Soon Enough

1 Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, 3 so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. 4 For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain (1 Thessalonians 3).

Paul’s message included nothing of what we know today as the false Prosperity Gospel preached today. Even while imploring them to follow Jesus, Paul “kept telling” them that “affliction” for doing so would also follow. The truth is, in the intro to a popular evangelistic presentation: “God has a wonderful plan for your life”—His plan often includes persecution and trouble and affliction of all sorts.

Peter wrote much the same thing in 1 Peter 2:21—“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps….” The sincere believer does not have to go looking for persecution—it will find him soon enough.

Lord, help us This Day to be found faithful in the midst of any persecution that might come our way. Amen.

A Providential Pawn

18 For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us (1 Thessalonians 2).

To “hinder” is to “impede one’s course by cutting into its way.” If Satan cannot make us change our course in doing God’s will, he will at least try to impede us from continuing on it. We must remember, however, that when he seems to be succeeding, he is still only a providential pawn in the hands of God’s great plan.

There is no doubt in my mind that Paul, who was bent on following and doing God’s will, eventually arrived in Rome exactly when he was supposed to. Satan’s success in hindering Paul does not mean Paul’s defeat in following God. It was just another part of God’s plan in defeating Satan.

Lord, thank You for Your wonderful providence! Help us This Day to rest in You, no matter how much our plans in doing Your will seem to be hindered. Amen.

Spiritual Bonds

17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face .… 19 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy (1 Thessalonians 2).

The phrase “having been taken away” comes from one word with a general meaning of “being torn away from” in the sense of an unwanted separation. More specifically, it can mean “to bereave of a parent or parents” or to make someone an orphan. In other words, Paul is implying that being separated from the Thessalonians makes him feel like a parent who has been torn away from his children, making them orphans.

The bond between parent and child is one of the strongest bonds that exists—if not the strongest. For a small child such a bond is everything, and supplies meaning, identity, and security. This is why Paul says they are his “hope … joy … crown of exultation … glory and joy.” What a beautiful picture of a bond between believers!

Lord, thank You for the deep spiritual bond we can have with other believers. Help us This Day not to take them for granted. Amen.

The Worst Surprise

14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, 15 who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, 16 hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost (1 Thessalonians 2).

The most shocked people in the world will be those who thought they were serving God, but in the end (at death—when it really counts and there is no remedy) learned they were not. It is they who will experience the worst surprise of all time. All manner of religions will be among them, for it may not be just to so-called Christians to whom Jesus will say: “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

Even before the end of their life has come, it is as though God’s “wrath has come upon them” already. They are an accursed lot, with no hope—heaven and earth simply waiting for their inevitable demise. These who were “not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men,” will experience the full weight of divine displeasure and hostility upon them.

Lord, thank You for your grace in our lives, that never will experience Your wrath. Help us This Day to warn others about it. Amen.

Good Listeners

13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2).

The Thessalonians “received the word of God” into their lives when they heard it, which is exactly why it “performs its work” in believers. For they understand that even though the words are coming from the mouth of a person, it is God Himself who is really speaking to them.

People who truly want to hear a word from God from a faithful preacher come with open hearts and minds. They listen neither with skepticism nor critique, believing God uses messengers to impart truth that will change them from within. People are often praised for being “good listeners” when it comes to hearing others vent. How about being the same when listening to a preacher preach?

Lord, thank You for sending us faithful preachers who bring us Your Word. Help us This Day to be prepared to receive Your Word from any messenger You send our way. Amen.

A Gospel Attitude

9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; 11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2).

To back up his previous statement concerning him and his companions’ genuine devotion to them, Paul reminds them of three things: 1) the work ethic they demonstrated (probably tent-making) “so as not to be a [financial] burden” on them; and 2) the godly example they showed by their “devout and upright and blameless” behavior; and 3) the “fatherly” way in which they “exhorted and encouraged and implored” them to “walk in a manner worthy” of their calling as God’s children.

Here it is in a nutshell: Paul always made his ministry about the Lord—not about himself. No personal sacrifice or hardship or burden was too great to see the gospel grow in the hearts of people, for to him that was all that mattered. One can only wonder what would happen in our communities if every Christian demonstrated this same attitude!

Lord, help us This Day to have a gospel attitude. Amen.

Gospel-Affection

7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us (1 Thessalonians 2).

Presentation of the good news of Jesus Christ must involve more than mere words, as important as they are. This is because the story of the One who gave His life as a sacrifice, demands a sacrifice from the lives of those who tell it. For this is the proof that the gospel is really true, in that it makes its bearers like Jesus.

Those who share the gospel in truth really care about the ones to whom they are sharing it. They not only “impart” the gospel, but also their very lives. The people with whom they share the gospel become as “dear” to them as the gospel itself.

Lord, help us This Day to have a gospel-affection for others. Amen.

1 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. 3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. 5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness— 6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority (1 Thessalonians 2).

The word “vain” can also be translated “empty-handed.” Rather than coming to the Thessalonians empty-handed, indeed Paul and his companions came full of “boldness” in their speech. Where did this boldness come from? First, from the Source of the gospel, which is God Himself, who had “entrusted” them with it and given them “authority” as “apostles of Christ” Himself.

They also found their boldness in the message itself, which is such exceeding good news, that it made persecution or applause or personal gain pale in comparison. They did not care if the Thessalonians treated them the same way the Philippians had treated them (beating him and Silas and putting them in stocks in a jail), they did not care whether they esteemed them, and they did not care if they gave them financial support. And because of this disposition, Paul and his companions did not resort to “flattering speech,” but instead spoke the gospel free from “error” and “impurity” and “deceit.”   

Lord, help us This Day to be bold gospel-bearers. Amen.

Rescued!

10 … that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1).

Over 240 years ago Paul Revere made his famous ride to warn everyone that the British were coming. Indeed, the full wrath of the British empire was bearing down on the American colonies, and they needed to be prepared for a fight. Long before and until this very moment, an infinitely greater wrath has been poised and ready to fall upon all mankind who remain in rebellion against the King of kings and Lord of lords.

The irony is, the same One who will ride on a white horse to release His fury against sin and unbelief (Revelation 6:2), has already come in peace, riding on a donkey to deliver Himself up for our sins on the cross. The truth is this: “He who rescues us from the wrath to come” is the same One who has already borne it and who will also one day wield it.

Lord, thank You for rescuing us from Your wrath! Help us This Day to be Your gospel messengers to those yet needing to be rescued. Amen.

Reputation

9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead … (1 Thessalonians 1).

“All the believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (vs. 7) were talking about these extraordinary believers in Thessaloniki—how they received Paul and his band of brothers with such open arms, as if they were all long lost brothers of their own; how they listened to their teaching and changed their whole way of life to serve “the living and true God” rather than the lifeless idols they had grown up with; and how they were looking daily for the imminent return of their Savior.

Now, in whatever city or town or community you live, imagine if you will, people from hundreds of miles away who are talking about you in this way. What if you had the same reputation as these ancient believers from Thessaloniki? What if you were not just “the talk of the town”—but the talk of the country? or the state? or the talk of the South? or North? or West? or East?

Lord, help us to live This Day in such a way as to gain a Thessalonian kind of reputation.  Amen.