Saturday, January 4, 2014

Regaining Hope

Please welcome guest author Peter Krol! Peter blogs at Knowable Word, a site dedicated to helping ordinary people learn to study the Bible. He also serves as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church of State College, PA and as a collegiate missionary with DiscipleMakers.

Hope is slippery, and this fallen world constantly threatens our grip on it.

The definition of marriage is in question. Religious liberty could be threatened. School shootings become routine. Horrific infanticide takes place in unaccountable clinics. Chemical weapons endanger world peace. Government shutdowns inflame disgruntlement.

Through it all, we try to do good. We love our neighbors, we support the community, and we preach Christ and him crucified.

But it gets wearying.

You’re Not Alone

The Christians in Thessalonica had the same problem. They started well, but affliction, tribulation, and ingrained sin threatened their composure and challenged their endurance.

In Paul’s first letter to this church, he gives thanks to God for three chief virtues among the people:

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 1:2-3, ESV).

Faith, love, and hope characterized the Thessalonians as they transformed their part of the world (1 Thess 1:6-10). These three virtues likewise saturate Paul’s encouragement and instruction in the body of the letter.

But in a matter of only months—by the time Paul writes his second letter—the Thessalonians let something slip:

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing” (2 Thess 1:3).

So their faith is growing, and their love is increasing. But their hope stands out by its absence.

All hope is not lost, since Paul boasts about their steadfastness in next verse (2 Thess 1:4). But it’s clearly in question, since they need relief (2 Thess 1:7), have been quickly shaken and alarmed (2 Thess 2:2), and are in danger of growing weary in doing good (2 Thess 3:13). In fact, the word “hope” occurs only once in the letter, when Paul reminds them that God, in Christ, already gave them every reason to hope (2 Thess 2:16-17).

The Thessalonians are a lot like you and me. They want to serve the Lord and proclaim Christ. They care about their world. They just grow worn and weary after a while. They must be reminded of God’s eternal comfort and good hope through grace. Paul wrote his second letter to that end.

How to Regain Hope

What would Paul say to us today, were he to encourage us to regain hope?
  1. We thank God for you because you haven’t given up. Your faith and love are stronger than ever (2 Thess 1:3).
  2. We boast about how you’ve endured so many difficult things (2 Thess 1:4).
  3. Your endurance is evidence that God counts you worthy of his kingdom (2 Thess 1:5).
  4. Your enduring faith glorifies Jesus. Know that everyone will suffer for Jesus’ sake. Some suffer now, for a short time. Others will suffer then, for eternity. So when you suffer now for Jesus, you show the world he’s worth suffering for, and this gives him great glory (2 Thess 1:6-10).
  5. We’re praying for you. We’re praying for God to make you worthy of his calling. We’re praying for God to strengthen your resolve for good to triumph. We’re praying for God to make your faithful work even more effective for his glory (2 Thess 1:11-12).
  6. Don’t be alarmed by what you hear is going on in the world (2 Thess 2:1-2).
  7. What you’re going through is not yet the Day of the Lord. Don’t worry; you’ll know it when it comes (2 Thess 2:3-10).
  8. Regardless of what happens, the Lord will stick to his plan. He knows what’s happening, and he’s got it well under control (2 Thess 2:11-12).
  9. In fact, he chose you and called you to obtain Jesus’ glory (2 Thess 2:13-14).
  10. So stand firm and hold on to what you know to be true (2 Thess 2:15).
  11. God loves you because of Jesus. He already gave you eternal comfort and good hope through grace. May you now experience his comfort personally and be encouraged to press on. Your work is not in vain. Your words still matter (2 Thess 2:16).
  12. As I said, your words matter. You preached the Lord’s word, and it sped ahead. Now pray the same for us. Ask God to deliver us from evil men, just as he will guard you against the evil one (2 Thess 3:1-3).
  13. I’m confident that you’ll do the right thing (2 Thess 3:4).
  14. Remember God’s love. Remember what Jesus endured for you (2 Thess 3:5).
  15. And as I also said, your work is not in vain. Don’t coddle professing believers who are too lazy to work. Imitate my example in this matter (2 Thess 3:6-9).
  16. For the idle busybodies: Get a job! It will do you good (2 Thess 3:10-12).
  17. For the rest: Don’t grow weary in doing good (2 Thess 3:13-15).
  18. Our only real hope is if the Lord of peace gives us peace: peace with him, and peace with each other. One day this peace will be all that’s left. May he be with you (2 Thess 3:16).