READ: 1 Thessalonians 3
THINK: The believers in Thessalonica were experiencing severe trials and persecution. In the midst of those difficulties Paul, who had first preached Christ to them, had to escape quickly from Thessalonica and continue his ministry elsewhere. One of the key points of Paul’s letter is made in this chapter: Though believers may be experiencing trouble, and though Paul had to leave quickly, he did not leave them without help. God had not abandoned them. They could rely on the Lord in the midst of their trials and troubles. The truth is: we can all expect difficulties in this life, but God has provided resources to give us strength.
And Paul, while he is being encouraging in this passage, shows at least eight ways that we can be strengthened in these verses. We can be strengthened by submitting to God’s will (verses 1-5). We can be strengthened by focusing on the work God is doing within us (1-5). We can be strengthened by the example of others (6-8). We can be strengthened by giving God thanks (9). We can be strengthened by rejoicing in the Lord (9). We can be strengthened through the ministry of prayer (10). We can be strengthened through continuous growth (10-12). We can be strengthened by looking forward to Christ’s return (12-13).
When you go through difficulties, you can lean on all of these things to find hope and strength. But there is a catch. Every one of them requires something of you. During the storms of life it takes trust, humility, discipline, and commitment to engage these things. When times are hard it’s not always simple to just say, “Lord, I rejoice in you!” or “Lord, thanks so much!” or, especially, “Lord, I just submit myself entirely to what you want and not what I want.” But this is what we must do if we are going to grow through our trials and not be tempted in some way by the tempter, as Paul puts it.
I encourage all of you, above all else in difficult times, to always trust that God is sovereign and that his will is perfect. Even if it’s hard to submit, in the end it’s much better. In the words of Oswald Chambers, “As long as you maintain your own personal interests and ambitions, you cannot be completely aligned or identified with God’s interests. This can only be accomplished by giving up all of your personal plans once and for all, and by allowing God to take you directly into His purpose for the world. … I must learn that the purpose of my life belongs to God, not me. God is using me from His great personal perspective, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him. I should never say, “Lord, this causes me such heartache.” To talk that way makes me a stumbling block. When I stop telling God what I want, He can freely work His will in me without any hindrance. He can crush me, exalt me, or do anything else He chooses. He simply asks me to have absolute faith in Him and His goodness. Self-pity is of the devil, and if I wallow in it I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world. Doing this creates for me my own cozy “world within the world,” and God will not be allowed to move me from it because of my fear of being “frost- bitten.”
PRAY: Thank God for providing strength and hope during the difficult seasons of life. Ask him to help you completely surrender yourself to his will.