Friday, October 16, 2009

Evidence of God’s Grace in Affliction

“I can’t do that!”, “What are they thinking?”, “Don’t they know what I go through?”, “My life is hard enough!”, “How can I serve others with a child like this?”

I’ve said all of these statements before. I’m sure I’m not alone. Many times parents of children with special needs feel that their circumstances or afflictions give them a valid excuse from doing many things. Logically speaking, they’re right! Families affected by disability tend to have less time and energy to do anything extra besides caring for the immediate needs of their family. However, whether your trials and afflictions are pertaining to disability or not, the Bible says that all believers will be afflicted in some way. Psalm 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” So, as we wait & hope for Christ’s deliverance, how are we to live? How can we serve others and glorify God in our afflictions?

Paul’s encouragement to the church of the Thessalonians shows us how this can be done. Take a look at his words in 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4. Paul praised God for 3 evidences of His grace in their lives. They were abundantly growing in their faith, increasing in their love for one another, and remaining steadfast as they endured all of their afflictions. Because of the hope of the gospel and God at work in us, we can pattern our actions according to their Christ-like example.

A. The Thessalonians’ “faith was growing abundantly”.
The Greek word for faith in this passage is pistis (Strong's G4102). It means the conviction that is based upon hearing God’s Word and not on sight. It is the firm confidence in what we hear from God in His Word (Short Definitions, New Testament. ©2008 Greek Bible Study).
A person growing abundantly in their faith…
1. Puts their trust in God & His Word. (Mark 11:22).
2. Hopes in things unseen. They look to Jesus and do not get sidetracked by the things that they see. (Heb 11:1)
3. Believes God’s promises no matter what their circumstances look like. (Romans 4:19-20)

B. The Thessalonians’ “love for one another was increasing”.
The Greek word for love in this passage is agape (Strong's G26). This is love in its fullest conceivable form. It gives a self-denying and compassionate devotion to its object (Short Definitions, New Testament. ©2008 Greek Bible Study).
A person increasing in their love…
1. Serves others. (Galatians 5:13-14)
2. Considers others before themselves. They do not have a self-centered “What about me!” attitude. (John 15:13)
3. Understands that without love for others, all their actions are in vain (even if they're using their spiritual gifts). (1 Cor.13:1-3)

C. The Thessalonians remained “steadfast”.
The Greek word for steadfast in this passage is hupomonē (Strong's G5281). It means a patient endurance, a remaining under; a bearing-up under (Short Definitions, New Testament. ©2008 Greek Bible Study).
A person who remains steadfast…
1. Rejoices in their sufferings because they know that their trials are producing character and hope and making them mature in Christ. (Romans 5:1-5, James 1:2-4)
2. Lays aside every weight and sin which clings so closely to them. They strive to look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of their faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
3. Believes that their present sufferings cannot be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to them when Christ returns. (Romans 8:18-25)

Praise God for His truth! Only by God’s grace and through His power can any of us walk according to these truths in our lives. May God cause our faith to abundantly grow, our love for one another to increase, and help us remain steadfast as we endure all of our present afflictions and the ones to come for our good and His glory. Amen!

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