The Scripture we’ve been covering in our ‘I Am’ series heavily addresses the nature of difficulty and hardship as well as trusting the Lord through it. This is by no means an easy thing to do, but it is very much something that we’ll all endure. The Apostle Paul left us instruction in the New Testament from his own experiences. He offers true counsel as well as a first-hand account of someone who has genuinely pursued the Lord no matter the cost or circumstance. Klint called this process remaining and refining, in John 15 Jesus calls it pruning and abiding. No matter what you call it the question is, when the Lord is pressing us for a greater purpose, how do we best remain faithful despite the pain?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:13-24, Paul gives this instruction: “Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
To us, it seems easier said than done, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When we’re caught in the snares of sin, of doubt, of struggle, it’s so easy to listen to the voice that since the garden has been trying to get us to stumble and stray away. The good news is that truth will counter every doubt, fear, and anxiety. Scripture is always the firmest foundation– the word of God has answers. If you want to know the Lord better, listen to him. The Bible is a beautiful narrative depicting the character and nature of God and how he’s chosen to pursue us. Scripture is the sword (Hebrews 4:12)– it knows how to defend. There are several other ways to abide in the Lord atop that foundation. Prayer, people, and putting off and putting on.
It’s so important to remain in constant communication with the Lord. Prayer shouldn’t be a box that we check because we hear about it all the time. God is not a slot machine, a genie in a bottle, a fill in the blank that we can run to when we want something and then complain when we don’t get it. Prayer should be an act of communion– remembering the Lord, knowing what he has done, praising his faithfulness. As Paul said in 1 Thess. 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” It’s important to remember that just because we might not be in a time of happiness, we still know joy because it was set before us. Rejoice in all circumstances because in times of hardship that might actually feel like when the Lord is closest. Like a Father he knows us best, he gives us what we need, and he withholds what we don’t. Pray intentionally and specifically.
Surround yourself with a community. Let certain people into your struggles, ask to have accountability with them. People love and care imperfectly, but that doesn’t mean that they do it poorly. You can join a community group, start going through counseling, join a book or Bible study, a BSF group, or even attend a class somewhere. As Paul said it in 1 Thess. 15: “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” Let others in and especially show grace towards each other. We’re all still learning, but we should learn to lean on each other as we do so.
3. Putting Off and Putting On
Ephesians 4:22-24 says: “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” For example, if you notice that you’re selfish with your time, try to start serving or volunteering somewhere. This will help you look away from yourself and act in humility better. Put off, put on. This follows 1 Thess. 14 well: “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” These are not natural qualities but rather traits that we have to consciously train ourselves to follow. In time, with experience, they should come easier.
John 15 says: “I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser.” John 10 says: “I am the good shepherd.” It may sound confusing combining the analogies of John 15 and John 10 but despite portraying a different image they tell the same story; they give and take from each other. Like branches to the vine, we will be pruned. It’ll hurt, it’ll be difficult, but in the end, it springs forth new growth. We know we are not alone because like branches to the vine we are sheep to the shepherd, the good shepherd, the one that lays down his life for his flock. He’s already done the hardest part for us– he conquered sin and death. In the midst of our groaning, we need to remain steadfast and follow the sound of his voice, his call.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 23-24