Progress through pain

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By Bryan Marx

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 2 Thessalonians 1v3-4

In the book of 2 Thessalonians Paul begins his letter with an expression of gratitude, giving thanks for the fact that the Christians at Thessalonica are growing, both in their faith and in their love for each other. In other words, they are making progress in the Christian life, growing both in the vertical dimension (faith towards God), and also in the horizontal dimension (love for one another).

This reminds us that there are degrees of faith and love, and the expectation is that Christians will grow in these areas. As we go on in the Christian life it’s expected that there will be a deepening in our faith – a deepening in our reliance on the Lord, a deepening of our trust in Christ, and a deepening of our dependence on Him. It’s also expected that there will be an increase in our love for one another – that we will become increasingly self-sacrificial, and increasingly concerned for the needs and the welfare of others.

What’s remarkable, however, is the expectation that this growth will take place in the context of hardship and suffering. As someone has said, God’s plants don’t grow in the greenhouse; they grow outside where they’re exposed to the wind and the hail. The Thessalonians were enduring trials and persecution (verse 4), and yet this didn’t stop them from pressing forward and making progress in the Christian life. Can the same be said of us? Are we making progress in the Christian life? Do we view our trials as an excuse not to become self-absorbed, or as an opportunity to look away from ourselves and grow in faith and love?

  • Grahamstown Baptist Church
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