Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Unsettled Hearts

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them...I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

True friendships bring couplets of sorrow and joy, relief and concern. We are not talking about sorrow or concern in the sense that a friend may hurt us, or joy and relief as they reach out to us. Instead, let's think about friendship from the perspective Paul addressed in his letter to his comrades in Thessalonica: the burdens and concerns our friends carry become burdens and concerns that we vicariously share with them, and they can leave us unsettled. The Believers in Thessalonica were unsettled, and the state of their faith raised a fear in Paul's heart--a healthy fear, because he knew that the tempter was trying to get his hooks into the hearts and minds of his friends and drag them away from the life of faith.

The apostle is incredibly clear-minded and realistic about the situation. Immediately, he reminded them of a truth that must always be kept in the forefront: You know quite well that we were destined for them [trials]. It's unavoidable, advancing the Kingdom will inevitably bring an entirely different set of problems into the life of one who becomes a fully engaged Believer. Why? Because they are stepping out of the darkness into the light, from slavery into freedom, and from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. It is a rugged journey. Make no mistake, Paul knew that Believers are family. Connected. He knew that the unsettling he and his fellow workers experienced could be misinterpreted and settle into a bout of discouragement, and a loss of faith in his friends in Thessalonica. That unsettled Paul and he acted.  

The apostle Peter said very much the same thing in a slightly different way: Don't be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening. Don't mistake Peter's attitude when he told them not to be surprised at their trials. The once upon a time fisherman, was being anything but cavalier. No, he was coming alongside them to share the burden his friends carried. He knew what was at stake: they might interpret their trials in such a way that would unsettle their faith, and that left Peter unsettled. It was time to reach out.

The bottom line is this. When God puts fellow Believer on our hearts, we can know that it is time to seek them out, bring our strength to them, and be an encouragement. When a God-sent niggling arrives, letting us know that a friend is bent under a burden, He is also calling us to be burden bearers. It is a holy unsettling to remind us that we need to help settle the disquieted heart of a friend--and our own heart, by being a responder.

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