Having expectations of comfort, pleasure, happiness, and fun is one way to pursue life, but often these unrealistic and unsustainable expectations do not align with reality, and they set you up for disappointment and discouragement. If you have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus and you are seeking to follow Jesus in your daily life, you realize life has discomfort, opposition, and even suffering.
These statements may align more closely with some of your life experiences.
- Even when you enjoy meaningful relationships, you could experience loneliness and dissatisfaction.
- Even when you have a well-suited position for your strengths, your work and responsibilities could be challenging and difficult.
- Even when you have a loving, positive family, you could experience conflicts in these relationships.
- Even when you earn a decent income, you may not afford all you want.
- Even when you are trying to live in a way that honors God, you could experience discomfort, challenges, hardships, and opposition.
Living your life for Jesus does not eliminate opposition or the testing of your faith. So, how do you prepare for when you face opposition? What if God gave you ways to respond to opposition so that you could predetermine your responses and ask God to help you implement these responses? God has provided responses for you in the Bible, specifically 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
The apostle Paul founded a church in Thessalonica on his second missionary journey but was forced out of the city by those who opposed the gospel – that Jesus is God (reference Acts 17:1-9). The believers of Jesus in the city of Thessalonica were experiencing opposition, so Paul wrote two letters, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, to encourage them in their faith.
Paul had great joy that in the face of severe persecution the Thessalonians were remaining faithful to God. To strengthen them in their endurance Paul sent encouragement and instructions. Paul wrote to assure them that because of the hardships they suffered they could be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:4-12, you learn how the Thessalonians were responding to their life circumstances. Paul thanks God because the Thessalonians demonstrate their growing faith, abounding love, patience, and faith in Jesus despite opposition and difficult life circumstances. They show perseverance by exhibiting patience and endurance in hardships and demonstrate their faith through being fully convinced that Jesus is God by responding to hostile opposition and crushing life circumstances with patiently waiting on Jesus’ response to the situation (reference 2 Thessalonians 1:4). The Thessalonians’ response is supernatural, God-empowered, because while they were suffering from actions against them, God uses their difficult circumstances to display God’s righteousness in their lives (reference 2 Thessalonians 1:5-8).
You may think that God is distant or even absent when you face opposition or difficult life circumstances, but God inspired the apostle Paul to share the opposite position by insisting that the Thessalonians were facing opposition as evidence of the righteousness of God in their lives.
When you face difficult life circumstances and you allow God to empower you with righteous endurance, God’s work is on display for others to believe in Jesus. Your difficult circumstances could serve as a part of your maturation so that you are considered worthy of Jesus’ namesake (reference 2 Thessalonians 1:5).
Paul prays for the Thessalonians that Jesus would declare them worthy of Jesus’ name. Paul’s prayer is based on the belief that God is just, that God sees all their life experiences, and will repay those who persecute them either immediately on earth or eventually through Jesus’ second coming. Paul describes what the day of judgment will be like for those who persecuted the Thessalonians (reference 2 Thessalonians 1:6, 8-10).
Additionally, in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, Paul prays for the Thessalonians, that God would count them worthy of their relationship with Jesus and that Jesus would be glorified through their lives according to the grace God provides them.
So we [Paul, Timothy, Silvanus] keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
When the Thessalonians were under intense persecution, facing opposition, they share and live the gospel everywhere they go, they show love to their enemies, and they are generous toward those in need. These responses are God-empowered!
Paul offers another prayer for them in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13. Paul wanted their love to overflow – the word used is not an emotion, but a way of living toward one another’s best interest. Paul prays they increase in their love “more and more.” Paul also prays for God to “establish their hearts” in truth or God’s Word, meaning the center of the will and intellect, which is a person’s resolution and commitment or their deep conviction for how they live their entire lives. Paul wanted them to be strengthened to live a holy life pleasing to God through complete devotion to God and God’s purposes regardless of their life circumstances.
These are amazing prayers of encouragement and instruction when facing opposition and hardship! These prayers are not only for the Thessalonians, but also for you, if you are trying to live in a way that honors God and are experiencing discomfort, challenges, hardships, and opposition in your life.
God provides ways for you to respond to opposition so that you can predetermine your responses and ask God to help you implement His responses in your daily life.
First, make sure you have realist expectations about living life for God. You will experience discomfort, challenges, hardships, and opposition in this life. Ask God for His supernatural response of patient endurance to demonstrate God is in your life.
Second, when facing challenges, model confidence and security in Jesus by demonstrating for others that challenges are a normal part of life, but with Jesus in your life, you are not alone, and you have Jesus providing wisdom and instruction on how to respond to life challenges. Ask God to help you grow in your faith and increase your demonstration of God’s love toward others.
Third, make sure you understand that life is not fun or fair much of the time, especially when others oppose your faith in Jesus, but difficulties need not steal the joy and peace given to you by Jesus through your faith in Him.
Fourth, make sure you are honest with people when you share the gospel, so they know entering a relationship with God through faith in Jesus does not exempt you or them from facing opposition or experiencing hardship or persecution. However, God provides supernatural empowerment to persevere through hardships, show love toward those who oppose you, and be generous toward others in need.
Watch the LIVE REPLAY to learn more about how God can use hardships in our lives to grow our faith in Jesus. Join us LIVE every Monday at 3 p.m. ET on @GodGivesCourage Instagram for our Spiritual Growth Series and check back here on Tuesdays for the companion blog post.