Move from idleness to encouragement
My hope today is that you will benefit deeply from this post, during these difficult and unprecedented times, as it points you toward hope, toward the Lord, and you experience the trials – and opportunities – of the COVID-19 crisis wherever you are in the world.
The first time Paul travelled to Thessalonica he was met with strong opposition. A mob of bad characters started to riot the city in search of Paul (Acts 17:5). This mob was so set on destruction that they chased after Paul when he travelled to Berea.
Life in Thessalonica was especially dangerous for a Christian. But still, in spite of the imminent danger, the church continued to grow, Paul still sent Timothy to watch over and care for the church in Thessalonica. Actually, a better way to phrase it is in light of the danger, Paul writes:“14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-18)
It would have been easier for Christians to hide quietly, in secret and ride out the danger. It would have been easy for the church to succumb to the dangers Thessalonica faced. It would have been easy for Christians to lay low quietly, secretly, ride out the danger.
The dangers and fears facing Thessalonica are perhaps similar to the dangers and fears facing the world today, not just with COVID-19, but in general too. When lock down restrictions in your country are lifted, whether gradually or instantaneously, many of us may fear going out, many of us may fear to gather with people at church, attend social events or even have a family get together. We may fear going back to the workplace. We may fear contact with other people completely. Some of us may choose to draw our curtains closed and barricade ourselves in our homes in hopes of avoiding the virus altogether. Should this happen, there is certainly the danger of us becoming idle. Even during lock down, there is the danger of becoming idle. We could start eating unhealthily, binge-watching TV series and movies, obsessing over news articles and becoming disconnected from the larger body of Christ.
Yet, despite the testing of any hope by an outbreak of death (1 Thessalonians 4:13), the Thessalonians were called to open their curtains and let light in. They were called to walk ahead of outsiders (1 Thessalonians 4:12) so that the Gospel could manifest. They were called to not be moved by afflictions (1 Thessalonians 3:3), but instead to encourage one another, to help the weak, and above all to be patient and persistent in encouragement and prayer.
We are also called to do this. People are afraid. Every day the numbers of those affected are growing higher. Countries are on lock down, which means movement restrictions and social distancing. We aren’t allowed to visit family and friends or go to work. This creates fear! Remember, Christians are called to generate faith, not fear! So instead of fuelling the fear fire, fuel the faith fire – who can you encourage today? Who can you strengthen today? Who can you seek to do good for today? As needs arise, so do opportunities. You too, like the Thessalonians, can rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:16), pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16) for it is God’s will that you are here, it is God’s will we find ourselves in this situation, it is God’s will for “the reason for this season”. “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” for you.” So, put down the news articles. Close your laptop. Get off the couch. Get off your phone. Change out of your pyjamas and find someone you can bless. Start creating new and good habits that you continue when this season is over.
“23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-25
Rejoicing in hope and praying with you all.