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1 Thessalonians 3:1-5

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 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. (verses 2-4)


Paul’s initial visit to Thessalonica had ended in hostilities. The leaders of the local synagogue had become jealous of the attention his gospel message was receiving, so they stirred up a mob and caused a riot. The new believers insisted that Paul escape, sending him to the nearby town of Berea, where he once again preached the gospel – of course! But trouble followed him. The hostility of the Thessalonian opposition was so strong that they sent emissaries to Berea to agitate crowds against Paul in that locality, too, once again forcing him out of town.

Such was the experience of these Thessalonian believers, right from the start. Indeed, Paul reminds them: “we kept telling you that we would be persecuted.” He didn’t hold back. He was clear about the reality of commitment to Christ. And yet, hearing that warning and experiencing its reality, the Thessalonians placed faith in Jesus anyway.

It’s an important lesson. Yes, Jesus has promised us “life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). But it doesn’t negate the ongoing reality of hardship. In the Upper Room, on the night before the cross, Jesus shared many things with his disciples – he did it, he said, so “that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11), and “so that in me you may have peace” (John 16:33). And yet, he also told them, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33), and “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also”(John 15:20). And then, the next day, he himself went to the cross. “No servant is greater than his master” (John 15:20) – it shouldn’t surprise us, then, when we ourselves experience hardship.

“Hardship” seems to have been a regular part of Paul’s teaching. During his first missionary journey, he circled back through a number of towns in which his message had produced new believers. Now, “strengthening … and encouraging them,” he spoke these words: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). He called the Romans, as “co-heirs with Christ,” to “share in his sufferings” (Romans 8:17). He told the Philippians, “it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him" (Philippians 1:29).

The Thessalonians knew it, and persevered. How about us?

We may not all undergo the persecution experienced by the early church, though many down through history, and round the world currently, certainly have. But hardships come in many forms. For each of us there will be moments when the sailing would immediately be much smoother if we weren’t living a life of commitment to Christ. But we’re called to lift our sights. Paul, having gone through so much persecution and hardship himself, was able to passionately declare: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). And Jesus, on the eve of his crucifixion, having told his disciples (and us) that, “in this world you will have trouble,” immediately spoke words that ring out with enduring strength – words that carry us through anything the world throws against us, words backed up by his death and resurrection, ringing forth into all eternity.

Receive them. Embrace them. Live them.

“Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


Lord Jesus, strengthen my resolve to follow you no matter what – to not be surprised when violent storms blow, and hardships arise. Strengthen me in my inner being, by your Spirit, to abide in you fully, regardless of what comes against me. Into your hands I commit my spirit. For your name’s sake.


Reflect: Take Jesus’ words in John 16:33 and meditate on them today, perhaps memorizing them. Where are you experiencing trouble? Tell him. Where do you need his peace? Receive. Where do you need faith rooted in his overcoming power? Believe. Trust.


Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash

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