1 Thessalonians 3:3
“That no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.”
There seems to be a great deal of teaching in the church today regarding prosperity. The messages vary, but the basic idea is God wants to bless and prosper you. This prosperity is defined as being wealthy, healthy and successful. There is no question, by following Jesus, you will avoid many of the pitfalls in life that lead to suffering, but it is wrong to use a secular dictionary to define Biblical terms. The same Jesus who promised abundant life, also promised that in this world we would have tribulation (John 16:33). The same apostle who experienced what it was to abound, also went through times where he was abased; he said, “Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:12).
Here, in 1 Thessalonians, Paul speaks of the afflictions that the believers were experiencing. The word translated ‘affliction,’ means to press together. It would speak of someone who is experiencing trials that are squeezing in upon them, making them feel as though they will be crushed. Similar words to affliction are: distress, oppression, or even tribulation. Paul tells the Thessalonians two things about the trials they are facing.
First, the word is in the plural form, meaning these afflictions come in many shapes and sizes, and are incidents we will experience throughout our Christian walk. Second, Paul reminds us, we have been appointed to theses afflictions. God, in His sovereignty and will, His unlimited love for us, and power toward us, not only allows difficulties, but appoints us to some of them. While it is wrong to blame every trial on God (some things are the consequences of our own sin, or the result of living in a fallen world that fights against God), there are difficulties into which God directs us. Why? Why would a loving, heavenly Father allow us to go through times of difficulty? The answer is manifold, but carries at least two primary thoughts.
First, we are appointed to afflictions so we will grow in Christ. The Thessalonians were known for their faith, love and commitment to the Lord. Their maturity had much to do with the difficulties through which Jesus led them. Second, their growth, through afflictions, worked to lead others to Christ. So often, it is seeing how a believer handles his trial, that leads others to trust in Christ.
Be careful you do not accept prosperity teaching at the expense of the Bible’s teaching on Christian growth and maturity. Paul said his desire was “to know Christ in the fellowship of His suffering”(Philippians 3:10).