In writing to the beset and persecuted Thessalonian church, in about 52-54 AD, towards the end of Claudius’ reign as emperor, Paul writes the following:
…for this reason, brethren, in all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account? (I Thessalonians 3:7-8)
I love this scripture. Paul has had a hard time of it, yet his own afflictions pale into insignificance when he stands back and sees what God has done for his beloved Thessalonian church, for whom he has striven and become a father to. We really live, since you stand firm in the Lord.
The glory of who we are is seen in the extent to which God can achieve his purposes through us. Since returning from Slovenia, we have seen a daily assault of misunderstandings, difficult and sometimes downright uncouth parental comment or staff struggles with resilience, children’s conduct, health or discontent at home, all in the context of the extreme tiredness that we have all, to a man and woman, felt keenly since the middle of January.
And yet, in the midst of all of this, God’s strong and active purposes continue. I have seen God’s careful and fatherly hand in the way that children are cared for and loved, in the way we have been able to make an important and short-notice teacher appointment, in the beautiful way that staff support for each other and bear each other’s burdens, and in the big heart to help others that is growing in many of our children. In addition I have begun to see the fruit of what I have sown in leadership and encouragement this year. Today a beloved member of our staff endured a difficult and unjustified verbal assault from a parent. To see the little provisions that God had already made in order to help this situation was a cause of wonder.
It is possible, certainly in Christ and possibly “out of Him” as well, to be deeply happy and simultaneously anxious and concerned for what is happening around us. Perhaps this is the nature of joy, that consists principally in the assurance of God’s affection no matter what. In all the difficult circumstances this week, I have not for a moment forgotten God’s love and care for me, nor his unyielding defence of his work in this school if we just trust him. Since taking this job at Christ the Sower, I feel alive in every pore, with hope and expectation in all I consider and plan, and know that God is with us and for us. Does that mean I don’t wobble in emotions and decisions? Of course not. I just know who’s got us safe should we fall. We live, really live, as we see the Lord Jesus lift up others so they can stand firm.