Summary: To stand strong in the face of adversity, depend on one another, depend on the Lord, and demonstrate love for others.
In her book God Uses Cracked Pots, Patsy Clairmont describes the day she sent her 7-year old son, Jason, to school. A little while later there was a knock on the door. Patsy opened the door and it was Jason. She said, “Jason, what are you doing here?”
He replied, “I’ve quit school!”
She asked, “Why have you quit school?”
He said, “It was too long, it was too hard, and it was too boring.”
Patsy responded, “Jason, you have just described life, get back on the bus!”
Life is often long, hard, and boring, but that is no reason to quit. In fact, the Bible tells us, “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
Testing and trials are a normal part of life, so how do you stand strong in the midst of those trials? How do you remain steadfast in times of affliction? How do you persevere in the face of persecution?
That was Paul’s concern for the Thessalonian believers. Just a couple of weeks after they became believers, an angry mob went on the rampage and chased Paul out of town. Then, as he gets down the road to Athens, he begins to wonder about the new believers he left behind in Thessalonica. Is their faith still strong despite the persecution? Are they holding up under the pressure? Or have they succumbed to the affliction and given up their faith? If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 3, 1 Thessalonians 3, where Paul expresses his concern and talks about how to stand strong in times of trial.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-4 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. (ESV)
Paul reminds the new believers in Thessalonica that affliction is inevitable. Even so, he sends Timothy to encourage them.
Now, for Paul, it was like losing a loved one to death. In verse 1, the world “left behind” means “bereaved.” Paul may have expected the mob to kill Timothy in Thessalonica. At the very least, Paul couldn’t bear to be without him. And yet he sends Timothy back.
Why? It’s because he knows that new believers need an older believer to help them along the way. In fact, no believer can go very long without another believer to encourage them. So in the midst of your affliction...
DEPEND ON ONE ANOTHER.
Rely on other believers to support you along the way. Lean on other Christians to keep you from falling.
Even though the Sequoia trees of California tower as much as 300 feet in the air, they have unusually shallow root systems. Instead of going deep, their roots reach out in all directions to capture the greatest amount of surface moisture. That’s why you seldom see a redwood standing alone. They grow in clusters, because high winds would quickly uproot them if they stood alone. As it is, their intertwining roots provide support for each other against the storms.
In the same way, God did not design believers to stand alone. He designed them to provide support for each other against the storms. So when the winds of adversity come, depend on one another. Go to your brothers and sisters for support.
Jonathan Lunde, an instructor at Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois, talks about one of Trinity’s graduates assisting him one semester. She had graduated from the biblical studies program and had gone on to graduate school. However, she decided to take a year off from graduate school to reflect on where she was and where she was going. She was wrestling deeply with issues of faith, and for a time Dr. Lunde was not certain her evangelical faith would survive.
However, that semester, as they sat in his office discussing her journey, he was glad to see the gentle work of God’s Spirit bringing her to a much more stable place. In one of those meetings, he asked her what it was that had been most helpful in bringing her through to that place.
Her answer surprised him. It was not some profound insight that she had been given along the way; it was not some new answer that had quieted the ranting of her heart. Rather, she said, “It was people.”