“Now, friends, read these next words carefully. Slow down and don’t go jumping to conclusions regarding the day when our Master, Jesus Christ, will come back and we assemble to welcome him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, MSG).
These words could’ve been written in 2020, but they are actually from about AD 51 or 52. After Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, he felt the need to write again and address their concerns, lest they be led astray in their faith.
Again, sounds much like 2020 — we still need encouragement and teaching.
There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t need to be inspired with courage for dark days, or boosted in confidence that God is still for us (and not against us). To encourage actually means to stimulate spiritually. It also means to boost, reassure, strengthen, comfort, fortify, gladden, and embolden (my personal favorite).
Someone once said: “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success” (author unknown). If we tweak that a bit for today, we might say: “A word of encouragement during 2020 is worth more than an hour of praise in times past.”
But not just any encouragement… the best reassurance is found in God’s Word. The news can’t give us what we need. Books of great literature or binge-worthy movies may sweep us momentarily into another world, but when we resurface, imaginary worlds from man’s imagination won’t suffice.
God’s Word establishes us in hope, keeps us stable in unstable times, and repeatedly reminds us of truth— God’s Word is God’s truth. In fact, Jesus prayed this very thing for us:
“[Father] Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17 NKJV).
And this is why we also need teaching. Each of Paul’s letters encouraged believers in their struggles, but the majority of what he wrote was instructional. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he imparted knowledge to help believers navigate their lives. They needed advisement, coaching, explanations, and truth to prepare them for the unforeseen.
I have always held to this adage, that scripture always interprets scripture. In other words, instead of trying to figure things out on my own (the meaning and context of scripture), I believe God’s Word helps interpret His Word. God isn’t confused and as the author of time and space, He knows what is past, what is, and what is yet to come. God, and His Word, can be trusted.
And what an encouragement trust can be!
Even if we knew the exact day of Jesus’ return, we’d still have to remain focused and purposed. Our confidence is that He is coming again and we can trust Him to help us in the meantime.
2020 will not be soon forgotten. But in the midst of all the oddities of this year, you can be confident without jumping to conclusions. Stay anchored in God’s Word and you’ll find all the encouragement you need as well.
Give No Quarter
Give No Quarter
by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com
This week my small group started a new series on minor characters in the Old Testament. I have to say it’s been pretty interesting. There are so many characters in the Old Testament whose stories often get overlooked, liked Jephthah, one of Israel’s judges, or Rizpah, who defended the bodies of her slain family. The person I ended up researching though was Josiah, who ruled Jerusalem as King for thirty-one years. 2 Kings opens by saying Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, a rare feat for most of Israel’s Kings, but then it shifts gears and talks about how Josiah discovered the long lost Book of Law in God’s temple.
After deciphering the book and realizing his people have turned away from God, Josiah went on a complete rampage. Just read the passage below,
“He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem–those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. He took the Asherah pole from the temple of the LORD to the Kidron Valley outside Jerusalem and burned it there. He ground it to powder and scattered the dust over the graves of the common people. He also tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes, which were in the temple of the LORD and where women did weaving for Asherah. Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the shrines at the gates–at the entrance to the Gate of Joshua, the city governor, which is on the left of the city gate.” – 2 Kings 23:5-9
My first impression on reading these passages was that Josiah over-reacted. It was great that he wanted to return his people to God, but burning everything in a ten mile radius seemed a little extreme. Then it hit me; that was the point. To God, Sin is a cancerous tumor that must be cut out of your lives completely. Maybe you’re a guy who’s fallen into the grip of pornography, or a girl who can’t stop putting others down through gossip.
We tell ourselves these things are just human weakness and they don’t mean anything, but God will never approve of our “guilty pleasures”. Christ’s grace has given us a way to battle Sin, and in this unseen war the winner takes all. So, if you’re ready to fight, remember to put on the Armor of God, and give the Devil no quarter.
Light at evening time
By: Charles Spurgeon
“It shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.” Zechariah 14:7
God very frequently acts in grace in such a manner that we can find a parallel in nature. For instance, God says, “… as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, … so shall my word be, …it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” We find him speaking concerning the coming of Christ, “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.” We find him likening the covenant of grace to the covenant which he made with Noah concerning the seasons, and with man concerning the different revolutions of the year—“Seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” We find that the works of creation are very frequently the mirror of the works of grace, and that we can draw figures from the world of nature to illustrate the great acts of God in the world of his grace towards his people. But sometimes God oversteps nature. In nature after evening comes night. The sun has had its hours of journeying; the fiery steeds are weary; they must rest. Lo, they descend the azure steeps and plunge their burning fetlocks in the western sea, while night in her dark chariot follows at their heels. God, however, oversteps the rule of nature. He is pleased to send to his people times when the eye of reason expects to see no more day, but fears that the glorious landscape of God’s mercies will be shrouded in the darkness of his forgetfulness. But instead, God overleaps nature, and declares that at evening time, instead of darkness there shall be light.
For meditation: The text has only ever been true on one occasion in a physical sense (Joshua 10:12-14), but God, to whom even the darkness is light (Psalm 139:12), is always repeating the event spiritually in the lives of his people.