"Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know. For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain." (1st Thessalonians 3:1-5)Affliction was never far from the early Christian church. While from time to time they did experience seasons of peace, such peace was merely a prelude to more persecution. Many early Christians would find their faith crowned in martyrdom. Of particular concern to Paul was the young faith of the Thessalonians in the face of such persecution and murder. How would they fare? Would they stand? Would they remain victorious? Would Paul's labors, and that of his team, bear fruit or would all their labors be for not? To find out, they sent back Timothy.
Not all who receive Christ do so in a manor that bears fruit. Jesus told us the parable of the Sower and the Seed and how some seed bore no fruit while some bore thirty, sixty, and even a hundredfold. Speaking of persecution and affliction, Jesus said, "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away." (Matthew 13:20-21) The Greek word here for "falls away" is the same from which we get our word "to scandalize" or to offend. Falling away begins with an offense and leads to apostasy. Many people are like those who sought after Jesus because He feed them with the five loves and the two fish, but when things got tough, they realized this is not what they had signed up for. "Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, 'This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?'... As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore." (John 6:60, 66) There are many people who want the good things of the Kingdom, but they're not ready for the rest that comes along with that, including trials, suffering, and possibly even persecution. They love the Kingdom when it benefits them, but they have no heart for any difficulties their faith may bring along the way. The root of the Kingdom of God goes only as deep as it might yield within them shallow joy.
To endure in the Kingdom, we must let its truth sink deep into our lives. We must abandon our entire life, body and soul, to the living God in faith and trust in His Word. After many of His disciples had left, Jesus asked the others if they were leaving too. Peter responded for the rest of them saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." (John 6:68-69) Their whole life was committed to Christ. They had no plan "B". If this thing that Jesus was preaching was not real, they had no where else to go; no other hope, no other life, no other reason. The Gospel had found root in them and they were "all in." It is this kind of life that bears fruit, and fruit that remains. It is this kind of life that endures difficulty and trials victoriously. It is this kind of life that overcomes all that is in the world. It is this kind of life that can truly be called "eternal" even while lived here upon the Earth.