What are some of the very real issues that you deal with daily in your spiritual life? Do you find it hard to keep your eyes on Jesus and to remain fruitful in gospel work?
Let’s talk about these very real issues. Paul writes, “Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 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. 5 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” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-5).
There are two very clear and present dangers to the spiritual growth of a Church: afflictions (verses 1-4) and temptations (verse 5).
Let’s be real: there is a real weight (burden) that presses on people when they are undergoing hardship of every kind. When the suffering of the world presses in on us or the fiery darts of the evil one start hitting with laser precision our fatigued flesh, untended areas of emotional weariness, or unguarded thoughts, we lose our focus on Jesus and begin to lose our effectiveness.
Yes, it is true that every crisis is an opportunity, but that can be very hard to remember in the hardship (whether a time of affliction/suffering or temptation/spiritual struggle. That is why we must daily be in God’s Word: studying it; meditating on it; memorizing it; applying what we are reading to everyday life. This is one of the reasons I write these devotions: to help you keep your eyes on Jesus and to remain effective in your Christian life. I want to be a proactive pastor and care for the spiritual well-being of God’s people.
Here is the hard reality for the church’s situation: the church lives with a continuous clear and present danger. You can expect afflictions in this life and the devil is always on the prowl looking for his next victim to devour. So, the key to this clear and present danger is an engaged leadership team whose members are praying and being watchful over the sheep. Paul remained spiritually vigilant, but he had to send one of his key associates—Timothy—to “establish and exhort” the Thessalonian believers in their faith.
The heart’s desire and ambition of spiritual leadership is to see the members of the church to become mature in their faith, but leadership is always necessary. Possibly the greatest clear and present danger to the church is when there is an apathetic or impotent leadership in the local church because that would keep the sheep wide open to the destruction caused by afflictions and temptations, in their own lives and in the church.
As Paul prayed for the believers in Thessalonica, I pray for you: “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 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 3:11-13).