Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.
—1 Thessalonians 3:1–3
At the time of this writing, Paul was being chased from town to town by a group that had opposed him in Thessalonica then followed him to Berea and on to Athens. With the heat on in these cities, Paul ended up back in Corinth. From there, Paul sent word to the Thessalonians through Timothy that they were not to be shaken by his trials or by the trials they would soon be forced to endure.
In essence, Paul reminds us that Christians are appointed to affliction. In other words, it’s par for the course. I will admit, injustice is a hard concept for many people, including me, to understand. It’s hard to accept, even knowing that in the end every injustice will be righted and the memories of this life will fade as we enjoy heaven for all eternity. There, at last, injustice will not even be possible, for we will all be like Jesus (1 Cor. 15:53).
But for now, it is hard to see God’s people endure suffering. It’s hard to read of the persecution of Christians in Sudan and Nigeria. It’s hard sometimes not to wonder, How long, oh Lord, holy and true? But the fact is, God wants to save those who are committing injustice.
Even knowing that, it’s just flat-out hard to pray for our enemies, especially those who have harmed us or other Christians. But that is our appointment: to endure affliction and to pray for those who afflict us. Jesus did it, and Stephen, the church’s first martyr, did it. Thousands upon thousands of times since then, God’s people have faced persecution and died with a prayer for their persecutors on their lips. With that in mind, I guess I can bear the minuscule ways in which I experience persecution. Millions have gone before me who have endured far worse, so I will not let myself be shaken.
Brother or sister, this world is not our home, and our visit here, in comparison to eternity, is but for a moment. So let’s not be shaken by what we see happening to others or even to ourselves. Let’s pray for our afflicters and join the millions who have endured far worse than most of us ever will. Let’s face our persecutions with prayer on our lips!
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