Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 3:2-5
“So that no one would be unsettled by these trials, for you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.”
Devotional: Embracing Trials and Reflecting on Our Commitment
In this podcast episode, the speaker raises an important question: What if there was persecution in the American church? While we may not currently face such extreme persecution, the early church experienced trials and persecution for their faith. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, reminds them to prepare for trials and persecution.
As we reflect on this scripture, it prompts us to consider the strength of our own faith and our commitment to Jesus. Are we truly willing to hold on to our beliefs even in the face of adversity? It’s easy to say that we would, but without experiencing persecution, we cannot be certain.
The speaker also ponders the impact of the freedom of religion in America on the growth of the church. While this freedom allows us to freely practice our faith and share the Gospel, it can also lead to apathy and lukewarm Christianity. Without the threat of persecution, we may become complacent in our relationship with God.
So, how can we make sensible changes in our lives to further our relationship with the Lord?
Reflect on your commitment: Take the time to honestly assess your level of commitment to Christ. Are you fully surrendered to Him, or are you just going through the motions? Examine your heart and ask God to reveal any areas where you may be holding back.
Seek self-awareness: Be intentional about self-reflection and self-awareness. Regularly evaluate your spiritual growth and identify areas where you can deepen your relationship with God. This may involve seeking accountability from a trusted friend or mentor.
Embrace trials and challenges: While we may not face persecution to the same extent as the early church, we will still encounter trials and challenges in our faith journey. Instead of avoiding or resenting these difficulties, embrace them as opportunities for growth and reliance on God. Allow them to strengthen your faith and deepen your trust in Him.
Cultivate a genuine relationship with God: Remember that a relationship with God is not just about knowledge and understanding, but about experiencing His transformative power in your life. Seek to know Him intimately through prayer, studying His Word, and cultivating a heart of worship. Allow His love and grace to change you from the inside out.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the freedom we have to worship and practice our faith. Help us not to take this freedom for granted but to use it to grow closer to You. Give us the strength and courage to face trials and challenges with unwavering faith, knowing that You are with us. Show us any areas where we may be lukewarm or apathetic in our commitment to You, and help us to fully surrender our lives to You. May our relationship with You be genuine and transformative, reflecting Your love and grace to the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Podcast Transcript: Persecution and the American Church.
What if there was persecution in the American church? To the extent that if you were to share your faith with somebody, that you would be at risk of going to prison or being put to death in a public way so people could see it. Would my faith be strong enough to go through with that? And would I hold on to my beliefs through that circumstance?
Prepare for Trials
In the third chapter of 1 Thessalonians, at the beginning, the Apostle Paul is just reminding them that they should prepare for trials. They should know that they were going to experience persecution and trials for their faith. In verses 2, at the end of verses 2 and 3 and 4, it says, “So that no one would be unsettled by these trials, for know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted, and it turned out that way, as you well know.” This verses 3 through 5 here just signifies the craziness that is going on at this time and the cost that the early church had to have faith in Jesus and to proclaim their faith in Jesus.
Freedom of Religion
I am thankful for the freedom of religion that America has, and I really hope that my children still get to experience that. What I do think about sometimes is with the freedom that we have in following God, that we’re not going to get persecuted, at least not at a state level or at a government level, that right now it’s illegal to persecute somebody for that. With those rights, is that helping the church grow or is it hurting it? And I can see both sides to that. Obviously, I don’t want it to go away. I think there’s a big advantage to being able to share our faith and to practice our faith on Sunday mornings and not worry about somebody raiding the place because it’s illegal to meet like in China and in other places around the world that are not going to be worried about being put to death for just getting together and getting into the Word of God. And there’s, I think, big advantages to that. But it can also produce, in my opinion, apathy, that there is no cost to following Jesus or at least the way that we see it. There’s no cost to getting into the Word of God and going to church on Sunday morning. And you can just go and you can be apathetic about it. Now, if you were under the threat of death, I think that there would be a lot less lukewarm Christians. Well, let’s put it this way. How many lukewarm Christians do you think there were in the first century church? Because you’re not going to go along with something if you have the risk of dying for it. If you don’t truly believe in it and have committed your life to it.
Reflecting on Our Commitment
I hope it doesn’t take persecution for us to realize if we’re fully committed or not. I think we can really reflect on our life without it. But you have to take the time to reflect on your life and really analyze and be self-aware of, how committed am I? Have I given my life completely over to Christ as He’s asked to bear my own cross? Or am I just kind of half doing it because it makes me feel good? When you bring in persecution and it’s there, you’re going to have nobody on the fence. And I think there’s advantages of people being on the fence as they’re really trying to seek God out. And then there’s disadvantages because they get comfortable there, get comfortable with their knowledge and don’t fully commit their lives. And I think the half-hearted Christians are the ones that have this false sense of security of their relationship with God when it’s really a lot less of a relationship with God as it is more of a knowledge and understanding of who God is. A relationship with God as powerful and as big and as loving as he is, it will change your life. If you claim to have a relationship with the creator of the universe and your life is not changed, I have a really hard time believing that you and I serve the same God.
For what it’s worth, these are my thoughts. Hopefully it’s encouraging. And as always, get into the word yourself. God