‘How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent word….’ Singing about standing firm is one thing, actually standing firm may be a serious concern for Christ followers.
Christianity is fundamentally a series of relationships. It begins with God’s relationship with us, having sent His Son to rescue us, to die for our sins, to take our place upon the cross. We are brought into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the one and only Mediator between God and men.
We also are brought into relationship with other genuine followers of Christ. We are glad that we’re a part of the family of God, a world-wide family which shares a common Father and in whom the Spirit of God dwells. Language, ethnicity, geography nor personal ‘preferences’ ultimately matter. What is key is Christ in us, the Saviour of sinners.
As Paul continues this letter to the Thessalonians he reflects his serious missionary concern for the converts he was forced to leave behind in this Greek city. He had dispatched Timothy, who had just returned with fresh updates from a vibrant fellowship still pressing on despite the hostile environment in which they lived. Paul pens this next paragraph and notes the past, present and future firmness of the faith of these believers.
“But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.” (1 Thess. 3:6-10)
1) The Past – The Thessalonians had pleasant memories of their missionary-evangelists. The gospel impact was still bearing fruit from this campaign into new territory. Who could forget the bold preaching of Paul or the comforting devotion of Silas? Who would ever forget the turmoil in town as the city was stirred up in opposition to the proclamation of truth. Regardless of the circumstances, the Thessalonian believers had stood firm with the missionaries and had committed themselves to Jesus Christ. They WERE standing firm in the Lord.
2) The Present – Timothy had just returned with fresh news–good news about the faith and love which provided solid evidence of God’s grace. Paul’s weary heart leaped for joy after some time of perplexity. Had the devil gained any advantage? Was that chapter of ministry ‘in vain?’ No, a thousand times no. God had established something permanent that was continuing to bear fruit. They ARE standing firm in the Lord.
3) The Future – The future was in God’s hands as it is today. Paul and the team can pray, and that is exactly what they do. Would God allow them to be reunited? What teaching would be useful? What new joy would they share together in the presence of the Lord who was the sustainer of them all. Paul’s confidence is firm, hence his letter. They WILL CONTINUE standing firm in the Lord.
May God enable us to trace our own history, to probe into our circle of friends and contacts around the world, encouraging them as they encourage us to press on in faith. Let’s thank God for His sustaining grace during times of prolonged testing and trials. He is faithful! We may trust Him!