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Part of the FBCS 2010 Read Through the Bible Project: Enter the Story. Join the Song.

Encouragement During . . .

1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13    Isaiah 17-19
Psalm 114

“During all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged” (1 Thessalonians 3:7). Where do I find encouragement in the midst of trouble? This is the question I found rising up from the pages of today’s readings. How would you answer? When suffering, opposition, trouble, or turmoil arrive — and they will; they do (1 Thessalonians 3:3,4) — where do you turn for the strength and encouragement needed to carry on? For some, the answer is in the expectation that the troublemakers will “get theirs” (see Isaiah 17-19). Others simply hope that trouble never comes. As if . . . Paul, the psalmist, and Isaiah, as well  — direct us down a different path altogether . . .

“You are our glory and joy!” (1 Thessalonians 2:20). “You” being the Thessalonian believers who, suffering themselves (1 Thessalonians 2:14), have not been shaken by persecution, but have grown in “faith and love” (3:6).  “For this reason,” Paul and his companions “have been encouraged about” them during their distress (v.7). No grousing about their situation . . . and only passing mention of those causing the trouble (2:16) . . . Paul’s primary focus is on the faithfulness of those he loves and on what God is doing in and through them. And on their continued faithfulness in love (3:12,23).

“They will return to the Lord” (Isaiah 19:22).  “They” being the Egyptians. So, too, the focus on the Lord’s healing work in the lives of others — even the opposition — shows up in Isaiah’s vision . . . And in the psalmist’s calling all of creation to worship, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord” (Psalm 114:7) . . . Now return to the original question: Where do you and I find encouragement in the midst of trouble? In the hope of payback? Or in the ongoing progress of God’s work as seen in the faithfulness and love of God’s people? In the anticipation that “they” will “get theirs”? Or in the hope that “they” will return to the Lord, who will listen and “heal them?” May you be encouraged by good news in the midst. Amen.

“And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.”
— 1 Thessalonians 3:12

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