So it is 2010, eh? What is this year going to be like for you? A lot of people are going to start out with great determination that this is going to be an awesome year. I hope it is for them, but many will be overcome by circumstances within the first week. Unfortunately bills, marital problems, and many other situations do not disappear with the change of the year. What we ended with in 2009 we start off with in 2010. If we were tired then we are still tired. If we had cancer then we still have cancer. If we felt lost then we still feel lost. The truth of the matter is that there is only one thing that can make any change and it doesn't require the start of a new year.
In Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians he starts off with a very positive and encouraging word:
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4)
Paul is praising them for something we should all be seeking in our lives: spiritual growth. Their faith was growing and their love was increasing. There was a movement forward, change was happening, growth was evident. Paul was excited about it, so excited that he was boasting about their perseverance and faith to the other churches. Paul was using them as an example to spur on the other believers. So, how much growth did we experience in the past year?
Hold it a second. Before we get into that, did you notice something here? Paul said he was boasting about their perseverance and faith "in all the persecutions and trials" they were enduring. Okay, so their spiritual growth was taking place despite their circumstances, or could we say because of their circumstances? I don't want to be a naysayer on all these wonderful prayers for a prosperous year but that kind of prosperity comes and goes rather quickly. I am not convinced that God's plan is to spoil all his children with riches and the perfect life. I am finding there are too many Christians and churches chasing after the same thing as the world only with different vocabulary, sometimes. I think many of us have to wake up to the fact that the greatest prosperity our Father wants us to have is the prosperity of our spirit. I want spiritual blessings far more than I want physical blessings. I will take both when offered but I perfer the one over the other. Check out Ephesians 1 to see how blessed we are because he chose us to be holy and blameless. He loved us enough to adopt us as sons through Jesus. He has given us grace. We have been redeemed. We have been forgiven. He has also revealed his plan to us, that we know we have a destiny in Jesus when Jesus returns. We are a people blessed in abundance.
These are the things the Thessalonians were discovering and growing in. These are the spiritual blessings that gave them satisfaction and caused increase in them. These are the blessings that lifted them higher than the persecutions and trials they were facing and gave them the perseverance that they needed. They were incredible witnesses of God's love, and of their belief in the truth that had been revealed to them. Their faith was not crushed when their bills came in. In fact, they faced far worse as they were threatened with beatings, jail and the confiscation of their property. These are the same threats our brothers and sisters still face in many countries including India, were there is more spiritual prosperity than physical prosperity. Your circumstances can hardly be compared to the threat of death, so where is your faith?
Consider these words of commendation:
All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. v. 5
What is the evidence? The spiritual growth of the Thessalonians in the face of persecution and trials.
I am convinced that each of us is destined to do great things for the growth of the Kingdom. I am absolutely convinced of this fact. I am also convinced that corporately we can show the world the power of God's love by our unity and acts of love. But this is not going to happen until our pain threshold increases. We must be willing to persevere in our faith despite trails, persecutions and circumstances. Until we are willing to let go of the insignificant and grasp the significant; until we are willing to suffer, even die for the mission of reconciliation of Man to God; until we are willing to feel the real pain of sacrifice and loss; until we are willing to live with the passion that provokes persecution, we will continue to flat line in the area of spiritual growth.
We need to be hungry for this. Our greatest desire every morning when we wake up should be to know Jesus more and to make him known to others. Instead of seeking after riches and fame for ourselves we need to humble ourselves and realize we are already a blessed people. We need to stop seeking for ourselves and desire the things of the Kingdom. All things are possible because of Jesus, so why are we not doing all things? This should be an incredible year of personal spiritual growth as we seek to do great things in Jesus' name. Every year should see more growth than the year before. We must always be changing and growing and increasing.
This year, instead of asking for personal wealth, let's seek to see our passion renewed. Let us ask for spiritual increase. Let us ask for more love and greater faith. Let us ask for renewed vision and new dreams. Let us ask to join Dad in his work, where he is working, so we can demonstrate our growing passion in the work he gives for our hands. Let us see great things accomplished this year so that the whole Church can be encouraged by what God is doing through us. To God be the glory!