And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3:5)
Faith is the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). It’s also the interpreter of the “evidence” that is seen. Whenever we are faced with a “doubtful disputation” (see Romans 14:1) regarding God’s revealed truth, we must always side with God no matter how convincing the contrary arguments may seem.
When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians the second time, it was to refute fake news that the day of Christ (His second coming to earth) had already come (2 Thessalonians 2:2). Already in Paul’s day, there were forged epistles circulating about that looked like they were from Paul but that contradicted his previous teachings and by extension also contradicted the teachings of Scripture in general. Paul refuted all these false teachings and their so-called evidence by reminding the Thessalonians of what the Bible clearly teaches.
It is the audacity of faith to remain anchored to God’s Word even when there is a hurricane of “evidence,” popular trend or consensus opinion against it. Man’s truth is not absolute. It changes from generation to generation, sometimes even faster than that. Even man’s interpretation of evidence can change. That’s to say nothing of our circumstances. What never changes are God’s Word and His faithfulness to His promises.
Paul urges us “into the patient waiting for Christ.” The word “patient” is from the Greek word hupomonē (hoop-om-on-ay’) which means to “bear up under,” or “endure.” Think of a pillar supporting the weight of a roof. A good architect designs that pillar to bear up under more than just the weight of the roof so that it can endure adversity. Paul encourages us to have that same kind of quiet endurance even as times and opinions change that would challenge our faith. Where do we look for inspiration to do that? We need to look no further than to our Savior.
He had to wait until the “fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4) to come to earth the first time. Who of us knows how many times things looked just right and the Father had to tell the Son: “Not yet?” When the Lord finally did come, imagine the heartbreak and disappointment He had to endure when “His own received Him not” (John 1:11)? And then there is the patience He had to have when the evidence showed the apparent ineffectiveness of His ministry. After thirty-three years on earth where He was only publicly active for three, He had only twelve disciples and a handful of others who stayed with Him. Of those, one was a traitor. Of the remaining eleven, only one was with Him up to the crucifixion. The others had left Him out of fear, and He had to leave the future of His ministry – and mankind – with them. And now there is the waiting for His return. That anticipation is not just on us. It is on our Savior as well. Only the Father knows when that day will be. Not even the Son knows (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32). He, like us, must wait for the Father to tell Him: “It’s time.”
So, what helps the Son endure all these apparent setbacks to God’s plans and all the “evidence” that makes it appear as though the Father’s plans have been thwarted? The same thing that will help us to endure: The knowledge that regardless of evidence to the contrary, God’s Word always prevails.
“Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any” (Isaiah 44:8).
Yes, the Lord did leave the fate of mankind in the frail hands of eleven true disciples. God also raised up an additional member to that group in the apostle Paul. Of those, one of them, named Peter, a man who had once denied Christ, preached a powerful sermon and saw over three thousand added to the church in one day (Acts 2:41). As for the apostle Paul, an apostle who saw himself as “one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:8) and who was a former persecutor of the church, he was used of God to write most of our New Testament and was accused along with other disciples of Christ of turning “the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
This same God of “lost causes” has declared that He will return and that He will set things right. God’s plans have not gone off the rails. As Paul admonished the Thessalonians, we need to interpret everything in light of God’s truth so we can understand the evidence.