Sometimes we say to one another, “Never felt better,” but inside we are hurting bad. These are hard times for a lot of people, but these are also times to look ahead with hope. And that is what this season of the year does for us. It is Advent, a time when we look ahead to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In our text today, there was a group of believers in the 1st Century that had it a whole lot worse than us. They were going through so much trouble, they thought they were in the Tribulation; they thought they were in the great and terrible Day of the Lord; they thought they were experiencing the end of the age.
That is when the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write some words of encouragement for those of us, in any age, who are going through hard times. First, he assures us that we are not in the Tribulation. Then he gives us some practical advice on how to handle the hard times even when it feels like we are in the Great Tribulation itself.
I. GROW THROUGH THE PAIN——–VS. 1-5
God allows trouble in our lives to keep us alive, alert, fresh and growing. It is not His intention to destroy us. On the contrary, He wants to produce a Christ-like character in each one of us. He wants us to arrive at our destination better than wherever we were before. So, do not let your troubles get you down; instead, let God use them to bring you up. Trust God to help you get better instead of bitter through the trial.
II. KEEP ON GOING——–VS. 6-10
Go on with confidence that God will make all things right now when Jesus comes again. Move forward with the assurance that God’s justice will be made plain at Christ’s second coming.
Those who trouble us will find trouble. Those of us who are troubled will find relief when Jesus comes again. Even though it seems that evildoers so often triumph in these days, there is coming a day when God will punish the evildoers, and they will not ultimately succeed.
Sometimes we feel tied neck and neck, right up close, to our problems, but the thought of “home” keeps us going. Jesus is coming again to take us home, so let us grow through the pain, and let us keep on going with confidence.
III. GLOW WITH THE GLORY OF CHRIST——–VS. 11-12
Let us let Jesus shine through us. Let us glorify His name in all we do. Despite our trials, Paul prays for our success. Now, he does not pray for material success; rather, he prays for spiritual success. Specifically, he prays that God would complete every good thing we set out to do and every act that our faith in Christ prompts us to do.
When we set out to please the Lord, then God Himself comes right beside us to finish the task through us. Why? You see, God desires to glorify His name through us. He wants to make Jesus shine in us, so that the world will marvel at His awesome majesty.
But that can happen only as we depend upon His grace. When we depend on the Lord, then He is glorified in our lives. When we depend on the Lord, then Jesus shines through even in our pain.
So, when it seems like you are in the Tribulation itself, just remember three words: GROW, GO, and GLOW. In your suffering, GROW up to maturity; GO on in confidence, and GLOW with the character of Christ. But do not do it in your own strength. Instead, ask God to help you. Friends, that is how we should Anticipate Advent in our painful times. Amen!
Pastor John Punni, II