It is okay to get discouraged spiritually. Life in this world is demanding! It has a way of hitting us with the unexpected at the "wrong moment" or overwhelming us with the physical realities confronting us. Just let God help you regain your perspective as you reestablish your direction for your life. God is more patient than you are!
The fact that life is tough did not begin with our generation! It has been tough for those who dared follow God in every generation. Matters were far from easy or simple in the first century. Is your concept of Christianity this: "It was simple, obvious, and easy when it began, but got more difficult with each generation. Today, it is very difficult!" If that is your concept, you need to totally change it. Christianity has been difficult from its beginning because Christianity involves a commitment to change.
Paul told the Christians at Thessalonica, "I am delighted that our previous difficulties did not make coming to you a useless effort! I realize that in Philippi we endured a lot of pain and abuse. Please remember those experiences did not intimidate us as we shared with you God's good news--even though we continued to encounter opposition there. The basis of God's good news did not come from error, impurity, or deceitfulness. God entrusted us with His good news, so our goal was not based on pleasing humans but on pleasing God. We did not approach you with flattery. We were quite careful not to appear as greedy people who wished to exploit you. Remember that we were gentle with you as a mother who takes care of her own babies. We shared with you God's good news and ourselves because we love you. As we shared God's good news with you, we were conscious about never being a financial burden. In fact, we worked hard to take care of ourselves in order to prevent that from happening! You witnessed how careful we were to behave well among you. You also should remember how we exhorted, encouraged, and implored each of you in the same manner a father would do those things for his own children. Why did we act this way? We wanted you to honor God who calls you into His kingdom and glory."
Paul did not take his "bad experiences" out on people he just met! It is common today for injustices to anger us. When we endure injustice, we easily can let the bad experience put us in a bad mood. We easily can let the bad experience spill over on people who had nothing to do with the injustice. Thus we easily can create negative impressions about who we are and how we act. If we allow that to happen, people learn rather quickly to avoid us.
Paul did not take his past bad experiences out on the Thessalonians. He did not let his bad experiences in Thessalonica affect his caring as he shared God's good news. In fact, he went to extremes ["out of his way," or "the second mile"] to make certain those who were receptive to his message knew how much he and his company cared about them. Why? Paul wanted the receptive Thessalonians to know God cared about them!
Too often we allow our troubles to affect God's message to other people! Those people lived in a world controlled by idolatry and idolatrous concepts. In the common view of divinity, (1) there were a lot of gods, and (2) the vast majority of gods were unconcerned about human needs and human affairs. Thus the first job of a person was to get a god's attention. The second job was to make the god concerned about the human dilemma the person experienced. The third job was to get the god to do something about the person's need.
The concept of deity in the first century among idolatrous people was the opposite of the Living God. God always is aware of our situation; those who belong to Christ never need to get His attention (Matthew 6:25-34). He is always concerned about our physical and spiritual needs (previous reading). Christians never have to be concerned about motivating God to act in their behalf (Matthew 6:8). Our prayers to God must never be an attempt to manipulate God. They always must be our commitment to depend on God.
The Christian exists in two realms--the physical that is temporary and limited, and the eternal that is permanent and unlimited. The Christian uses physical experiences to transition into eternal reality. The end of the physical does not mean the end of existence. Thus the Christian refuses to evaluate God in only physical terms.
If we are to meaningfully challenge people in hopes based on the eternal, we must not let our undesirable physical experiences shape the way we share God's good news. Our hope is not based on Jesus' physical life. It is based on his resurrection. His resurrection declares there is a power that is superior to physical death. We live in the assurance that physical death is not the end of life (Romans 8:18-39).
We as Christians must not create the impression among people who do not know God that the physically undesirable prevents God's gospel from being good news! (1) We must not allow physical opposition to make us confrontationists instead of sharers! (2) We must not allow our frustrations to make us antagonists who turn against people! (3) We must not create the impression that God is the enemy of people! (4) While we want all to be in profound awe of God, we also want people to find and commit to hope in God.
Never forget salvation exists because of God's great love for people!
For Thought and Discussion
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 13
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