Faith Under Fire

If you want to know whether the power of God is real, put the experience of God’s grace under pressure.

No sooner had the Thessalonians come to faith in Christ than persecution arose. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were driven from the city and the church came under severe opposition.

Paul was not able to return to Thessalonica but sent Timothy “to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, “so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions” (1 Thessalonians 3.3).

A frequent refrain in this letter is Paul’s reminder that he is telling them nothing new. He told the church that he had earlier warned them about suffering.

1 Thessalonians 3.4 – In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know.

The kind of persecution that most Americans face is slight compared to what occurred in the first century or in repressive countries in today’s environment.

I believe one of the best responses we can make to persecution is to pray for Christians who are being oppressed by their nation or culture.

Two of the top areas of persecution are Ukraine and Venezuela. The population of these two countries identifies with Christianity, but they are being oppressed by evil governments.

As Paul did for the Thessalonians, we can pray for suffering people in these countries.

The Test of Faith

Persecution tests the power of the gospel. Under stress, will God’s people remain faithful to the Lord?

Paul knew the reality of this issue and desperately wanted to know about the church he loved.

1 Thessalonians 3.5 – For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor had been in vain.

Satan is threatened by God’s work with people. He opposes God’s plans and purposes by tempting God’s people to turn away from him.

There are many varieties of temptation, but the end is the same. People stop following Jesus and turn away from his plans.

The devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4) because he sought to gain Jesus’ cooperation in his evil activities.

When we are tempted, we need to know that the devil’s agenda has not changed from the time he attempted to turn Jesus away from the Father’s will.

Every form of temptation, whether persecution or the fulfillment of our desires, has the same goal. The devil wants us to serve his agenda, not God’s.

Timothy’s Encouraging Report

When Timothy returned and brought news to Paul, the message was, “We have been encouraged about you through your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3.7).

As they suffered, the collection of new Christians in Thessalonica stood firm in their faith and resisted the temptation to deny Christ.

Paul expressed his joy at the way they faithfully followed Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 3.8-9 – For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord.

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?

The angels in heaven and the saints on earth rejoice over people who are steadfast in their faith.

Living a Jesus-kind-of-life is the pathway to the abundant Christian life. Walking in the pathway of Jesus is not an easy path.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus made this clear.

Matthew 7.13-14“Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.

“For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

It is quite a spiritual feat for new Christians to continue on the narrow road in the face of temptation and persecution.

The Power of Prayer

Just as the Spirit worked with preaching for the good of the church, God used Paul’s prayers to strengthen them.

1 Thessalonians 3.10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

The Letter to the Thessalonians confirms God’s activity that undergirds human effort. Prayer opens the door for God’s activity in power.

The lesson for today’s church is to imitate Paul’s program of prayer. He prayed continually. We can pray in the morning and at the end of the day.

Our prayers will keep us faithful to God’s purposes and also support other people.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. You can see it on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayer request to bsprad49@gmail.com. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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