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DEVOTIONAL
Turning our backs on the road to Thessalonica
Richard Wasserfall
25-Aug-2003
"...for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica."2 Timothy 4:10a
"Where is the… happiness that comes of well-done chores, the serenity that duty grants us, the blessings of good works," asks a character in Toni Morrison's Paradise to her recently departed Mother Superior. One wonders if Demas had gone with the same, or similar despairing questions to Paul before finally choosing to depart for Thessalonica?

When people start asking these questions, what they boil down to is the one question we have all asked at some point in our lives, Christian or pagan. "Where is the reward? Far from the desire for reward in itself being selfish, we see Scripture commending us to work for reward, implying clearly that to seek reward is part of God's created nature for man: "But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." (2 Ch 15:7)

But in our fallen state of cursed ground and painful toil, when all the earth seems to be throwing up are thistles and thorns, reward seems sorely lacking, and we cry, "Where is the reward?" At the heart of that question lies the heart of suffering, but also the heart of hope. It is a question posed by a tired heart, fed up with seeing the daily chores of this life come up empty. But much more importantly, it is a question of hope in which the true nature of our hope is exposed. And there lies the fine line between Christian and pagan.

Scripture tells us faith is being sure of what we hope for, (Heb 11:1) and that hope that is seen is no hope at all (Rom 8:24). It also tells us that we were saved in the hope of the redemption of our bodies to Christ's glory. (Ro 8:23-24) Clearly then, we were saved in the hope of a reward, namely to share in Christ's glory. But just as clear is the fact that this reward remains absent from us right now. It is a hope unseen that in fact leads us into faith, a faith that the world cannot share for it shares not the hope.

In the last days many will leave the faith. But they will not leave the faith firstly for lack of faith. They will leave it for loss of hope, the hope for which they were saved - our future glory in Christ. This loss of hope in the Church means two things. A loss of daily trust in Christ to overcome the struggles of this world, and a moving away from Scripture and thus life in the Spirit. Having thus lost Christ as focus and Spirit as counselor, we are left to grasp as the world grasps: onto what we already have - this present world. But who hopes for what he already has? (Rom 8:24) No wonder many will leave the faith. Our present focus has to be our future hope and glory in Christ. And it is something we have to be trained in, otherwise, we will always find ourselves in part, on our way to Thessalonica.
Teach us Lord, the ways to live in constant focus of your coming glory so that come what may, the rich anticipation of our reward will never turn us from the path of growing closer to you.