“Now, friends, read these next words carefully. Slow down and don’t go jumping to conclusions regarding the day when our Master, Jesus Christ, will come back and we assemble to welcome him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
These words could’ve been written in 2020, but they are actually from about AD 51 or 52. After Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, he felt the need to write again and address their concerns, lest they be led astray in their faith.
Again, sounds much like 2020 — we still need encouragement and teaching.
There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t need to be inspired with courage for dark days, or boosted in confidence that God is still for us (and not against us). To encourage actually means to stimulate spiritually. It also means to boost, reassure, strengthen, comfort, fortify, gladden, and embolden.
Someone once said: “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success”. If we tweak that a little for today, we might say: “A word of encouragement during 2020 is worth more than an hour of praise in times past.”
But not just any encouragement… the best reassurance is found in God’s Word. The news can’t give us what we need. Books of great literature or binge-worthy movies may sweep us momentarily into another world, but when we resurface, imaginary worlds from man’s imagination won’t suffice.
God’s Word establishes us in hope, keeps us stable in unstable times, and repeatedly reminds us of truth— God’s Word is God’s truth. In fact, Jesus prayed this very thing for us:
“[Father] Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
And this is why we also need teaching. Each of Paul’s letters encouraged believers in their struggles, but the majority of what he wrote was instructional. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he imparted knowledge to help believers navigate their lives. They needed advisement, coaching, explanations, and truth to prepare them for the unforeseen.
I have always held to this adage, that scripture always interprets scripture. In other words, instead of trying to figure things out on my own (the meaning and context of scripture), I believe God’s Word helps interpret His Word. God isn’t confused and as the author of time and space, He knows what is past, what is, and what is yet to come. God, and His Word, can be trusted.
And what an encouragement trust can be!
Even if we knew the exact day of Jesus’ return, we’d still have to remain focused and purposed. Our confidence is that He is coming again and we can trust Him to help us in the meantime.
2020 will not be soon forgotten. But in the midst of all the oddities of this year, you can be confident without jumping to conclusions. Stay anchored in God’s Word and you’ll find all the encouragement you need as well.