You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thes. 5:5-11
Last night, at about 3 am, I read the above passage. I read it about a hundred times, it seemed like. Yes, I finished 1 Thessalonians last night in my slow and plodding reading of the Bible. It has been an exciting journey that I have had in the last year and a half. There have been serious highlights and incredible "oh wow" moments in my reading travels and last night was one of them. The whole of 1 Thessalonians was incredible. I actually read it two or three times before I went to bed (luckily its a short book so it lends itself to repeated rereadings at 3 am).
I use the Concordia Self-Study NIV bible, but I didn't read the introducion to 1 Thessalonians, which was actually a blessing. As I read the book I found a word rattling around in my head. That word was encouragement. I felt encouraged in my faith after reading it. That last sentence seems silly, but it is true. I was encouraged in Faith through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit and it felt good, like a cool glass of water on a hot day (sorry about the cliche).
After I finished reading I went back and read the introduction and read this:
Believers in God’s grace came under physical attack at Thessalonica. One of the main reasons for writing 1 Thessalonians may be summarized in a single word—persecution. Paul came to Thessalonica after suffering persecution (beating and imprisonment) at Philippi (2:2). He was forced to leave Thessalonica as a result of persecution. Even then persecution continued from the Jews at Thessalonica, who followed Paul to Berea and stirred up antagonism there (Ac 17:10–13). Because Paul knew that persecution continued to be a problem at Thessalonica, he sent Timothy to find out what the situation was there (3:1–5)—how the believers in God’s grace were withstanding persecution..
Paul writes to encourage these Christians to remain steadfast in the face of such persecution by taking comfort and hope in God’s grace. He presents Christ as their hope of salvation at the present time and at his second coming. When Christ returns he will rescue (1:10; 5:4–11), reward (2:19), perfect (3:13), resurrect (4:13–18) and sanctify (5:23) all who trust in God’s grace. (taken from the introduction of 1 Thess. p 1832, boldfacing mine)
The word "persecution" jumped out at me and the line "encourage these Christians to remain steadfast" struck me as well. I think the words in 1 Thessalonians should really hit home to modern day Christians. We might not be persecuted with lions and wooden crosses, but to a certain exent it seems that we, as a faith, are being persecuted or at the very least marginalized. One's Faith can take a hit with that kind of thing. I know mine does. Temptation is every where and very real. General malise towards the Christian is rampant. But we can take comfort in the fact that we are saved by Grace and are Justified through Faith. We are "in the world," not "of the world."
Today I found myself reflecting on the readings from last night and there has been a strange little smile on my face. How is my faith today? Strong and burning bright. It is alive. And for that I am thankful.