Affliction with joy?

Thessaloniki beach promenade. (Image Source: WikiMedia Commons)
Thessaloniki beach promenade. (Image Source: WikiMedia Commons)

And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost. 1 Thess. 1:6

The apostle Paul is recounting in the first chapter of his letter to the church in Thessaloniki, the conversion of the church there. It is interesting how the apostle describes their conversion experience from various angles. He explains it by election (4), describes it in terms of the power of the gospel in their lives (5), and in terms of repentance, faith, and hope (9-10). But perhaps the most interesting aspect of their conversion is found here in verse 6.

The apostle says that they "received the word in much affliction." That is, when they were converted, they were immediately cast into the fires of persecution (cf. 2:13-16; 3:1-5). Such was their conviction of the truth of God's word (2:13) that they were willing to embrace it even though it meant losing a comfortable life in this world. That says something about the power of the gospel! They didn't become followers of Christ in order to gain health, wealth, and prosperity in this life. They did it "to wait for [God's] Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (10).

But perhaps even more amazing is the fact that along with the affliction, they received the word "with joy of the Holy Ghost." The affliction did not damper their joy in God; they were together from the beginning. This is surely because their joy was in God, and therefore nothing could move them from it, no matter what they were called to endure for the sake of the gospel.

My friend, do we have this joy? Do we have a joy that cannot be exhausted through the fires of trial and grief and sorrow? The only way this can happen is if our joy is not rooted in ourselves, or in our circumstances, but in God, in the Holy Ghost.

How do we become people like this? Well, the entire tenor of this epistle is that these were people of the word, who received the word in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance (1:5), who "received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (2:13). The joy that comes from the Spirit is a joy that comes from the word inspired by the Spirit.

So this morning, my friend, don't look to the world for your joy, but look to the word of God, to the word that gives us God's sure promise in Jesus Christ. Set your faith and hope there, and you will have a sure foundation for lasting and deep joy.

By: Jeremiah Bass