Forged Faith

imageFarriers have to be some of the toughest guys I know.  I have always admired their work and often been tempted (when frustrated at my day job) to pick up a hammer, file, and knife, and try my hand at shoeing.  I wouldn’t last a day.  But the ability to pick up a foot, trim it down, and fit a shoe is on my bucket list.  I am fascinated by the way a  shoer can shape and fit steel with pressure applied between a hammer and an anvil.  The shoe is forged and hardened, shaped and leveled for the purpose of protecting and supporting something unimaginably larger than itself.  One pound supporting 1300, forged and pounded to fit, support, and strengthen.

In the last few posts I have been trying to figure out what made the Macedonian Church worth bragging about.  The churches that we know about in the region of Macedon were places of substantial persecution, and know one knew persecution like Paul.  His list in 2 Corinthians 11 is pretty impressive.  Its important at this point to note Paul’s first time in chains in prison came in Philippi (Acts 16.23).  He had come because of an invitation to help the churches in Macedon delivered by a man in a vision (Acts 16.6-10).

Upon arriving in the leading city of the district (Acts 16.12), Paul found immediate success in ministry.  Lydia, a prominant business woman from Thyatira, came to faith soon after their arrival (Acts 16.13-15).  Then Paul messed with someone’s businesz.  After healing a slave girl of a spirit, taking away her masters way of making money, a riot ensued.  The leaders of the colony had Paul and Silas beaten and thrown in prison (Acts 16.23).  After their miraculous escape there they moved on to Thessalonica where they were saved from a mob set on hurting them by escaping under the cover of darkness (Acts 17.1-9).  They were followed to Berea by some of those rabble rousers from Thessalonica but the Bereans were still of good character.

So Paul’s introduction to Macedonia was a lot like his introductions elsewhere.  Paul seemed to find trouble most places he went. But Paul brags on the Macedonian church:

“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 cor 8.2)

The church in Macedonia didn’t have it very easy.  They faced sever persecution from the outside and laziness (both theologically and practically) on the inside.  Suffering just as those believers in Judea, the members of the church of Macedonia faced persecution at the hands of their own countrymen (1 Thes. 2.14).  It was difficult to be a Christian in Macedonia and the danger didn’t stop on sunday morning,  The danger of laziness theologically faced them from inside the church.  Paul reminds them to stand firm and hold onto the teachings that Paul, Silas and Timothy had given them (2 Thes. 12.15).  It wasn’t just their teachings but their lives that showed truth that was being challenged (1 Thes. 2.8).  The Church was forgetting this example in their teachings and in their lives.  Laziness had crept into the church.

So what was Paul’s advice to a persecuted church?  What was he praising them for so far?  In a word: Endure.  He reminds them that, just because he was persecuted in his first trip there, it couldn’t be considered a failure (1 Thes. 2.1-2).  In the same way, the church must endure.  When beatings and floggings, and even death arises, endure.  When the church becomes lazy, undirected, and faces false teaching, endure.  When the people of the church aren’t acting like the body of Christ, pulling their own weight, endure.  Stand firm Church in all things and serve God.  The church of Macedonia was being pounded, shaped, hardend by the persecution in the region.  In the same way a farrier molds and beats a shoe into a shape to be used and to support, the Macedonian Church was serving their purpose through the process of being forged in their faith.  That is what Paul was bragging about.

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