Faith Amid Persecution
Open Your Bible
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Romans 8:35-39, 1 Peter 4:12-14
Theologian G. K. Chesterton believed “that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Paul is setting an example for his beloved Thessalonians by weaving his own thankfulness throughout this letter to them. And he doesn’t just thank them for doing a great job; he thanks God for all the saving benefits bestowed on them, and celebrates the evidence of the gospel in their lives (1Thessalonians 1:2–5).
Paul is thankful for how they have become imitators of the Lord, bearing His image to the Macedonians. He is thankful for how “the word of the Lord rang out from [them]” through faith and in everything He has called them to do (vv.6–8). They have done all of this with joy, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and despite ongoing persecution. Paul is thankful for these things because he knows that if they remain rooted in the love of Christ, they will be “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) over the affliction and distress and persecution they will surely encounter because of their devotion to Him (v.35).
But above all, Paul’s thanks are to God.
All good comes from God, so apart from Him, no good can be hoped for by sinners. Paul’s thanks to God are appropriate because God is the author of all that is good—not just all the good that comes to us, but even all the good that is done by us, whether in good or dire circumstances.
Do you find yourself in a habit of gratefulness to God? When I consider the words that come out of my mouth, I’m definitely teasing or complaining at least as much as I’m blessing and thanking.
If you also find yourself struck by the mockery and ungratefulness that escapes your lips and hangs around your mind, you’re in good company. But don’t just grit your teeth and try harder. Paul immediately points us to the three cardinal graces: faith, hope, and love. And he doesn’t say, “Try harder, y’all! Get you some more faith, hope, and love!” Instead, he names the cause of these graces: our Lord, Jesus Christ.
All good comes from Christ, and any change in our hearts comes from Him. He is the object and also the instigator of our thankfulness. For the gospel comes to us not only in words, but also in power (1Thessalonians 1:5)—His power.