You’re Not Alone In The Fight

Are you tired?

I am.

Are you hitting the point of the semester where you’re drained and bearing the weight of all that is on your plate?

I am.

It’s that time.

Late September.

The fun of the holidays isn’t quite here, North Texas hasn’t got the memo that today is the start of Fall, and the burden of busy calendars is upon us.

Coming in hot to steal away my ability to rest is some battles with insomnia. There are the occasional nights where I’m up for hours in the middle of the night for no reason other than the burdens of ministry (the pro of this is extra time in God’s Word, when I take the step of getting up and reading rather than just laying there). I see the light, but I also come face to face with the darkness that many are facing. There are moments where I feel like my tiny, feeble light is about to be extinguished by the darkness I battle every day.

You may not be in vocational ministry, but I know you’re likely prone to encounters with the weighty darkness of this world.

My problem is that I all too often try to bear this weight alone.

Thank God for friends who draw me back from the front lines, who remind me that I’m not in the fight alone, who remind me that discipleship is a team sport.

Discipleship is a team sport, guys! We need each other deeply and desperately. None of us, not a single one of us, are capable of doing the work of discipleship on our own in our individual communities. There’s enough work to go around.

We’re not alone in the fight.

The Lord’s been showing me this reality as of late. One through a pretty obvious text out of 2 Timothy, and secondly through a simple phrase at the start of an often-ignored letter of Paul.

Let me show you what He’s been showing me.

First off, we see in 2 Timothy a letter from a passionate missionary to his son in the faith. Timothy was at a point where he was deciding whether or not to go on in ministry. He was being pushed to and fro by the burdens of following Jesus above all else. He was a soldier of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).

Quick side-note. The easy life is the life of a man or woman who is not sold out in allegiance to King Jesus, ready to do His work. I’ve been there. I’ve been churchy, religious, a lover of God, but not all the way in as His soldier. Now I know that utter allegiance to Him is the hard life. But that’s also the worthwhile and joyful life. 

Paul sends him a letter of deep encouragement. He first reminds Timothy of his own care for him (1:2, my beloved child) and then he reminds Timothy of the heritage of faith that he had (1:5-6, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice). This was how Paul brought encouragement to Timothy for him to continue being resilient. He told Timothy to look behind him. See who came before him. See who invested in him personally. See who finished the race, and see who are still trucking along.

Man, as I’ve done that, I’ve felt such a fire in my soul to keep moving forward one day at at time.

Odus Compton. Brady Sharp. Zack Randles. Jeff Roach. Joshua Tompkins.

These are just a handful of men who have poured into me, who are still in the fight against the darkness.

Their faith, perseverance, and endurance keep me going.

Paul told Timothy to look behind him to those who came before.

Like I said, I’ve found another source of encouragement in a pretty random place.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2

You read 2 Thessalonians as of late?

If you’re like me, probably not.

This short little letter from Paul to the church at Thessalonica is pretty ignored at times. And while there is a ton of beneficial truths laced throughout the book, this opening greeting reminded me of something.

When you feel like you’re alone in the fight, look beside you.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.

If we’re not careful, we can slide over to the belief that Paul was superhuman.

But, here we have a reminder that he had a team.

Sometimes this team abandoned him, sometimes this team didn’t get along well with him, but a team he had all the same.

Silas and Timothy did ministry with him, and they were a part of his letter of exhortation to the church in Thessalonica.

The Lord regularly has to remind me to look around me. To open my eyes to the men and women in my church who are fighting beside me, and the men and women in our community who are doing the same. I could list out a plethora of names of men and women who are chasing after Jesus as King, who are serving as soldiers in His battalions.

So I ask again.

Are you tired?

Are you worn out with life, not to mention the fight for the Kingdom of God?

Look behind you and look beside you.

You are not alone in the fight. Look behind you to those who came before, and look beside you to those who fight by your side.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Gentle Light

Fluorescent lights are the worst. I used to not think this way, but after a year of dating my girlfriend Jamie who despises them, I’ve come to see things from her point of view. Just about every time we FaceTime, she is in her room with just the light from the window and a lamp. Again, it used to bug me, but after a while I came to discover they’re just obnoxious and overbearing. I’d much rather go from a dark room to the gentle light of a lamp, rather than having my eyes assaulted by the behemoth fluorescent lights on the ceiling. flourescent light

Now before you check out, this blog is not about lighting preferences. I wanted to illustrate that there is gentle light, and obnoxious light.

The reality is, there are men and women, children and youth, who are sitting in our churches in darkness. They are discouraged, depressed, weak, unsure, hopeless. The list goes on and on. There are real needs in these dark situations of grief and pain, suffering and trials. These brothers and sisters in Christ need light. They need to see the light of the gospel in the darkness of their days. 1 Thessalonians tells us in 5:14 that we are to comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

How then do we speak into their lives, how do we share the light of the gospel without being obnoxious or inconsiderate?

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17, I believe that we are given the direction we need in order to bring this light. We are called to be the light via compassion, instruction, exhortation, and intersession (this outline is not my own).

The church at Thessalonica was under heavy persecution, and the community of believers were reeling as a result. They were nervous, unsure of their hope, scared. They had bought the lie that the ‘day of the Lord’ had arrived, and that they were left behind to suffer alongside the wicked. False teachers had entered their midst, convincing them that they were in fact in the last days. In the darkness of persecution and hopelessness, Paul wrote to them a letter of encouragement. These were professing believers who had bought lies about God’s character, God’s nature, and God’s plan for their lives. There are many today who fall into believing lies as well (me included) and need to be reminded of the truth. So how does Paul do it? How does Paul strengthen and not shame these believers? How should we do it? How should we be interacting with those of our brothers and sisters who have lost hope? How do we strengthen them rather than shame them?

Compassion 

Paul tells them in this section of his letter that they are beloved by the Lord (2:13). There is no shaming here. Paul leads by compassionately and gently reminding them of their identity in Christ.

In the thick of this darkness, Paul doesn’t barge in, throw open the windows, pull back their sheets, and drag them outside. He lights a single candle of hope, a solitary but brilliant flame of compassion. – Charles Swindoll

We are to care for the discouraged and strengthen the weak among us. Our church communities would truly overflow with Christ-like love and amazing hope if we treated the discouraged and weak among us in this way. Not shaming them and making them feel bad for feeling bad, questioning the level of their faith, but rather compassionately speaking hope into their dark hearts. Paul definitely had his moments of aggressive exhortation and frustration, but here we see him model compassion that leads to life. However, he definitely wasn’t merely compassionate to the Thessalonians.

Instruction 

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 2:14

Paul encouraged the dark souls of the Thessalonian believers with instruction in gospel truth. Theology and doctrine can go a long way to mend not only the mind, but the heart of broken believers. When there are weak and discouraged members of our spiritual family among us, we should be consistently instructing them in the truths of the gospel. Again, not in a flourescently obnoxious manner, but by gentle reminders of what is true. Jamie does this for me better than anyone, constantly calling out lies in my mind for what they are, and reminding me of truth. We should speak into darkness with compassion and instruction.

Exhortation

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. – 2 Thessalonians 2:15

Here’s where Paul takes a stark turn that we should pay attention to. He’s compassionately shared truth of the gospel, but now he exhorts the believers in Thessalonica to stand firm. We are to encourage the depressed or discouraged among us to keep fighting, to be on the assault, on the attack. The fight for faith is just that, a fight. I have been so passive too many times in my life, not taking the fight to the enemy. Paul reminds the discouraged Thessalonian believers to hold firm to the truth.

In times of pain, anguish, mourning, depression, or doubt, nothing is more stabilizing than the truth of Scripture – nothing. – Charles Swindoll 

We should exhort the weak and discouraged among us to stand firm and hold to the truths of God in Scripture (remember this should be done compassionately).

Intercession 

Paul concludes this section with a prayer (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). Pray, pray, pray. When you are aware of a brother or sister suffering in the darkness, pray for them. Prayer has power. Even the knowledge that others are praying for me can go a long way to bring a little bit more light into my life.

Paul in this passage doesn’t pray for the suffering of the Thessalonians to end, for their dark days to suddenly be complete. Rather, he prays that God would comfort them by reminding them of who they are and what they have in Christ. When we suffer, we want immediate rescue. Paul understood that suffering leads to greater faith.

If you have a member of your faith community whose hope is shrouded in darkness, reach out to them. Be compassionate, instruct them, exhort them, and don’t forget to intercede for them.

If you are in a dark season, remember Scripture, remember truth, and remember that the Lord is for you and not against you.

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. – 2 Thessalonians 3:3 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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What Silver Lining?

We do not like the hardships of life. It’s not our natural inclination to see the difficulties and trials of our lives as opportunities to be molded into the image of Christ. Yet we see in the life of Paul, the preaching of church leaders throughout the ages, and our own experiences that we learn far more in the valleys than we do in the pain-free seasons of our lives.dark clouds

Look at what Paul says in the familiar passage of 2 Corinthians 12.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me (the ‘thorn in his flesh’). But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

This is without a doubt one of the most seemingly impossible things for me to imitate. Paul had so much to boast in when it came to ministry success: a personal experience with the physically present Jesus, and his theological training. Instead, Paul learned for the sake of Jesus to delight in his weaknesses, the insults sent his way, the hardships of his life, the persecutions he endured, and the difficulties he faced day to day. Paul had a grace-filled understanding that it was in these weaknesses and in these sufferings that he was molded into the image of Christ.

Consider also the words of Charles Spurgeon.

We learn, I hope, something in the bright fields of joy, but I am more persuaded that we don’t learn a tenth as much, there, as we do in the valley of Death-Shade. – Charles Spurgeon

We do learn of Christ in the joyful and blissful moments of our lives. Yet it was Spurgeon’s belief that we learn ten times as much from the valleys. Both of these will come. We will have blissful moments and moments of deep valleys where the joy seems to have been removed from our lives. This happened in the lives of Biblical characters as well. Just read the Psalms. Psalm 22 is David crying out to God, accusing God of utterly abandoning him and forsaking him. Psalm 23 is then David proclaiming that he lacks nothing when the Lord is his Shepherd.

To be honest, it pains me to admit that this holds true in my life. The dark days show me much more of the beauty of Christ and the need to be molded more into His image. Consider the path of shadows that I walked this Spring. These are snippets from my journal and I think they clearly show the way that God uses the valleys to reinvigorate our hearts and reawaken our love for Him.

04/28 – Pain is a necessary part of our spiritual life. I HATE this reality. As a child, I rarely saw pain as good, if ever. So growing this mindset in me will take time. 

05/02 – The world is unfair. The world is dark. In light of this Lord, I need to place my hope in You. There is joy to be found in the gospel of grace. 

05/04 – You know how to rescue the godly from trials. So if you’re choosing not to do so for me at this time, it’s for a reason. 

05/18 – God, I am fighting for the light in the midst of darkness. I don’t want to be anxious every day. 

05/30 – As a disciple of Jesus I should passionately be removing from my life all the things which lessen my love for Him, and intentionally do that which grows my love for Him. 

06/04 – When I don’t spend time in Your Word, or in prayer, or in transparent fellowship, I fall apart and fall off into fear and anxiety. 

The transition from OBU to the West coast was hard. This Spring I started to come face to face with the darkness that exists in our world, as well as the reality that pain and hardships were a necessary aspect of my walk with Christ. For months I clung to Jesus as best I could. There were moments where I was angry, moments where it took all of my effort to see the silver lining in some of the clouds I was facing. There were moments and days where it felt like it took all of my energy just to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other.

I despised this season.

That is until God began to open my eyes to that which I needed to learn from this season, as evidenced by the final two snippets I shared.

First, He reminded me that being a disciple of Jesus is an active thing, rather than a passive state of being. As a disciple, I should be passionately striving to remove from my life those things that lessen my love for Him, as well as intentionally practicing and doing those things which grow my love for Him.

I was also reminded that if I’m not in the Word daily, in prayer daily, and in transparent Christian community daily, I will backslide into sinful fear, worry, and despair.

Just today I came face to face with one of the most convicting components of this passage from 2 Corinthians 12. Paul did ask God to remove from him the thorn in his side, whatever that may have been. So asking God for rescue is by no means wrong of us. Yet, Paul eventually accepted that aspect of his life as part of his life for the glory of God, and chose to rejoice in it.

Wow.

I tend to ask for the removal of things that pain me three thousand times, not just three.

It is my prayer and hope that this blog post will encourage you to be open with your Christian community about the state of your heart on a regular basis. God uses the valleys of my life to teach me, but I still am learning. I will be learning till my last breath, and I hope we are all willing to admit the same. Not only that, I pray that this blog post will encourage you to engage in the difficult practice of rejoicing in your weaknesses and hardships for the glory of God.

His grace is sufficient for you.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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