Read 2 Thessalonians 2
“For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain." (1 Thessalonians 2:1, ESV)Sometimes you need a little distance to gain perspective on events in your life. If you go back and read Acts 17:1-9 you will read the story of what happened when Paul, Silas and Timothy came to the city of Thessalonica. After some initial fruitfulness, the city turned against them and the people who had responded to the Gospel and Paul and the boys were shipped off to another city.
I know that I would have felt some discouragement after that. You? Maybe reeling from dashed hopes and expectations of what was to come. Crashing after an initial excitement over what God seemed to be starting there. Not only that but Paul says in verse 2:
“But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. " (1 Thessalonians 2:2, ESV)
They had just come from another place where things seemed to have gone "badly." But the perspective often comes in our lives when we gain some distance from the events. Yesterday we read in 1 Thess 1:9 that:
“For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, " (1 Thessalonians 1:9, ESV)
Even though they were forced to leave in a hurry, the seed of the Kingdom of God had been firmly planted in the lives of the people who had called on the Name of Jesus.
If we pray, commit our ways to Him and live boldly we will always be used in ways that we do not know. The power at work within you will go far beyond what you can see or think or imagine.
In verses 3-12, we see how the integrity of the messenger impacts the message. You cannot separate the message from the messenger. The man behind the message matters. Not only that but in verse 8 we read this:
“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us." (1 Thessalonians 2:8, ESV)
The Gospel was never meant to be just preached to someone, but rather shared through the giving of our lives. And if that life is different from the words, then the message is polluted and Jesus is obscured.
Sometimes things don't work out the way we thought. But sometimes we just can't see in the moment what God is accomplishing on a much grander scale. And often are most precious moments, our most valuable Kingdom moments happen when through adversity.
In verses 17-20 we see Paul's great affection for the people. We see his pride (good kind!) in what has been accomplished there. We see his confidence that what the Lord established will be carried to completion until the Day of Christ Jesus is revealed.
“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. " (1 Thessalonians 2:17–20, ESV)
I know that I resonate with certain elements of this as I transition in ministry. A little distance from it has given me better perspective. I did not see everything happen that I was hoping before God to see happen. And yet...what an incredible (most said impossible!) thing happened. I leave behind a precious community of people determined to to see God glorified in their community though it be with opposition, hindrances from Satan, and many more challenges ahead. I am confident that God has been at work and will continue to work in ways that are unseen to accomplish His purposes for the surrounding community.
He's cool like that.