Before starting each book, I want to give you a historical context of the book so we can possibly understand what’s happening even more. We’ve been digging into the Old Testament, so I felt we needed to spend some time in the New Testament, especially as we prepare to celebrate Easter, Jesus’ journey to the cross and resurrection, next week. We’ll be going through 1 Thessalonians this week and then we’ll be in a week long study on the story of Easter and then back into 2 Thessalonians. First, to get an idea of where we are, Thessalonica was a super busy seaport city where a lot of trade took place; it was also the largest city in Macedonia. To note, it was a wealthy city because of this, as well as being a free city, which meant it was self-ruled, so the Roman restrictions that were in place in other cities, mostly were not here. But, on that note, that also meant there were a lot of other religions and cultural things that made it hard to be a Christian there. In fact, the new church in Thessalonica is happening at a time when people were put to death over believing in Christ. A group of men, Paul, Silas and Timothy, went and planted the first Christian church there in Thessalonica, but then they had to leave quickly because their lives were in danger. Paul, who is the author of this book of the Bible, had a huge role in spreading the gospel, the good news of Jesus! He was once known for persecuting Christians himself, but he turned to Christ and started many churches, including this one in Thessalonica. He also writes close to 12 books in the Bible! It’s believed that Paul, wrote this letter we are going to read to this new church as soon as he could and sent Timothy back to deliver it and see how they were doing. He was writing this letter to encourage believers and strengthen their faith. Because this church in Thessalonica was only two or three years old, being new believers and knowing what could happen because of their beliefs, Paul wanted to be sure they knew of Christ’s love, to build them up in their relationship with Christ despite the persecution, and to remind them of the hope they now have in Christ returning. I am excited for this book because Paul gives us a lot of practical advice in how to live for Christ.
Paul’s letter starts out with him sharing how he thanks the Lord for them; he goes onto tell them that their “character traits of work produced by faith, labor promoted by love and endurance inspired by hope” were admirable and then continues to encourage them. He tells them that they are loved and chosen by God. I loved what our application had to say about this part because aren’t we all chosen by God? It says, “very few issues cause more confusion and even arguments among Christians that the issue of election (being chosen by God). It is difficult to simultaneously embrace God’s sovereignty in choosing us and our human responsibility in choosing to follow him. Even though we may not be able to completely comprehend how these two truths can coexist, we can say the following: Being chosen comes from the heart of God (not our minds), should be an incentive to please God (not ignore him), and should give birth to gratitude (not complacency). Human responsibility requires that we actively confess Christ as Lord, focus on living to please him, and share the gospel with others. God’s choice of us energizes us to obey and to serve. Our choice of God challenges us to build lives worthy of him.” He shares how proud he is of them for pushing on in their faith despite the persecution happening and that they are doing well looking like Christ even with the suffering. I think this is important, so this is where we’ll pick up our reflection. He ends the letter with how they are now a model to all believers in their area and their faith in God has spread; how they turned away from their idols and are now serving and living for God!
Let’s jump into today’s verse a little deeper. First, I believe that this is the goal, for us to imitate Christ the best we can by trying to live how he lived, and I also feel we can relate to this; right now feels like a hard time to be a believer because living for Christ seems to be against the norm, against what “everyone else is doing” but this scripture highlights that that didn’t stop them, I mean this church was facing persecution for their faith, but they believed and so they pressed on, as we should as well. Our application talks about this suffering, it says “many believers today think that pain is the exception in the Christian life. When suffering occurs, they say, ‘Why me?’ [I’ve totally been there!] They feel as though God deserted them, or perhaps they accuse him of not being as dependable as they thought he should be. [been there too!] In reality, the world is sinful, so even believers suffer. God allows some Christians to become martyrs for their faith and he allows others to survive persecution. Rather than asking “Why me?” we should ask, “Why not me?”… [Jesus] understands our fears, our weaknesses and our disappointments. He promised never to leave us and he intercedes on our behalf. In times of pain, persecution or suffering, trust confidently in Christ.”
Our reflection sits with what we just read from our application. Have you ever faced a moment when you asked God, “Why me?” or blamed Him or felt frustrated maybe even angry that he allowed something to happen to you? I know I sure have. Write about the most recent time this happened. Then look to Jesus, he understands, knows and is there for us, what would trusting Jesus more in that situation look like? Or asking ourselves “Why not me?” I remember one time in particular getting it straight to the gut, my family and I were in a situation and I was honestly mad at God and asking sitting in this “why me, why us” place and I remember my husband saying “Why not us?” So hard to hear, but it was the truth. How do you feel knowing that even in those dark moments, He never left you? He was there, crying with you and longing for you to go to him. It makes me think of this song…
Heavenly Father, we know you never leave us, even in the hardest of hard with all the questions and the loneliness, we know you are there, loving us. Lord we know Jesus had to suffer for his faith, we may not ever know here why you allow certain things, but I pray we can come to you with our questions and feelings and not rely on our own flesh or the world to lead us and tell us who you are. Help us to have you so rooted in our hearts that when the storms come we are able to flip the perspective to “Why not me?” Help us to feel you in our fears, weaknesses and disappointments, help us to lean on you in the challenges we face. That when we feel like giving up, we feel you holding us up to keep trying. We know you are good, we know you are right there in it all with us, help us to learn what it is that you have for us in every circumstance and help us to grow closer to you through these “Why me?” moments. We love you Lord and we thank you that you are not scared of our fears or questioning, but are right there with us in it. It’s in your loving name we pray, AMEN!