Responding with Thanksgiving to Suffering and Persecution in Church Conflict

In the New Testament epistles to the church in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul answered many questions about Christ’s return. This topic was of particular concern to the Thessalonians because they were facing intense persecution and some of them thought the end had already come. Paul’s letter assured them that it had not and that, in fact, they now had the present opportunity to live holy lives despite the suffering they faced.  He wrote to encourage them in their faith:

“…in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

Paul instructed them to live in a manner consistent with the faith they received because it:

“…came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction” (verse 5)

To face their suffering, these Believers needed assurance that what they were about was not merely human activity, but the divine and eternal work of their everlasting and powerful Creator, the one true God who had powerfully changed their lives. This is the same assurance that we need when we face persecution and suffering in our church conflicts.

Living out of a faith that is grounded in power—not mere words—has never been an easy calling, but it is the call on all of our lives.

We listen to that call and respond with faith and obedience when we turn away from sin and live out 1 Thessalonians 4:3:

“It is God’s will that you should be holy…”

Specifically (from 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5):

  • Love your brothers and sisters in Christ more and more as God has taught you (4:9-10)
  • Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, minding your own business, and working hard (4:11-12)
  • Encourage one another as you await the day of the Lord’s return by building one another up (5:1-11)
  • Respect those who work hard among you as your leaders (5:12-13)
  • Live at peace with each other (5:13b)
  • Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone (5:14)
  • Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else (5:15)
  • Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances (5:16-18)
  • Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt; test everything, holding on to the good and avoiding every evil (verses 5:19 though 22)
  • Remember that it is God whose faithfulness will hold you to your faith (5:23-24)

We know that many of you who read this blog are suffering and feeling that the way you and others in your church conflict are being treated is unjust and wrong. How will you respond to the suffering and persecution you are facing? Will you “be holy” and “give thanks in all circumstances?” Will your faith shape your present and future attitudes and actions? Will you submit even to the Holy Spirit’s fire so that you “hold on to the good and avoid every evil”? Will God’s faithfulness be fully on display as you “love your brothers and sisters in Christ more and more as God has taught you?”

To respond in this way is a death, to be sure. But to die to self and to live for Christ is ultimate gain. And our heartfelt prayer is that you will be assured at every moment that “the one who calls you is faithful” (verse 5:24) and that “the grace of our Lord Jesus [will] be with you” (verse 5:28).

May your day of Thanksgiving be truly a time of peace and joy as you confidently reflect on how much God has loved you. Whatever your circumstances, may we patiently await “The Day” when all suffering and persecution and conflict will come to an end forever.

For the glory of Christ’s Church—a most blessed and happy Thanksgiving to you!

– Dave & Tara

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About Dave Edling & Tara Barthel

We use this name whenever we co-author blog posts, or whenever one of us substantially edits the other's post. You can read our detailed bios on the "About Us" page of this blog: https://redeemingchurchconflicts.wordpress.com/dave-and-taras-bios/
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