Are you over your head in economic or health or grief (as I am currently experiencing) troubles? Has terrorism or politics gripped your heart? Let me call your attention to two letters Paul wrote to some new Greek Christians who were having a lot of trouble.
Their troubles included persecution for believing the gospel, their old lifestyle habits that were not according to scripture, and living in a culture gone mad with sexual immorality. They were daily hearing Greek philosophical and Roman ideas that were contrary to God’s Word and what Paul had briefly been able to teach them before being run out of town (Acts 17). So Paul wrote to encourage and praise them for their faith. He comforted them in their afflictions and instructed them more completely in the ways of Christ Jesus, especially in His promised return.
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (I Thessalonians 1:8-19).
Have you read the parable of the sower lately (Mark 4)? Paul had scattered God’s word and these people had received it with joy and now communities all around were talking about their faith, repentance, and endurance under trial. Paul had taught them tenderly like a young mother or like a father with his dear children (2:7;11). His goal, after seeing salvation, was to get them to change their way of life to one that was worthy of the sovereign God who had saved them. They were producing much fruit through the power of the Holy Spirit and Paul was reassured about their salvation. They were his glory and joy and crown. They were worth being proud of when Jesus returned (2:20).
The question for those of us who have so many troubles: Are we still bearing fruit? Or does the affliction, sorrow, or even prosperity, cause us to dry up and fall away from the faith (Mark 4:14-19)? Be careful! There is no place for a “carnal Christian” here–one who is not producing any fruit that can give her assurance of her own salvation. The Reformed interpretation of the parable of the sower is easy to understand. The one who drops away and doesn’t come back to producing love, joy, peace, patience never was in the good soil to begin with. Watch out if you are counting on maybe one day getting out of the wayside or rocky soil, and “moving up” to the good soil where the “spiritual Christians” live. A warm-hearted Calvinist would never give you that kind of false assurance. That is why Paul was so happy to see such evidences of belief in these recent converts.
But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and hundredfold (Mark 4:20).
Perhaps your troubles and mine will cause us to lean more on the grace of God, and in our weakness, we will be made strong through the power given by the Holy Spirit. Maybe we will be more patience than before these troubles hit us. Or perhaps our self-control will increase even amidst our many tears. Otherwise, we may completely lose assurance of our own salvation. Life’s troubles cause the Christian to lean on the Holy Spirit for strength to produce fruit amidst much weakness and many tears.