A life above circumstances
Thessalonica, the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia, was situated on different trade routes. Due to the different influences on the city, it was a flourishing centre for trade and philosophy. The church in Thessalonica was established during a relative short visit by Paul. Paul was concerned for the new believers, and a few months later he sent Timothy to visit the church. Although Timothy’s feedback was encouraging, he also reported on some challenges the church was facing. Some of the church members died since the establishment of the church and they were not properly informed what would happen to deceased Christians at Christ’s return, resulting in some confusion. The church members also faced other challenges, such as being plagued by continued persecution.
When Paul heard Timothy’s feedback, he was eager to encourage the Christians in Thessalonica and to answer their questions on Christ’s second coming. With this background, Paul gave specific instructions that should be part of a Christian’s life, irrespective of our circumstances. In verse 16-18, Paul used the words “at all times”, “uninterruptedly” and “in all circumstances.” The repeated use of these strong words emphasises an instruction for a Christian life approach.
Our difficult circumstances may not determine our joy in the Lord. Our circumstances, good or challenging, may not determine our conversations with God and our circumstances may not determine our thankfulness. When we look at Paul’s own life, we see an example of someone who did not allow his circumstances to determine his joy, prayer or thankfulness. He practised what he preached. He did not look sideways – he looked up.
What is the practical application of this passage? Let’s consider the following points:
- When I receive a report that someone is going through a challenging time, do I eagerly encourage them, irrespective of my own circumstances?
- Do we, like Paul, really practice what we preach? Do we have uninterrupted gladness in God, irrespective of our circumstances?
- Do we have a mental attitude of prayerfulness, continual personal fellowship with God, and a consciousness of being in His presence throughout each day, irrespective of our circumstances?
- Do we see and acknowledge the things in our lives for which we need to be thankful, even when we are going through challenging times?
- Do we keep these principles to ourselves, or do we share it with others?
It is impossible to answer “yes” on these questions based on my own strength. It is only possible through the Holy Spirit, God who gives me strength. Paul said to the church in Thessalonica, “Do not quench the Spirit” (CEV). May we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, grow more and more into the example that God gives us in his Scripture. May we, through the Holy Spirit, grow in our glad-heartnedness, our fellowship with God and our thankfulness. Let’s encourage one another to live above our circumstances!
To think about: How do I encourage a friend infected by HIV to live above his or her circumstances?
Written by: Hannes de Villiers, Co-Founder of Building Hope Foundation