It’s inevitable. But not final.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.

How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. 10 Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.

11 May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. 12 And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 13 May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 [NLT]

Adorned Pathway Pastel | Dearborn, MI | August 2022

“The chickens are coming home to roost,” he said. “What do you mean?” I asked. “We started all those mission congregations, and now we have to support them,” he replied. It was the way things were done 40 years ago. A district of our denomination would start mission sites and support them financially over a sometimes interminable period of time. Everyone hoped that over time they would become self-supporting, but that was not always the case. Too often, in fact, congregations developed an entitlement mentality. It was inevitable: That model could not sustain itself.

Death and taxes are said to be inevitable as well. In fact, they are said to be the only two things that you can count on. But there is another – prosperity gospel preachers notwithstanding: We will suffer if we follow Jesus. Paul alludes to this in this letter to the church in Thessalonica. They have suffered – just as he had said they would. He writes, “But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know.” 

Some say that a peaceful and happy life is the evidence of being in the will of God. Debbie Boone sang, “It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.” Oh my. Sadly that is certainly not true. Although they will ultimately pay, drug lords, crime bosses, and scallywags of every type enjoy outwardly peaceful and happy lives. A happy life may be a gift of God. We may pray the prayer of the psalmist:

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. – Psalm 16:5-6

But when trouble comes, we must also pray with Jehosaphat:

“O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12

We can do that because our hopes are based on God’s eternal promises. And we believe that God’s steadfast love endures forever. We live this out in faith in God and in love for one another. We are neither abandoned by God nor without the comfort of others in the midst of our suffering; though sometimes our friends’ well-meaning words may prove to be unhelpful. (I’m thinking of Job’s three friends who came to be with him in his suffering. They said nothing for 14 days. But when they began to speak, they moralized, judged, and pontificated. None of that was helpful.)

You may know someone who is suffering. He may be experiencing a crisis of faith. She may be nearly hopeless. I’m not certain that by telling him or her that such suffering is inevitable they will be comforted. But I am certain that God’s steadfast love is expressed sometimes without a word, explanation, or justification. No I told you so will salve the wounded heart. But a word of prayer, a kind touch of the hands, a reminder of our true hope will avail to God’s purposes.

For suffering may be inevitable. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” But he also said, “Rejoice, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This is our hope in the face of the inevitable troubles we must all face. Thank God for those who do not give the false-hope of a troubleless life, and for those who are willing to stand with us in the face of those inevitable troubles. They may be inevitable. But they are not final.

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