The Cruciform Church
Part 03: A Christian In The World
...so that no one will be shaken by these afflictions...
1 Thessalonians 3:3a
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
A Clash of Worldviews
for they themselves report what kind of reception we had from you: how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God
1 Thessalonians 1:9
The trials that the Thessalonians were experiencing were a consequence of maintaining their allegiance to Jesus and the values He represented in the midst of a pagan culture that held to a different set of values.
Trials are Expected
In fact, when we were with you, we told you in advance that we were going to experience affliction, and as you know, it happened.
1 Thessalonians 3:4
In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2 Timothy 3:12
We should not be surprised when we experience trials or misunderstanding or exclusion because of our allegiance to Jesus as King.
Trials are Evidence of our Faith(fulness)
This is why we constantly thank God, because when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the word of God, which also works effectively in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, since you have also suffered the same things from people of your own country, just as they did from the Jews
1 Thessalonians 2:13-14
The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs — heirs of God and coheirs with Christ — if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
“It is clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering,”
2 Thessalonians 1:5
If we live out an alternative way of life—one that often doesn’t make sense to the world around us—we will face trials, but these are evidence that we are living out of that life. They are not evidence that we should change our way of life or our belief.
Our Response is To Strengthen Each Other
And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith, so that no one will be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.
1 Thessalonians 3:2-3
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and affliction, we were encouraged about you through your faith.
1 Thessalonians 3:7
Not only did Paul write this letter to the church in order to encourage them, but he himself received strength in his own trials as he heard of their faithfulness. This should be our normal practice as well. We are to absorb the evil in the world to make it possible to live out our way of life faithfully.
Here are two quotes from my favourite theologian to encourage you, and to help you see the radical call of Jesus on our lives when we turn from ourself to follow Him.
To endure the cross is not a tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ. When it comes, it is not an accident, but a necessity. It is not the sort of suffering which is inseparable from this mortal life, but the suffering which is an essential part of the specifically Christian life. It is not suffering per se but suffering-and-rejection, and not rejection for any cause or conviction of our own, but rejection for the sake of Christ. If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity, as one of the trials and tribulations of life.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer—The Cost of Discipleship (pg 98)
If we refuse to take up our cross and submit to suffering and rejection at the hands of men, we forfeit our fellowship with Christ and have ceased to follow him. But if we lose our lives in his service and carry our cross, we shall find our lives again in the fellowship of the cross with Christ. The opposite of discipleship is to be ashamed of Christ and his cross and all the offence which the cross brings in its train. Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer. In fact it is a joy and a token of his grace.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer—The Cost of Discipleship (pg 101)