Have you ever noticed that in much of Paul’s letter to early Christians, he doesn’t pray for their suffering or persecution to go away, but for God to work in it?
In 1 & 2 Thessalonians Paul encouraged the church to continue to grow in their faith and love for one another in the midst of their persecution for following Jesus. He didn’t ask God to take the persecution away, but quite the opposite. He asked that God will “enable you to live a life worthy of His call,” and “give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NLT)
Why does Paul pray this instead of asking God to take the persecution away?
So that “the name of our Lord Jesus may be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with Him.” (2 Thessalonians 1:12 NLT)
We are so quick to pray our hardships away. We don’t like discomfort. We don’t like it so much that we will do anything to avoid it — hence the rampant addictions to drugs, alcohol, social media, video games, gambling, pornography, buying stuff we don’t need, food, entertainment, etc.
We like to numb. To unplug. To turn-off.
And the reality is, it’s okay to not like persecution, suffering, or discomfort. It might be odd if someone did!
BUT what if there was something valuable to be found in the midst of these trials?
What if the very thing stealing your comfort is the very thing that could lead you to the everlasting Comforter?
Paul knew this as he wrote to the Thessalonians. The church decided to turn away from their old life and follow Jesus; to live a life pleasing to God. And with this new pursuit came persecution from their communities, families, and friends. It also meant dying to self.
They no longer lived for the short pleasures of the flesh, but lived for eternal pleasure that awaited them in Heaven.
Paul reminded the Thessalonians that Jesus was coming back soon and although things were tough, by God’s power they had the ability to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)
They developed an eternal perspective. They knew that that although they may experience momentary affliction, something more valuable was happening inside of them.
They had a stronger, deeper faith in the finished work of Jesus and by the power of His spirit, they could get through anything.
They looked and lived more like Him.
They were being prepared for their eternal home of no more pain, sorrow, or suffering. But joy forevermore with Him.
It’s only by pain that we know pleasure.
It’s only by sorrow that we know joy.
It’s only by death that we know life.
It’s only by darkness that we know light.
I don’t know what trial you might be facing today (we’re all facing them at some point), but I do know that God is not a life waster, but a LIFE GIVER.
He makes beauty from ashes.
He brings to life that which was once dead.
And He will redeem all things to something more glorious than before.
If you’ll follow Him, He will make everything in your life beautiful in its time. How do I know? Because…
“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:24