As the persecution not only persisted but increased for the Church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote this second letter to comfort and encourage them. He exhorted them that in spite of all the hardship they were currently enduring, they needed to continue their good works…which evidenced their faith. For fundamentally, good works and faith go hand and hand to show not only who a person is but how they are to behave. Later in this letter, Paul used the motivating statement, “Stand firm!” Right now, that statement is something all Believers need to hear. Stand firm in the face of fear and anxiety. Stand firm in the face of danger and trouble. Stand firm in the face of hardship and tribulation. For our Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (II Thessalonians 3:3)
From the very start of this pandemic, I was encouraging friends across the country who were stuck at home to start a “Quarantine Ministry” using their gifts, talents, and passions. I’ve heard so many incredible stories of how the Lord has used them, despite being stuck at home, I thought I’d share a few stories. A Elementary School Teacher used her skills to help Moms at home come up with creative ways to help their kids learn. A friend who’s a very talented seamstress learned of a need for masks and has sewn over 200. But the miraculous part of this story is that the supplies she started out with have never run out! Another friend started a daily video online of encouraging Scriptures to comfort and inspire those she couldn’t be with physically. God uses us to console the downcast…and in return, we ourselves are refreshed, renewed, restored, and revitalized. (Proverbs 11:25)
Being a Christian does not mean we are immune to difficulties, hardships, or afflictions…that’s because we live in a broken world. And Job realized this…that troubles would come into his life. But Job also saw that he could never take God’s blessings for granted. So today, let’s all take a moment to count our blessings both great and small. If all your family and friends are healthy and safe…thank Him. If you have enough food to eat, a roof over your head, and clothing to wear…thank Him. Jesus did not promise that our life here on earth would be void of suffering, quite the opposite. For He tells us in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” That’s because He’s the God of all comfort Who comforts us in the midst of all our troubles. (II Corinthians 1:4) So today let’s thank Him for the many blessings we’ve received.
In other words…if you have the love of Christ within you, demonstrate it! Paul calls us here to be like-minded…the Greek word for this meaning the activity represented involving the will, the affections, and the conscience. This unity involves coming together as a whole in decision-making, with morally right passions, and motives. For being like-minded is thinking the same thing for the good of all, not just a few. Yes, being like-minded takes work on the part of everyone. It calls us to be peacemakers, bridge-builders, and servants to all – for His sake and for His glory.
Let’s say you land in a foreign country, having no knowledge of the city or its language. But there waiting for you is the leading dignitary. He welcomes you and then informs you that he personally will be escorting you around the city. All the pent-up fear and anxiety within would melt away as he guided you to his official car…for you would feel safe and secure with this help. The world is a scary place to live today, and we all feel like foreigners in a strange land. But God is like that dignitary…offering His hand in support and encouragement. Calming and assuring us that He is there to help. For anything can be faced with trust in the Lord…anything.
Unity and mutual care for one another…that’s what the early Church did on a daily basis. With steadfastness and faithfulness to the Gospel, they walked out their lives in very practical but focused ways. They approached each day with open hands and open hearts…looking for needs and filling them. The early Church was centered around goodwill towards others…of encouragement and sharing…of loving one another. And the Lord added to their numbers daily. For people saw the Gospel being played out in front of them and they wanted what these Believers had. The world is still looking for that today…for care, and compassion…for love and acceptance. For the Church of the present has the same responsibility and opportunity to impact the world for Christ as the early Church did…maybe even more.
As people waited in the crowded lobby, I over-heard a kind looking elderly gentleman ask the young lady seated next to him a rather probing question. She was bent over her phone, oblivious to anything or one around her, when he asked, “What would you be doing right now if you weren’t on your phone?” His tone of voice was gentle and reflective, which completely caught the young lady off guard and rendered her speechless. His question though got my mind whirling! How can we show the agape love of Christ to others when we’re folded up like a flower over our phones? How can we be Jesus to those around us when we totally disengaged from our surroundings…detached and indifferent? This verse says we are to be united in love which takes dedicated involvement and connection…not self-isolation and selfishness.
The Lord would like you to know that you are loved. You are valued and precious in His sight. Regardless of where you come from…how notorious your background may be, or how far you’ve walked away from Him…Jesus loves you. You may say to yourself, “No one can love me…I’m too bad of a person.” But you don’t know the Lord, and if you would just take a peek into His Word, you’d see that all of Scripture is a love letter to you. It’s written just for you, to encourage and exhort…to strengthen and establish and allow you to become the very best person you can be. By His wonderful grace – God’s loving kindness towards you – there is the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation back to your Heavenly Father. There’s no need to walk out this life alone with feelings of isolation and loneliness…Jesus loves you, just as you are, right where you are today.
You can’t have faith without hope…and hope without faith…they go hand and hand together. When shattered human emotions come to the point of hopelessness, there’s nothing left but disillusionment and a broken spirit. But if we have faith, we are lifted up and supported…encouraged and assured that God is there. Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He Who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” The Lord is always there to comfort the brokenhearted and grief-stricken. For faith will give way to hope…and hope will usher in faith.
Even though Paul was addressing this letter to the Church in Thessalonica…he probably could be speaking directly to any modern-day Church you know. Certain members of the Thessalonian Church, in anticipation of Christ’s return, had become careless and neglectful of their responsibility to work and support themselves. In other words…they were sitting around, waiting for the Rapture! Now, we may not see that degree of slothfulness in Church today…but what you can see is the attitude that “It’s me and Thee, God, and I’m not worrying about anybody else.” Paul warned that laziness and apathy would contribute to the downfall of any Church. Secondly, as the Church Body, we are to be Spiritual Cheerleaders for the fainthearted…the worry-warts…and those who can only see the cup half empty. We are to be encouragers of each other. Finally, as the Church, we are all to be ready with a helping hand for those who are weak spiritually, for when they grow, the Church grows.