THURSDAY, MAY 7
SCRIPTURE: 1 THESSALONIANS overview
Author: Jeremy Witt
Prayer update: Brandon’s numbers continue to get better. Improvement is the word that was given last night by his dad. He is not out of the woods, but improvement is the key. Prayers are helping and very appreciated by all the family and close friends. You can also follow my Facebook page for more consistent updates as they are given.
The letter was one of Paul’s earliest letters. Most think Paul wrote this around 51 AD as an encouragement to the church in Thessalonika. If you compare it to Galatians, the contrast would be easily seen. Paul loved this church and sought to help it grow and mature as mentioned yesterday. There are two key topics in 1 Thessalonians. First is faithfulness to the LORD. Second is watchfulness for the LORD. These are two subjects that we need to follow today. Even in uncertainty and social distancing, be faithful to the LORD, and also to be watching for the LORD. What do I mean by this? Watching for where God is at work. Watching for when God asks us to do something for Him. Watching and listening for Him to speak as well as watching and listening for others that you might disciple, encourage, and walk with on our spiritual journey. When Jesus was born, people were not looking for God. It had been 100’s of years since anyone had heard from God. Many people today are not watching because they (we) are consumed with our crazy circumstances. Some are too consumed with conspiracy theories rather than the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. Some are living in fear to be watching and listening. Some are too consumed with the economy. Just as the people then and just as people now, we can come up with excuses as to why, but do any excuses really matter when it comes to the LORD? (This applies to me even more because I have been using excuses to God, and He has called me out on them.)
The church in Thessalonika was young but thriving. They were seeking to follow the LORD even under persecution because of their faith. Paul sought to encourage the church and help them stay the course. Paul knew how easy it is under those circumstances to lose focus, to follow the world’s ways, or to be led by false ideas as we see in so many of his other letters. We know in Acts 3:3-4 and Acts 17:5 that the church welcomed the message of salvation eagerly and then faced persecution from both Jews and Gentiles.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned in my journey with God is that when we are being faithful and sharing Jesus, we are or will be attacked by Satan and his imps. When we seek to submit to God, align with His will and ways, we have a bullseye on our back. This young church had a bullseye as well, and Paul was seeking for them to remain faithful and watchful. In this letter, Paul also focused on hope and our future with the LORD. Paul pointed to eternity with Jesus and His return, but he also focused on in this letter on the subject of being prepared. Preparing for Christ’s return, but also preparing for Satan to attack. No one knows when Christ will return, so we must be faithful, obedient, and live holy, moral lives so that when Jesus does return, we are ready.
In chapter one, Paul gives some amazing encouragement to this little church. Timothy brought the report to Paul, and reported of their (verse 3), faithful work, loving deeds, and enduring hope! In verse 4, we know that God has chosen you with the power of the Holy Spirit! In verse 7, Paul reports that others have heard of your example! Then in verse 8, Paul spoke of how the Gospel and God’s Word are ringing out or sounding forth from you! What a testimony that is!
One thing that stands out to me as in so many other New Testament letters is that suffering will come for Christ-followers. It may be suffering, or come in way of persecution. I have lived my entire life in the church. I have seen firsthand how pastors are treated by being the son of the “preacher.” Now I am one because God called me to be one. I have not faced suffering in the same way as those in other countries. I have not faced persecution as those elsewhere, but I have seen it somewhat. Following Jesus has a cost. It is not easy. You have to give up things. You have to give up or neglect things you may enjoy. Jesus suffered and was persecuted. The apostles were, and we will be. Why am I saying this? Because I can see on the horizon how this is coming to America. Politicians are setting up laws to keep people from singing in church. Standards are being made that seek to eliminate faith. I am not trying to stir you up, but what I am seeking to do is to help Christ-followers to be faithful and to be watchful like Paul did in this letter.
When we face suffering and persecution, may we respond like these in this church did. May we consider it pure joy as it says in James when we face trials. May we honor the LORD and may we share the HOPE found only in Jesus Christ. May we speak truth boldly but with compassion. As we go, and as face hurdles, may we look to Jesus, act like Jesus, speak like Jesus, and stay focused on Him until we see Him with our own eyes. What a day that will be!!!!