June 01, 2020 – Monday
1 Thessalonians 3:4-5 NIV
4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.
5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent [Timothy] to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.
Here it would be easy to think Paul is describing his own persecution and those he is traveling with, but you would be wrong. He is directly addressing the believers in Thessalonica and reminding them of his warning that persecution would come to them.
It was only months after leaving Thessalonica that he was writing this letter worrying if some had fallen away from the faith as persecution and tribulation came their way. We are not told what form the persecution and tribulation took, only that it worried Paul. Perhaps he was concerned he had sowed much seed on rocky soil as Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:20-21: The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Paul knew, as Jesus had taught, it was not if tribulation or trouble or persecution would come, but when. It had come to the Thessalonians and Paul was concerned.
However, amazingly in the middle of writing this letter to the believers in Thessalonica, Paul got a very positive report from Timothy in the following verses: 6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.
It is in these verses Paul acknowledges his own distress and persecution for the first time. But it is what follows that we should pay special attention to in our reading for Paul and those with him encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. Another person’s or group of people standing firm in the Lord encourages others in their dire circumstances.
We need to be aware our walk with the Lord and our standing firm in the Lord can have consequences beyond ourselves. Our walk individually or as a group can help others also to stand firm in the Lord. As we are strengthened by the example of others in their faith walk, so others may be strengthened by the example of our own faith walk.
The phrase stand firm or standing firm occurs twenty time in the New Testament, each time clearly indicating the importance of standing firm in the faith. You will also find the same phrase occurring thirteen times in the Old Testament. I want to share one of those with you from Isaiah 7:9b If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all as it reminds me of a more modern saying, but one that has the same type of truth If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.
We can stand for something, the reality of Jesus Christ and the unmerited favor He and His Father granted us through His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary. We can not only stand for this wonderful gift of grace in great thankfulness, knowing our sins are forgiven, but we can stand firm knowing we are new creatures in Christ or as Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Stand firm and know that you are likely encouraging others to do the same in the midst of their tribulations and persecutions.