2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
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.
If I told you six months ago that many churches across the country would be closed or forced to rely on internet-based streaming services, what you have said then? I think it goes without saying that no one would have believed it. Sure, we could close for a couple of weeks, but for some, there is no end in sight. Local governments continue to place restrictions and what has been the result?
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” Charles Dickens
That quote from Dickens is still meaningful today. In a time when the ministry of the church is more necessary than ever, the ability to care for those in the hospital has been restricted. One friend was not allowed to be with her mother as she passed from this life to the next. One pastor friend told me that people have done more than taken a break from church; they’ve taken a break from Christ. I’ve heard the personal stories of those who have turned toward alcohol in this time of despair. I’ve read of increased overdoses and deaths.
But, in the second letter begins with Paul’s thankfulness to God for the continued faithfulness and love of the Thessalonian people in spite of what he said were “persecution and trials.” We don’t have the details of what persecution and trials were, but we do know that for Paul it meant spending time in jail, being beaten, and enduring hardship of all kinds.
What’s different now than then? The church in the first century was determined to follow Christ at the cost of losing something, but if our churches are nothing more than a sixty-minute gathering once a week, then just how effective should we expect our faith to be?