2 Thessalonians: Holding Up Under Hard Times

July 7, 2020 at 9:43 AM Leave a comment

Every one of us has experienced difficult times in life. I can recall situations in my life where I was overcome with fear of an impending situation.

When I was in grade school, I was often the shortest boy in my class. In fact, most of the girls were often taller than I was and because of that, I would sometimes become a target by larger boys who enjoyed bullying younger kids. These situations were often trying and difficult. They promoted fear in me as they would anyone.

I recall one particular situation where as I was walking home from school, I was approached and blocked by a larger student, who was getting in my face and being unkind to say the least. I’ve always had the ability to say what I thought even when it wasn’t necessarily the wisest thing to do. Instead of backing down, I stood up as tall as I could and with a bit of false bravado, I refused to be bullied. I balled up my fists and stuck out my chin to him as I refused to cower outwardly. Surprisingly, instead of beating me, he eventually simply walked away with a snarl.

I wish I could say that worked every time, but it didn’t. Though I rarely got in fights, there were times when some larger kid would poke his finger in my chest or trip me or shove me backwards for his pleasure.

I’m sure many have stories like that and it is amazing how certain people become targets of those larger than them for their own spiteful gratification. Being bullied or picked on by some larger kid is one thing. But it’s quite another thing to be bullied or targeted because of your faith in Jesus, isn’t it?

As Christians, we feel a particular responsibility to not respond to that type of persecution in the way it is being dished out to us. We want to literally do what Jesus would do because we understand that we represent Him.

Who among us can say that’s so easy to do?

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians deals with how Christians should stand up under persecution, as well as several other subjects. We introduced 2 Thessalonians last week after providing a brief summary of his first letter to the Thessalonians.

Let’s start unpacking 2 Thessalonians, chapter one. As we go through several verses, I want us to mindful of three things:

  1. Paul Encourages
  2. Paul Reminds
  3. Paul Looks Ahead

I. Paul Encourages (v 3)
Paul takes the time to offer serious encouragement to the Thessalonians for a number of things:

  • Their faith was growing
  • Their love for one another was abounding

Paul was helping the Thessalonians to understand that “hard times happen” in the life of the Christian. It’s a FACT.

Unlike those who promote the health and wealth gospel, the truth of the matter is that Christians are called to actually SUFFER for our faith in Jesus.

  • Jesus warned His apostles – John 15:19-20; 16:33
  • The apostles warned the disciples – Acts 14:22; 1Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Timothy 3:12

If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. (John 15:19-20)

Christians cannot escape the truth that in this world we will have many tribulations, problems, and even persecution due to our faith simply because we are part of Christ’s Bride. Satan seeks to devour us by any means necessary (1Peter 5:8-9).

Paul was trying to be as encouraging as possible to the Thessalonians because he understood completely what persecution could accomplish in the Christian if they had the correct outlook.

Instead of being overly sympathetic toward the Thessalonians, Paul actually PRAISED them for their continued faith in Jesus!

Paul was pointing out the good things he had seen and heard about them.

The Thessalonians…

  • Had a strong, growing faith!
  • Their love for one another was strongly evident!

What does Paul mean when he said they had a strong “faith”?

Faith, as meant by the apostle Paul has to do with how we live our lives, doesn’t it? It’s not an intellectual assent, ascribing something to some mysterious God in the heavens in order that we somehow gain eternal life at the end of our travels here during this life.

Paul is emphasizing that the Thessalonians clearly LIVED what they believed!  It reminds me of the question Jesus asked when He will return to this earth at the end of the Tribulation:

I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)

Faith there means a living, vibrant faith, one that exudes from our inner being and one that directs the attention to our Living Lord. It is not “words” but LIVING.

There is a sense in which the Thessalonians did not want to receive Paul’s praise for the way they were living. We get this from verse 3 where Paul says, he was “bound” or compelled to offer praise to God for the living faith of the Thessalonians. It was okay for him to do that and in fact, Paul actually BRAGGED about the Thessalonian believers to other churches he dealt with (v 4)

Paul was greatly encouraged by them and he wanted them to be encouraged as well. We Christians need this from time to time, don’t we? This is one reason the Church exists, to comfort, care for, teach and even encourage one another in Christ. It helps us to keep pushing on toward the high calling that we have in Jesus.

II. Paul Reminds
One of the ways that Paul helps the Thessalonians to push on is to insist to them that God’s judgment is certainly coming:

Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; (vv 5-6)

It is not that Paul wanted them to glory in the fact that God will judge those who persecute them. As Christians, we should always seek their welfare and be willing to forgive as difficult as that might be for us.

I was on Twitter at the height of the Coronavirus scare and I saw a tweet from a man who essentially said that his wife of 34 years and the mother of his children had died in the hospital and he was not allowed to be with her when she died. He was unable to say good-bye and she died alone.

He went further to say that his anger and hatred for government agencies was beyond description.

I cannot imagine being in that situation and I’m so glad I did not have to experience that. My heart goes out to him but there are really no words that can make him feel better, are there? While we can all understand his anger and maybe even his hatred, we also know that harboring those unsettling feelings will do him more harm than good.

Paul wanted the Thessalonians to really “let things go” by giving them to God. Let Him be the One who deals with those who were giving the Thessalonians trouble. Let THEM be solely dealt with by God Himself when He returns to judge the nations at the end of the Tribulation.

Paul is saying three things here:

  1. God’s Judgment will be RIGHTEOUS (v 5a)
  2. God will be the One who REPAYS those who trouble His people (v 6; “recompense”)
  3. God will give His people REST (v 7a)

These are three very good reasons why we should trust in God.

In order to attain to these things, our faith must be growing, our love for one another and the lost must abound and our patience must be developed under trials.

It’s a tall order, isn’t it? We cannot do any of this without heavily leaning on Jesus. It is impossible because it must come from within and it can only come from within as we give up our wants and felt needs and take up the cross…DAILY.

III. Paul Looks Ahead
We’ve noted that in this second letter to the Thessalonian believers, Paul has taken the time to ENCOURAGE them to continue in their faithful living. He also REMINDS them of what they can look forward to when Jesus returns to Judge the world and set up His Kingdom rule.

Lastly, Paul LOOKS AHEAD to the time leading up to the physical return of Jesus. Not only is this the hope of the Thessalonians, but it is our hope as well.

We Christians today are virtually at the same point in time as the Thessalonians were roughly 2,000 years ago.

They were waiting for the Rapture of the Church and the events that would follow that – the Tribulation, the rise of the Antichrist, the terrible time of God’s wrath poured out on a world that is exceedingly anti-God, and ultimately to the Battle of Armageddon and the actual physical return of Jesus.

Though technology has made tremendous advances, catapulting us into an age of wonder and literally the time of the Jetsons, we are also waiting for those same exact things.

Do we look forward to the Rapture or do you feel that is a bit of a copout? To hear it said today, there are many who believe that those of us who believe in a Pretribulational Rapture do so because we are “afraid” of what’s going to happen in the Tribulation.

No, I believe in the Rapture prior to the Tribulation because I believe that is what is taught in Scripture. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but believing in the Pretribulational Rapture does not mean we will experience no problems, tribulations or persecutions in this world.

In fact, I fully believe that since Satan and his minions exist in the spiritual realm, they can see what is happening far better than we can see it. Beyond this, Satan knows Scripture far better than we do to the point that he can easily twist it.

Why would not Satan ramp up persecution in various forms if he saw that things were heading toward the climactic event known as the Rapture? Certainly, he’d be guessing but he is in a far better position to offer an educated guess because of what he sees happening DAILY.

Paul spends the remainder of 2 Thessalonians to reteach some of the things he had already discussed with them. He clarifies certain other points and he does all of this so that the Thessalonians will come to fully understand that whatever they are going through is not because Jesus had supposedly already returned in judgment.

On the contrary, what was happening to the Thessalonians and other Christians throughout the known world was specifically due to the fact that neither the Rapture nor Jesus’ Second Coming in Judgment and victory had occurred yet!

Paul did not want them to fail to continue pressing on in Jesus.

Paul ends chapter two with the following words:

Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (vv 11-12)

The question for all of us is this: do we want to be found WORTHY of the same calling that Paul applied to the Thessalonians?

Is it our goal to bring glory to Him by exercising a LIVING FAITH that exposes Jesus to those around us?

Entry filed under: 9/11, Agenda 21, Atheism and religion, christianity, Cultural Marxism, Demonic, Emotional virtue, eternity, Political Correctness, Politically Correct, Politics, Pretribulational Rapture, rapture, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation.

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