15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
The majority of an athlete’s life is spent training or what is known as practice. “Practice is the act of rehearsing a behavior over and over, or engaging in an activity again and again, for the purpose of improving or mastering it.”[i] This is particularly true in the realm of team sports. Most sports teams spend hours learning and mastering set plays. I recall sitting in cold arena seats for hours watching my son’s ice hockey team practice breakouts. The puck was dumped deep behind the net; depending where it ended up, one of the defensemen carried the puck as the forwards raced up the ice, crossing over each other with their stick down. At just the right time the defenceman passed a bullet right on the stick of the forward. If the pass came too early the forward wasn’t in the right position yet, but if too late he’d be over the blue line and he’d be offside. Over and over, and at each practice, they would repeat this exercise. I could see the boy’s body language scream “no, not again, we got this”. But the reality was that they would make mistakes far more than they would succeed. As the year progressed though, it did begin to look like they mastered this drill, each player operating individually yet as a cohesive unit. The highlight for me, and I’m sure even more for the coaches, was when the opportunity came up in an actual game and the team executed the breakout just like they had practiced it. Suddenly the boys understood the purpose of all that practice.
In Acts 17:1-10 we read about the formation of the church in Thessalonica. This city was the capital of the province of Macedonia and was quite affluent, made up of Greeks, Romans and a Jewish minority. When Paul reached Thessalonica, he, Silas and Timothy, went to the Jewish synagogue and “on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.” (Acts 17: 2b-4) This was the birth of the Thessalonian church. Unfortunately, other Jews became jealous that they were making converts, so they were dragged before city officials and were forced to leave the city (vv. 5-10). Paul was very concerned about the church because they were such young Christians and he hadn’t had much time to establish them, so he sent Timothy to check on them. 1 Thessalonians is the first letter that he sent to them after hearing a report back. Timothy was able to spend more time teaching the church while there. In the second letter to the church, Paul writes: 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teaching we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15). The people were experiencing much opposition and even persecution, and Paul reminded them that in such situations to turn back to what they had been taught. As Christians today in the western world, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the availability of solid Christian teaching, whether that be written resources, radio, online and even in person. Unfortunately, this can lead to us not appreciating what we have, and not dedicating ourselves to the teachings we have. Like the athlete who practices over and over, as believers we must be dedicated to God’s word so that we can put it into practice in the real game of life. Are you holding fast to your teachings?