The Power in Hard Times
It’s a powerful scene in the 2015 movie, Race, the Jesse Owens’ story. It’s 1935 and the Ohio State football team wants to get to the showers after their practice, but Coach Snyder’s track team is in the way. The football players and their coach hurl racial slurs against Owens and Dave Albritton, his only black teammate. Snyder stands between his team and the shouting, hostile football team. He challenges them to blank it all out, “On the track when the gun goes off, you’ve got to silence the noise and focus 100% on just one purpose. It’s just you, the track, and the finish line.”
On August 3, 1936 when Jesse Owens took the start position for the 100 in the Olympic Arena in Berlin, the discrimination and hate noise was deafening. The Nazi hierarchy, hungry to prove their Aryan supremacy, looked down from their seats. The hard times Owens faced back home had prepared him. He won four gold medals and even a snub from Hitler and FDR (the president didn’t invite him to the White House) couldn’t take away the gold.
Like Owens’ preparation for the Olympic Games, the Apostle Paul prepared our first century brothers and sisters to run well for Jesus by telling them ahead of time that they would face intense opposition because of their faith.
“Therefore, when we could no longer bear not knowing how you all were doing, I decided to remain alone in Athens and sent Timothy, our brother and fellow minister of God in proclaiming the Messiah’s Good News, for the purpose of coming to you to strengthen and encourage your faith so that none of you would be shaken in your faith by these pressures of persecution. For you know that this all part of God’s purposes. When we were with you, we continually told you before the hard times hit that we were about to face oppression. They are now reality, as you well know. Returning to my point, that’s why when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and all our labor would turn out to be all in vain.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
I love it. Paul was just like a dad who gets impatient when his son or daughter is facing hard times far away from him. It was tough for him to face all the intellectuals in Athens by himself, but he loves his Thessalonian children too much not to send Timothy to them.
LORD, generate this kind of intense love for one another in our relationships among believers today. Help me not to quit in the midst of struggles. Help me to realize that faithful intimacy with you is worth far more than gold. And thanks that Paul reminds us about the gift of joy the Holy Spirit can give us, even in the midst of the heat. (1 Thess. 1:6).
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