The theme of 1 Thessalonians is that Jesus is coming back for His church. When Jesus returns, we want to be found faithful. Paul tells us how in the second half of 1 Thessalonians 2. Will you be faithful to the end? It depends on:
How You Read Scripture
Verse 13 says, “…when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” Every time the word of God is read or preached it is either received or rejected. There is no middle ground. Jesus said in Matthew 7, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came and the winds blew and beat against that house; but it did not fall, because it had a solid foundation. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. When the storm came it crashed and great was the fall” (v. 24-27). You can make it through pandemics, sickness and disease, economic uncertainty, life and death, when you are grounded in the Word of God. A true believer sees the Word of God effectually working in them and changing them. A true follower of Jesus loves the Word and cooperates with God. Repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus said, “Let him who has ears hear.” God speaks! Are you listening? Is the Word effectively working in you?
How You Respond to Suffering
As we continue reading, verses 14-15 say, “…For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men….” We expect the world to argue and attack us, but out of 36 years of preaching, it is not the atheist, agnostic, or skeptic who has given me the most trouble. It is not from those outside the Church, but rather those inside the Church that have shocked me. Notice the word “countryman.” Sometimes it is your own family members who give you the hardest time. It is your own people. Jesus came unto His own and His own received Him not (Jn. 1:11). Suffering is part of the Christian life. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” James said, “Count it all joy when you go through trials” (Ja. 1:2). Peter said in 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” Your family may disown you. You may get overlooked at work for the promotion. You may be left out, snubbed, or excluded. You are not alone. This is nothing new. Though it may be painful, you can remain faithful.
How You Relate Socially
For almost six months we have been away from each other. Paul knows what this is like. “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us” (v. 17-18). We may have not been able to be present at church or meet in person, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been together in heart. 2020 has been a time of testing. When Peter was tested, Jesus told him, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Lk. 22:31-32). Satan is out to destroy your health, home, marriage, testimony, business, the Church, the country and the world. Satan is the prince of this world. But Jesus prayed for us that our faith should not fail. Now is the time to pray. Now is the time to return to God and strengthen one another.
Even if you are not able to return to Church or get out in public because of COVID-19, are you eagerly looking forward to being back with God’s people? Do you have a great desire to be back at church? Do you want to be in God’s house? Looking back on the pandemic of 2020, you will either say you grew closer to God, closer to one another, and stronger in your faith, or you will say you drifted and your faith grew cold.
Can you imagine when Jesus returns and His reward is with Him and we receive crowns to lay at His feet in worship? Be faithful to the end. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus! Don’t give up! Don’t throw in the towel! Don’t quit! Stay close to Jesus and His people. Jesus is coming back for His church.