Your Endurance Inspired by Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

If you watch a runner competing in the London Marathon, one of the important qualities that they require to finish the race is endurance. They will need to overcome physical hardships and keep on going even when their body would want to give up. What is it that keeps them going when the easiest thing to do would be to quit? There can be any number of personal reasons which motivate them to keep on running and not give up. Deep down inside them they refuse to quit and are determined to finish the race no matter the cost. This is what drives them on to the end.

When Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, he remembered their endurance before God. However, the endurance of the Thessalonians was not one that was based on their own determination but instead it was inspired by their hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.

When we use the word hope it is often in the context of optimistically wishing something might happen which may be unlikely e.g. “I hope that it is dry tomorrow” or “I hope my team win the Champions League!” However, this is not the way that the word hope is used in the bible. The Greek word here is taken from one that means “to anticipate, usually with pleasure.” It signifies an expectation or confidence. This of course is not in ourselves but in the Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul reminds us.

Many years ago, we used to sing a worship song that contained the line “we have a hope that is steadfast and certain.” The Christian hope is indeed one that is certain and unwavering. It is a trust in the One whom God raised from the dead and who is currently interceding on our behalf at the Father’s right hand. Our hope is not dependent on either our feelings or circumstances but instead it is based in the eternal God.

Today in many countries around the world Christians are persecuted for their faith in Christ. In North Korea just being known as a Christian is enough for an individual to be sent to one of the horrific labour camps in that country. Yet despite this Christians are prepared to suffer and die for Christ. What gives them the strength to continue in these circumstances? One of the answers to this is contained in Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians “your endurance inspired by hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Do you have this hope that Paul describes?

Put Your Hope in Him

Last weekend the clocks went back one hour as British Summer Time finally ended this year. The days are getting shorter and the nights are growing longer. Today sunset is at 4.40pm and each day this will get earlier until during December we see it reach 3.51pm. I do not like this. In fact I find it makes me quite despondent.

To make things worse this year we also have the covid restrictions too. The rule of six currently applies to the whole of England. Many places in our country have entered tiers two and three, which prohibits the mixing of households meeting indoors. Unless the government change their mind then most of us will not be able to celebrate Christmas with our families this year.

When will these restrictions be lifted? When will things return to normal again? There does not appear to be any easy answers to these question. My understanding from listening to the government scientists is that the restrictions could last until March. That does not bear thinking about.

It is going to be a tough long winter and I am not particularly looking forward to it! One can almost lose hope when thinking about the next few months. What is the motivation for keeping on going? Can I just hibernate and wake up in April next year thinking this has just been a bad dream?

Deep down in me though there is something telling me not to give up. There is the idea of persevering and hanging in there.

I pick up my Bible and read the first verse of Paul’s first letter to Timothy:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, “

I read that Christ Jesus is our hope. My spirit starts to rise. There is still hope. Life is still worth living. I stop looking at myself and my circumstances and instead I put my hope in Christ. I realise that my hope is found in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Are you dejected?

Are you despondent?

Have you had enough?

Do you want to experience real life?

Do you want a living and true hope?

If so then put your hope in Him!

The Last 4 Months of 2020

Yesterday was the 1st September and we are in the last 4 months of 2020. Summer is now over and autumn has started. The temperatures will start to become cooler and the days will continue to get shorter.

Normally at this time of year there is the expectation of new beginnings as the new academic year starts. Young people will be changing school years, joining new schools and going onto further and higher education.

In our churches September usually sees the reopening of the various groups that have had a break during the summer holidays.

However, this year has been very different due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year as we face the last 4 months of 2020 there are many concerns including:

Will there be a second wave of coronavirus?

Will the schools be able to return successfully?

Will unemployment increase when the government furlough scheme finishes?

Will there be cuts in government expenditure or increases in taxation to pay for the cost of the lockdown?

When will people be able to go on foreign holidays again without worrying about having to quarantine on their return to the UK?

When will churches be allowed to meet and worship without restricted numbers? When will we be allowed to sing in churches again?

In the midst of all these concerns it is very easy to be discouraged. However the following words that Paul wrote to the church in Philippi are ones that I personally find very encouraging. The amazing thing is that Paul wrote these incredible words whilst in prison!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)

Yes things may not be great at the moment, but let us focus on these words and ask God to renew our hope in the truth of what Paul wrote here.


I Trust in Your Unfailing Love

Yesterday was the 100th day of lockdown and during the last three months we have all had to get used to various changes to our usual normal way of life.

This weekend sees the easing of some of the lockdown measures in England with bars and restaurants being allowed to open again. Also, social distancing rules are being changed from 2 metres to what is described as “1 metre plus”.

On a personal note, whilst it’s good to see some of the lockdown eased, I am disappointed that there are still restrictions on churches meeting. Churches are allowed to open for private prayer and services. It is possible to hold weddings with up to 30 guests. However, singing is not permitted! Although I understand the reasons why, it is sad that we still do not know when we will be able to gather together for worship in the normal way again. (UPDATE – Since I posted this I have come across further information on the current rules regarding worship including this from the BBC website).

I think the online services have worked very well at my church, but it is not the same as worshipping together in the normal way. I had been a bit discouraged recently, as the end of the church restrictions still seems to be in the distance with no end date in sight. However I was looking at Psalm 13 and found encouragement in the final 2 verses.

“But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.” (v5-6, NLT)

As we move into the second half of 2020 let us keep our eyes on the Lord. Events in the world may discourage us but if we focus on God and trust in his unfailing live, then we will find encouragement and hope. Although circumstances may change in this world the Lord does not.

Who do we put our confidence in?

In these unusual times in which we currently live, one of the questions that we need to consider is: Who do we put our confidence in?

Last Monday whilst reading Psalm 146 I came across the following verses:

Don’t put your confidence in powerful people;
there is no help for you there.
When they breathe their last, they return to the earth,
and all their plans die with them.
But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He made heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them.
He keeps every promise forever.’ (Psalm 146:3-6 NLT)

It is very tempting during these times to place our confidence in political leaders. However, whilst we should pray for our leaders we have to remember that they are just humans like you and I. They fail and make mistakes.

Some might place their confidence in business leaders instead. Just like politicians though they are humans too and therefore not infallible.

One of the temptations for Christians is to place our confidence in our church leaders. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. We should respect and honour our church leaders, not forgetting to pray for them too. However, again they are humans like you and I.

Who then should we put our confidence in if it is not to be political leaders, business leaders or church leaders? The Psalmist gives us the answer in verse 5:

But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.

Our confidence should be placed in the Lord. He is the one in whom we can fully trust. He is the one who made heaven and earth. The one who always keeps his promises. Humans make promises, which sometimes they keep them, but other times they do not. God, unlike humans, is reliable and keeps his promises.

And as Paul reminds the church in Corinth:

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.’ (2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT)