June 13, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NRSV)
You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition.
We hear a lot about resilience these days. One reason is that we feel so battered and broken. We wonder how we can keep on going when the challenges we face seem overwhelming. We sense a deep need for resilience. In 1 Thessalonians we learn that resilience is a gift from God. When we face overwhelming obstacles, when we feel exhausted, we need God’s help. God is able and willing to strengthen us for the work we are called to do.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians.
We hear a lot about resilience these days. You’ll see resilience showing up in news stories, business journals, and bestselling books. If you do a book search on Amazon for the word “resilience,” you’ll get over 20,000 book suggestions. (I can gladly recommend the one I have read, Tempered Resilience, by my colleague and friend, Tod Bolsinger.) If you use Google’s Books Ngram Viewer to learn about the historical usage of the word “resilience,” you’ll find that use of this word has skyrocketed in the last 20 years. I’m guessing this has to do with the fact that so many of us feel the need for resilience in our lives.
Resilience is recovering quickly from difficulty or defeat. As it says in Tempered Resilience, resilience is “bouncing back from a failure or setback and continuing on.” Resilience is expressed and developed only in the face of adversity. It comes during hard times.
Resilience is something we see in the life of the Apostle Paul. As he went throughout the Mediterranean world preaching and planting churches, Paul often faced opposition from both official and unofficial sources. In 1 Thessalonians 2:2, for example, Paul and his colleagues mention that they “had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi.” (Acts 16:11-40 fills in the blanks, showing how Paul and Silvanus/Silas had been beaten and imprisoned as a result of their ministry in Philippi.) Yet Paul and those with him persisted in the work of the gospel. Leaving behind the debacle in Philippi, they set up shop once again in nearby Thessalonica. There, yet again, they encountered “great opposition” (1 Thessalonians 2:2). But they were courageous enough to press on in their mission.
What gave them this courage? What empowered Paul and his team to keep going? What enabled them to be so resilient? Their answer comes in just a few words in verse 2: “we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition” (2:2). The resilience of Paul and his colleagues was not self-generated. It was not something that was born or bred into them. Rather, they found the strength to go on in God. Their resilience was a gift from God.
As it was for Paul and his colleagues, so it is for us. If we want to be resilient, if we want to bounce back from failure, if we want to persevere in the face of opposition, then we need the gift of divine resilience. Though there are things we can do to nurture this gift in our lives, in the end, we need God to form us in strength, patience, and perseverance. The good news is that God does this very thing. Even as God once helped Paul and Co. to press on in their work, so God will help us if we put our trust in the Lord.
So, if you’re feeling exhausted these days, turn to God. If you are wrestling with hardship, turn to God. If you have recently experienced failure in life or work, let God help you recover. No matter your reason for needing resilience, God is at work in you, forging resilience so you can persevere for God’s purposes and glory.
Can you think of a time in your life when you encountered opposition or failure and God gave you the strength to carry on? If so, what happened?
Do you feel the need for resilience these days? If so, why? What are the difficult things in your life that sometimes feel overwhelming?
How often do you ask God for help with the challenges that lie before you?
In what ways might you be inclined to rely on yourself rather than God when things are hard?
Talk to God openly and specifically about things you are facing right now for which you need resilience. Ask the Lord to give you the strength you need to persevere.
Gracious God, thank you for giving Paul and his colleagues the courage to press on in their work even though they had experienced such terrible things in Philippi. Thank you for the times when you have given me strength to carry on when I am discouraged and feel defeated.
God, I do need resilience today. Not only is my work challenging, but things in the world around me seem to be spinning out of control. It’s easy to feel discouraged or even to fall into depression. So I ask for your help, Lord. Strengthen me as you once did Paul and his colleagues.
Today I also pray for others who need resilience. Though my life is challenging, I know people who are facing overwhelmingly difficult things. I think of people who have lost loved ones and are struggling with grief. I think of friends who are dealing with debilitating pain. I think of folks who are having such a hard time in their work, wondering if they can keep on going. For these and so many others, Lord, I ask for the gift of resilience. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Discomfort Dilemma
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.