“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. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
“But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
“Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
Paul took the nurture and development of Christians very seriously. He cared deeply about the churches he had planted, and the individuals who comprised them. It is evident from his heartfelt words that his passion and earnest prayer concern was for his spiritual children, that they would remain true to the Lord and thrive in their faith through hardship.
We come to know the Lord by faith, and spend the rest of our lives grappling with that faith as it pertains to everything else. Challenges buffet and poke, hurt and choke, and our faith is tested constantly. God saved us for His name’s sake, that He might make known His mighty power in every aspect and affliction of our lives. Will we just survive, or thrive? (Psalm 106:8; Ephesians 2:8-10)
Certainly there are seasons where we are grateful just to survive, when storms assail and we can only cling to Jesus our stronghold to carry us. Depleted, we cannot imagine reaching out to nurture another. But in the day to day, He invites us to thrive and to help others thrive by feasting on Him, enjoining His people, bearing much fruit, and serving His purposes. He causes distress, delivers with a blaze of glory, and urges us forward and upward in wisdom, faith, and holy affection. (Psalm 27:1)
Do we feel trapped in a loveless relationship, a hard work situation, too many heavy responsibilities? Are we barely surviving unexpected or long-standing pain, or antagonism, or rejection? The Lord enables us to abound in faith and fruit by His Spirit. (John 15:5)
Lord, inspire me to thrive in faith, whatever the circumstances, and to diligently, lovingly encourage others to do the same.