Welcome to a new week of Foundations Daily Podcasts. My name’s Bryony and it’s great to be joining you today. I hope you’ve enjoyed the last few weeks as we’ve been journeying through Galatians. Alan finished that letter last week so it’s over to me to introduce Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. We begin (as you would expect!) with Chapter One verses 1-5.
So a few words in way of introduction before we leap into this specific passage. It’s believed that the letter to the Thessalonians is most likely the earlier of Paul’s Letters. The story about the start of this church can be found in Acts 17. Put simply Thessalonica was (and still is) an ancient Greek City. It was a city which was intensely loyal to Rome. Paul and Silas planted a church there but as news spread that the new converts were professing that ‘Jesus is Lord’ instead of ‘Caesar is Lord’ the rulers of the city were extremely offended. They began to persecute the Christians and after only a few short months Paul and Silas were chased out of the city. Paul is particularly disappointed by this turn of events and therefore is overjoyed when Timothy brings news that the new church has not only survived the persecution but is thriving despite it!
You quickly get a sense that this is a letter written with great love and affection. These people are known by Paul and Silas and loved deeply. Over this week we are going to be considering what is to ‘be known’, to be known by God, to be known by others and to be known by the world. My hope is that by the end of this week we will be more confident of the life-changing effect being known by God can have and how that can lead to a life that is tangibly and visibly different, that we would be people who are known for being found in God’s love.
I love that Paul starts this letter acknowledging that everything they are currently doing is because they know the truth of God’s love. He writes that he remembers ‘your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope’. He is writing here to people who are being persecuted every day. Their families were ignoring them, their neighbours and business contacts were giving them the cold shoulder. Rather than running away and creating a Christian enclave they are committed to staying, living and serving the city and those around them who would wish them harm. Paul acknowledges that this is a tall order! Many believers would have caved under the pressure to conform (read Paul’s letter to the Corinthians for this reality!) but not the Thessalonians. Everything they did was motivated by walking with Jesus and being known by him. They are able to continue to work for the Gospel because they have a real, living faith. They keep working hard in the city because they known that God’s love compels them to serve and they endure persecution because they have confident hope.
I read that one way to describe hope is a ‘joyful resilience’. I love that and it’s exactly what we see here. The Church have a joyful resilience in the face of opposition because they know their ultimate authority isn’t Caesar, their ultimate authority is Jesus, the one who gave everything for them. This is a hope that is bound in the reality of who Jesus is and what he’s done. It’s not naive, this isn’t like in the film The Lion King when the baby lion cub Simba shouts ‘I laugh in the face of danger’ when we all know in a few minutes he’ll be running in fear! No, this is a resilience and hope that is born out of having a secure and certain identity,
So what does that mean to us on this Monday in 2018? Well I’ve been challenged to consider whether knowing who Jesus is and what he has done causes me to have hope, causes me to have this joyful resilience? I don’t know about you but today as I walk to work I’m unlikely to face any persecution for my faith – that in itself is something to be joyful about! However today we may face moments where we will be tempted to despair, we’ll face moments where we can feel overwhelmed, undervalued, unloved. I’m almost certain there will be moments where I will be tempted to lose my temper with one of my children, or (let’s be brutally honest) my husband!
Things won’t go the way we expect or hope. You and I, we have a choice. We can choose to be knocked by the storms, to find ourselves untethered and at sea OR we can remind ourselves that we do indeed have an anchor. That knowing Jesus and being known by him gives us a hope that goes beyond the worst the day could throw at us, the absolute worst. Then, like the Thessalonian church, we can face the day with a joyful resilience. Like the Thessalonians it is possible to have our perspectives shifted so that we see God’s goodness and greatness today, no matter what the day holds for us. I would love to be known as someone who has a joyful resilience, what a wonderful commendation that would be!
Here’s a question to ponder as we go into our day: ‘is my hope in Jesus creating a joyful resilience in my life?’
Thank you Lord for the example of Thessalonian Church and the way they endured despite pressure. Please remind us this week of our identity, that we are found in you and known by you. Help us to live lives of hope with a joyful resilience that puts its trust in you. Amen.
READING: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
Paul, Silas and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you.
We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.