, by itself, this list scares me a little.
But suffering is not the end of the story. Jesus completes His thought in John 16 by declaring He has overcome the world! Jesus suffered on the cross, but He rose victorious over sin and death.
For us, we endure “by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)
We become imitators of Christ through suffering. (1 Thessalonians 2:14)
We are “counted worthy of God’s kingdom” when we suffer for it. (2 Thessalonians 1:5)
In the end, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us,” Jesus. (Romans 8:37)
Yes, suffering is certain, but so is hope, for when we suffer well, we imitate Christ and become examples to others. In fact, Paul tells the Thessalonian church, “you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:7) This was especially significant for the Thessalonian church, because their position as a seaport, allowed influence to reach not only other believers, but also those still following other religions. Recognizing this immense opportunity for spreading the Gospel, Paul sent Timothy to encourage and instruct them. They needed the encouragement to continue to hold strong in their faith. But what about instruction?
Both Paul and Timothy gave instructions on how to live as believers. Thessalonians needed to be anchored in the truth of the gospel so they would not be deceived and influenced by false teaching, flawed doctrine, and a polytheistic culture. There were two particular points of instruction. One was how to live as they waited for their ultimate hope, Jesus, to return. The second was regarding the Day of the Lord (the return of Jesus).
Our hope is in Jesus’ return, for which we expectantly wait. But, like the Thessalonians, we frequently view waiting as passive. They had false teachers who convinced many the Lord’s return had already happened. So why continue preparing for the Lord’s return or live faithfully?
Paul corrected this lie. He said, until Jesus returns, believers are to not be lazy but instead, to love one another, “to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:10), to “stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, whether by what we said or what we wrote,” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) and to “stay awake and be self-controlled” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).
Sisters, we also need to wait expectantly for Jesus’ return, by engaging in active readiness, not just sitting around twiddling our thumbs. There won’t be time to get ready when He comes. (1 Thessalonians 5:2) We need to be ready!
It’s been over 2000 years since Jesus left earth. Let’s not become lazy in our wait for His glorious return. Instead, let us be humble, submissive, and honor His word, thereby experiencing His favor. (Isaiah 66:2) I encourage us to read Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians and determine how we will go about being ready for His return. How can we be traders of the gospel? Let’s each settle on actions through prayer and study and then live ready!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!