1 Thessalonians 3:7-9  Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.  For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.  How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?

Have you ever stopped to reflect on how much your ‘faith’ and ‘joy in the Lord’ are strengthened and invigorated by the steadfast example of fellow-believers who stand firm in the face of ongoing difficulties and persecution?

There are friends and acquaintances for whom my wife and I pray every day because they are in a dire situation, looking down a very dark tunnel with hardly a glimmer of light at the end.  As we pray earnestly without seeing our prayers being answered in the way we would like, it would be easy to feel discouraged.  But then, as we see their faith being sustained daily by the Lord in the midst of, and in spite of, their overwhelming difficulties, it is a tremendous encouragement to us.

This is just another reminder of how dependent we are on each other through prayer and encouragement, a fact that is so powerfully expressed in God’s Word through the pen and witness of the Apostle Paul and the faith of the Early Church.  I never cease to be amazed (although I know I shouldn’t be surprised) how Christ’s Church today is growing fastest in places where it faces the most vicious persecution!

I need to reflect on this more deeply as I see opposition to the open preaching of the Gospel, and to the confronting claims of the Lord Jesus Christ, mounting in our own nation and culture.  And I need to remember what Jesus promised to all who would follow him: “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.  These are the beginning of birth-pains. You must be on your guard.  You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues.  On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.  And the gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:7-10); and “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world”  (John 16:33b).
– Bruce Christian