WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – One of the goals of the church for the past 30-40 years has been to make it as easy as possible for people to “accept Christ” and then to be comfortably integrated into the current Christian culture. The result has been what we see around us today: a church shrinking each year in size and influence – except, that is, in those areas of the world where Christianity is still hard. In those places, it is growing and creating a stir.
The Thessalonian believers knew nothing about easy Christianity. Opposition to the gospel began three weeks after Paul and Silas first introduced it in this pagan city. Persecution of the new Christ-followers soon mounted into full-scale riot. The mob dragged some newly-converted young leaders into court and searched for the apostles everywhere. When Paul’s missionary team left for the next city, the saints remaining were in constant danger of arrest or worse (Acts 17:1-10).
Paul knew what it meant to serve Christ in a hostile world. When he wrote back to the young church at Thessalonica, he didn’t pity them. He didn’t advise them on how to blend in to avoid trouble. Instead, he commended them:
“You yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit. As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the word of the Lord rang out from you … you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:6-9).
WONDERFUL THING IN MY LIFE – One problem with easy Christianity is that it follows neither Christ’s example, nor Paul’s, nor the Thessalonians’, nor the example of anyone else commended in the Bible.
Another problem is that it leaves no example for others to follow. It inspires no one to sacrifice for Christ, to serve Him to exhaustion, to remain faithful when it would be easier to give in, to live with less in this life so others may live with everything in eternity.
Jesus never intended for following Him to be easy. He just promised that it would be worth the effort. If we believe His promise, then when we’re tempted to go an easier way, we can make the same declaration of devotion as Peter: “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).
Lord, save us from the desire for easy Christianity. Give us grace to make such an impact for You that we may sometimes face the same charges as Paul: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6).