Hello and welcome to the final Foundations Podcast of the week. My name’s Bryony and it’s been great to travel through these passages with you this week.
Today’s passage is 1 Thessalonians 2: 13-16.
This week I was reading a book which I’d been enjoying and finding lots of good stuff from. I got to the last chapter and the author wrote a concluding passage on being happy. She wrote ‘happiness is important, do what you want if it leads you towards happiness’. Those words made me stop and reflect because I know they are the mantra of my generation and the generation beneath me. We have grown up in a world which has told us to do whatever we want as long as it makes us happy. That our happiness is important, that we should avoid struggle or anything that might leave us experiencing a negative or challenging emotion.
I particularly noticed this avoidance of challenge when I was pregnant. My body is not a big fan of being pregnant, it gets sick and I spend nine months seeing which foods I can keep in my stomach for the longest. Not pleasant! Even so I was surprised how many people made comments like ‘this will be your last then’ or other things to that effect. As though my primary focus going forward was to forgo pain and challenge even though this particular challenge was of course going to (in the end) be worth it. Of course we love to avoid pain, discomfort and struggle! It would be strange if we started each day looking for where we could be uncomfortable! But our world wants to push any kind of struggle out of the way and instead put the pursuit of happiness front and centre.
This is a ‘human word’ that Paul talked about; human words are often very palatable to our ears, they endorse or condone our position or behaviour. A ‘human word’ says ‘do what makes you happy’. But Paul says that the church in Thessalonica accepted the word of God ‘not as a human word, but for what it actually is’. God’s word both in the Bible and revealed to us in each season is not like the words we receive from the world. We will often read things in the Bible that feel uncomfortable, that might actually cause us to struggle. Our job in those moments isn’t to run away or try to make it more palatable. It’s actually an invitation to wrestle with God’s word, to sit with His word and ask ourselves what challenge or invitation is this bringing that my human ears don’t want to hear! Paul says that God’s word is alive and active that it is ‘at work in you who believe’. What Paul is getting at is that we should expect that as we sit with God’s word and as we listen to him we will find that, if we are willing, the Spirit of God will work in our hearts.
The work he does is to clear that ground of our hearts, to remove the lies of the world and the enemy and to reveal God’s truth to us. Sometimes that is hard. If we are honest none of us really want to engage with the truth of loving our enemies. We’d much rather go with the ‘human word’ of ‘don’t let them get away with it’, ‘attack is the best form of defence’ or ‘revenge is sweet’. To choose God’s word over the human word is a challenge, mostly because it’s rarely the easy option. The Thessalonians knew something of this; every day they were choosing God’s way over the world’s way. Every day they were choosing to let God’s word take root in their hearts rather than listening to their friends. As persecution came that must have been hard! We can take great inspiration and challenge from their example.
I suppose our prayer as a staff team has always been that this podcast would be a way that we as a church could let God’s word be at work in us. As we hear the Bible read every day we are inviting into that wrestle. We are invited to struggle with what God is saying to us. The challenge I find personally is making sure that I come to God’s word with a heart that is open to being worked on. That I don’t hold too tight to what I think I know or the attitudes I hold on to. I want to be willing and ready for His word to work on me. I wonder if you’d like to join me this weekend in asking God to show us where we’ve been listening to ‘human words’ instead of his and where we could open our hearts to be worked on by our heavenly Father.
Thank you Lord for all the riches you pour into me through your life giving words. Help me to surrender to your truth in my life and give you the space and time to work on my heart. Amen.
READING: 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: you suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.