30 October 2007

The Affliction and Relief of God’s Little Children

In Luke 10, Jesus thanks His Father for revealing salvation and the Kingdom of God to little children. “For such was your gracious will,” says Jesus. I share in Christ’s gratitude because I am a little child needing grace. Part of me would love to say that I have an innate wisdom and a special proficiency for studying the Scriptures but, at the end of the day, I am a little kid who needs the Father’s help. I need my hand held as I explore of the Word or I get unfocused, so I read the One Year Bible and God is faithful to his little child. It happened again today.

On October 13th, 2007 God graciously used this simple tool and second Thessalonians chapter one to encourage my tired soul.

“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 ESV)

As I turned to these words I was struggling with exhaustion. It seemed as if my life consisted a lot of hard work for a little return. As I read I sensed something changing. It was one of those days when words (shown in bold) were leaping off the page. Like the first bite of a meal after no food, I felt restored.

First, my focus was drawn to Paul’s boasting in the Thessalonians. Their steadfastness and faith was evident in growing faith and increasing love in the midst of persecutions and afflictions. “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God.” In other words, God is right in saving the Thessalonians because their salvation led to verifiable change. This was the first sip of living water on a quiet Saturday. Persecution and affliction are necessary to fulfill God’s purposes. In this environment, God reveals the power of salvation: a growing faith and increasing love. Persecution or affliction are not evidence of God’s disdain for me, they are evidence of God’s fatherly pleasure in His children. When the chips are down and we continue to believe and love, God is proved just and a resounding, “That’s my son!” echoes throughout the universe.

My view of the last few weeks begins to change and behind it all I see a tender Father. Still, God is not finished. I’m still tired. My soul still longs for relief.

Next I see that God intends to further express His justice when Jesus is revealed from heaven. On that day, God will judge those who rejected Him by removing them from His presence forever. This is the punishment of eternal destruction. In stark contrast, Jesus will come to be glorified in his saints and marveled at among all who have believed. Paul tells us that three things happen to the saints when Jesus comes back. 1) They are relieved. But how are they relieved? 2) When Jesus is glorified in them and 3) when He is marveled at among them. We find relief and rest on Christ’s return when He is marveled at and glorified in us. True relief from my affliction comes from one source. My soul proclaims, “Today I will stop looking for relief in this world!” and something is freed.

One last thing grabs me as I try to imagine that day. Look carefully at how Paul prays for these Thessalonians. He prays to this end, “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you” as He fulfills “every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power.” Paul prays that Christ may be glorified in the Thessalonians through their life in the present. Therefore, I can experience “relief” in the present in the same way I will on the day of Christ’s return. Relief comes TODAY when I marvel at the greatness of Christ and let Him be glorified in my life! His yoke IS easy and His burden IS light! I have just tried to find rest in the wrong place.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live;”

Isaiah 55:1-3

“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”

Psalm 16:11

Thank you Father that you have revealed this truth to your little child. My focus is renewed and my heart is overflowing again! How would I have seen it without holding the hand of a simple plan?


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