2020 has started out to be a year of tremendous difficulties, afflictions, and grief. And in many ways we all have been affected. But the next time you’re tempted to go on Social Media and whine…ask yourself this question. Am I attention-seeking, and eliciting participants in my personal pity-party…or am I like Paul who made his friends aware of the hardships he was enduring in order to show them where his trust rested? For in the next verse, Paul points out that this happened that, “we might not rely on ourselves but on God…” Enduring pain, bearing up under persecution, and experiencing grief are all part of the human experience…no one is immune. But it’s how we react to it that makes the real difference. It’s called suffering well. Of placing our reliance on God rather than man…and of pointing to Him as the one we depend on…so that all the glory goes to Him, not us.
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)
For many of you today this Scripture may be difficult to accept. That’s because today you’re right smack-dab in the middle of trials, suffering, loss, injury, or sickness…and the idea that any light and momentary trouble is achieving in you eternal glory that far outweighs any trouble you’re going through is just a little too hard to take. (II Corinthians 4:17) Or that you should be rejoicing that you can participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. (I Peter 4:13) In this verse God is not discounting your suffering…your loss…the traumatic experience you’re going through right now. Rather, He understands and He’s giving you the grace and endurance to persevere through it.
Standing firm in the middle of trials and tests can take herculean strength on our part. For just standing firm and not surrendering to the circumstances can take every bit of our patience and perseverance. That’s when standing firm I think takes on a active connotation…you may not be moving forward…but you’re sure as not falling back. Standing firm then means endurance, long-suffering, and self-control.
The Lord wants us to lean totally on Him during those times of stress and temptation. Our self-restraint and endurance doesn’t need to hinge on our own decrepit strength. We don’t need to clench our fists, grit our teeth, and just make it through a trial. The Lord’s power is ever available to enable us to persevere and be victorious.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a patient person…I’m a mover, so if I have to stop to wait for something, I get anxious. My mind goes into warp-drive, thinking of all the things I could be doing, besides just waiting. But it’s usually then that the Lord will cause me to take the focus off myself and onto something or someone around me. What would be the good pleasure of God at this moment? Thanking Him for the beauty surrounding me…speaking encouragement into the person nearby…praying for my family…all are things that change my attitude from that of impatience to calm endurance. As James said, “Blessed are they that persevere.”