Some people strive to live a life void of difficulty and suffering. Others choose to numb themselves from the pain of life. My father, who struggled with addiction for a big portion of his life, eventually came to the conclusion that life is not meant to be lived without pain. Pain is unavoidable but through pain, we experience some of our greatest joys.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 the Apostle Paul gives some encouragement by explaining that the follower of Jesus would “suffer affliction” as a result of their faith.
Faith in God is paired with a theology of suffering.
Jesus told His disciples, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18 “…If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” John 15:20
The Apostle Paul also instructed Timothy to be alert. ““Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” 2 Timothy 2:12
Not the greatest slogan when attempting to invite people to join you at church. If you had a tough week and questioned where God was during your struggle to live a godly life, He was right there with you.
So where’s the encouragement?? Our encouragement comes from the fact that God gives us a way to stand under affliction, to endure it, and to grow stronger through it.
God is never absent in your suffering because affliction is the result of our identification with Him. He has overcome the world and as we share in his suffering we will share in his glory! Paul tells the Thessalonians, “we are destined for this.”
Paul was very concerned about the spiritual health of the church in Thessalonica. Therefore, he sent Timothy to check on and encourage them and explains why; “that no one be moved by these afflictions.” It is possible for someone who is walking with God to also walk away from Him.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus explains that in each case where the word is “received with joy,” the individual had a choice. Jesus taught that some who received it subsequently allowed the concerns and attractions of the world to draw them away.
Jesus and Paul clearly understood that faith must be established and be built-up. Salvation is not a one and done experience. Faith that stops growing becomes an opportunity for the enemy to draw us away.
Here are three things that can draw us away from faith building;
- Persecution. Pressure to live godly.
- Temptation. Surrender to my desires.
- Pleasure. Pursuit of the path of least resistance.
Look at the following verses.
“21for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.” 1 Timothy 6:21
You can be swayed away from the truth by accepting false teaching.
“19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith,” 1 Timothy 1:19
We have a responsibility to hold on to faith, and a good conscience. There were those living by the truth but their faith was “shipwrecked” when truth and lifestyle did not align.
In each of the warnings, the Apostle Paul refers to those who were devout followers of Jesus but walked away. Paul’s concern for the believers in Thessalonica was real. It was a sacrifice for him to part with Timothy, but he did so out of concern for those he labored for.
- No one can pull you out of God’s hand.
- No sin repented will take you out of God’s hand.
- Salvation and faith building are a choice.
God has given you His complete Word, the Old and New Testament. He has placed the Holy Spirit inside those who have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for sin. We have every resource needed to endure affliction and persecution and to cross the finish line one day and hear those words, “well done good and faithful servant!”