In His Letters to the Thessalonians (continued)
The Apostle says that the Word went forth from them, not only through all the region of Macedonia and Achaia, but throughout all the whole country (1:8). Their suffering - what did it do? It made them turn outwards, and say, "There are others everywhere in need, in suffering, as we: let us see what we can do the them". That is the way to respond to the gospel, is it not? That speaks of the glorious gospel! The gospel had become to them such good news that it had the effect upon them of delivering them entirely from all self-pity in the deepest affliction. Let us take that to heart.
Patience and Hope
Furthermore the Apostle speaks of their "patience of hope" (1:3), and that simply means that they did not easily give up. That counts for something, you know. You are having a difficult time; everything and everybody is against you. It is so easy to give up - just to give up; to draw out of the race, or drop your hands in the fight, and say, "It is no use - better give it all up." But no: these Christians had patience and hope. They did not easily give up, they "stuck to it", and we shall see that they had a hope that kept them sticking to it.
Such were these who were "an example to all that believe." In them we see the constituents of exemplary Christians, and they are the true features of the gospel. You see, the gospel is for Christians in difficulty! It is not only for the unsaved, but for Christians when they are in difficulty or in suffering. It is still good news. If we lose the "good news" element in the gospel, if it loses for us its keen edge as "good tidings", we become stale; we come to the place where we "know it all." If we lose that sense, then when trouble comes we give up, we let go; but if to have come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus is still for us the greatest thing in all the world and all the universe, then we get through.
Difficulties Because of Temperament
Now, because difficulties always correspond to our dispositions, that is, what we are always gives rise to the nature of our trials, so it was with the Thessalonians. Nothing is a trial to you unless you are made in a certain way. Something that is a trial to you might never be a trial to me at all. Or it might be the other way around. What might be a terrible thing to me and knock
me right off my balance, other people could go through quite calmly, and wonder what I am making such a fuss about. Our troubles and our trials very largely take their rise from the way we are made.
Now I want you to follow this. The thoroughness of these Thessalonian believers led them into peculiar testings. And that is always the case. If you are not thorough-going, you will not have thorough-going difficulties. You will get through more or less easily. If you are thorough-going, you are going to meet thorough-going testings. They arise quite naturally out of your own attitude or your own disposition.
Now, you know that human nature and constitution is made in various ways. You know in general that we are not all alike. That is just as well! But we can to a very large extent classify human nature into different categories - we call temperaments. In the main there are seven different temperaments, or categories of human constitution. I am not going to deal with that in detail, but there is a very useful point here on this matter. These Thessalonians were quite clearly of the "practical" temperament, and the keenness of their particular sufferings was largely found because they were like that. I do not, of course, mean that other people do not suffer, but they suffer in other ways.
(continued with # 42)