A Flippant Encouragement?

It was a dangerous time in the city of Thessalonica when the Apostle Paul and Silas travelled there.  They first went to the Jewish Synagogue.  Then they went out into the market places.  Their reason?  To tell others the truth of Jesus Christ who had been killed by crucifixion and then rose up from the dead.  Paul and Silas were passionate about the message of who Jesus is, why He came, and how He could radically change a life.

They had only been there for three weeks when a bunch of thugs got together and stirred up a riot against them.  It was known they had been staying in the home of someone named Jason.  The thugs went there demanding to have Paul and Silas given to them, but Paul and Silas weren’t there.  The people who had believed their message of love and hope had hidden them away; then in the night they helped them to escape to safety.

Naturally Paul and Silas were very concerned at the danger the new believers were in for pledging their allegiance to Jesus.  Therefore, with great desire to encourage these baby Christians, Paul wrote a letter to them.  Today we call the letter I Thessalonians.  In chapter 5 and verses 16-18, Paul writes something that is rather strange, given the difficult and dangerous situation in which the believers found themselves.  Paul encouraged them with the following words: “Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Does that piece of advice not sound just a bit flippant to you?  I could not understand this for years.  I believed it was right, but I could make no sense as to the value of it.  I tried to put myself in the shoes of the people of Thessalonica.  I told myself that if I were having a great problem in my life, and some well meaning person said to me what Paul said to them, that would not be a great help to me.  In fact, it might just irritate me.  It’s like that song of some years ago, “Don’t worry; be happy.”  How is that advice supposed to help?

Such an irritation would have come to me because I greatly lacked in my understanding. You see, Paul wasn’t being flippant.  He was revealing to them an important truth.  I’m sure the Holy Spirit within them guided the people into understanding just as He guides and teaches you and me today.

Paul was, in fact, doing something amazing.   He was teaching them to address a natural problem with a supernatural solution.  How radical!  He was encouraging them with the truth that whatever happens to us in our natural world, we have access to supernatural power.  We can be overcome with great sadness and discouragement due to natural circumstances in our lives.  Paul was telling them that they now have hope like never before.  They now have supernatural access to their Heavenly Father who has everything they need to get through anything at all.

That wonderful message is the same today.  We can be downtrodden, grief stricken, crushed with feelings of fear and worry, but we need never be defeated.  We have a supernatural access to get us through any natural pain.  That is indeed God’s will for us because He wants to see us as over comers, capable through His power to be strong in any situation life throws at us.

When You Are Chosen

This afternoon, as I was reviewing a certain joy of the day, the words of Luke 15:3-7 came to mind: “Jesus told this story, ‘If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do?  Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.  When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.”  

What was the joy of the day?  I got to go with friends, Viv and Nat, to look at puppies!  Would they choose one?  Yes, they did!  This pup needed a home and now has one.  She was chosen.  Now she will learn the ways of her household.  She will settle into their routine.  She will love pleasing them.  She will love hearing the words, “You’re a good dog!”  She will love her tasty rewards.  She will know she is protected and that her needs are provided.  She will come to know and trust all these things.  Why?  Because already she knows she is loved.

She has been rescued from the very small world she knew.  Today, an unimaginable new world opened before her.   She rode in a car, walked on grass, and went inside a house.  Goodness gracious!  What excitement for one who had thus far only known the four walls of a makeshift kennel — and it all came about because she was chosen.  Someone came, found her, chose her, and will love her all the days of her life.

Sound familiar?  Before someone comes to know Jesus, they, too, are confined to their natural worlds.  Then, one joyful day, Jesus comes, like the shepherd going after his lost sheep, and He takes them unto Himself.

He chooses us.  He sees our worldly and ungodly hearts, and He cleans us up.  He gives us new desires.  He pours in a joy that nothing in the natural world ever gave us.  It’s unexplainable but it’s real.  Suddenly, we are reborn into an eternal security that makes us know of a certainty that we are chosen, protected, and our needs are provided.  The more we come to know our rescuer, the more we trust Him, the more we love to please Him, the more we want to know about Him, the more we love hearing Him speak into our hearts, “You’re a good son or you’re a good daughter!”  The more we know Him, the more we recognize and enjoy the blessings of being a member of His household.  Like the words of the song, our hearts can sing, “the longer I know Him, the sweeter He grows.”

Isn’t it a joy to be chosen?  Isn’t it a joy to be rescued from our natural worlds and to be introduced to the holy, supernatural one?  Remember, everyone is chosen, but not everyone accepts what is offered.  God chooses us, but gives us free choice to choose Him.

Have you chosen Him?  If you never have done so before, you can do that right now.  Just ask Him to forgive you of your sins, thank Jesus for dying for you on the cross, and tell Him you choose Him.  Ask Him to come into your life and to make you new.  He will.  He will come instantly.  He will come and fill you with a joy such as you have never known.

Blessings to all — you are chosen.