THE PROCESS OF GROWING (2 THESSALONIANS 1:1-10)
Robert Heilbroner suggests comparing one’s life with the daily experience of over a billion people worldwide to help us count our blessings:
1. Take out all the furniture in your home except for one table and a couple of chairs. Use blanket and pads for beds.
2. Take away all of your clothing except for your oldest dress or suit, shirt or blouse. Leave only one pair of shoes.
3. Empty the pantry and the refrigerator except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few potatoes, some onions, and a dish of dried beans.
4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, and remove all the electrical wiring in your house.
5. Take away the house itself and move the family into the tool shed.
6. Place your “house” in a shantytown.
7. Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book clubs. This is no great loss because now none of you can read anyway.
8. Leave only one radio for the whole shantytown.
9. Move the nearest hospital or clinic ten miles away and put a midwife in charge instead of a doctor.
10. Throw away your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the family a cash hoard of ten dollars.
11. Give the head of the family a few acres to cultivate, on which he can raise a few hundred dollars of cash crops, of which one third will go to the landlord and one tenth to moneylenders.
12. Lop off twenty-five or more years in life expectancy.
People usually thank God for what they have, seldom for what they lack. They thank God for the success, abilities and opportunities they have, but seldom for the opposition, obstacles and odds they face. Paul usually does that for the churches in Rome, Corinth, Philippi, Colosse and to Philemon. Paul’s introduction in his epistle to such churches or coworkers like Philemon is straightforward, almost stereotypical, usually with a commendation of their faith in Christ (Rom 1:8, Col 1:3-4, Philem 4-5), their myriad of gifts (1 Cor 1:4-5) and partnership in the gospel (Phil 1:3-5). His second letter to the Thessalonians, however, was slightly different. He gives thanks to God for their growth in the midst of encountering adverse circumstances and opposing forces.
Why is opposition an impetus for growth? How do we give thanks amidst affliction and antagonism? What can we learn from suffering and setbacks?
Give Thanks for What You Have Endured
3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. (2 Thess 1:3-4)
I learned patience the hard way. More than ten years ago, my knees swelled up and lost all strength while playing sports too rigorously. No doctor could explain why my knees locked, why my toes hardened and my muscles stiffened and shriveled. I had never blamed God even though I doubted He would heal me.