I. Standing Firm in Suffering (2 Thessalonians 1:1-12)
I. Standing Firm in Suffering (1:1-12)
1:1-4 After greeting the Thessalonian church with grace and peace on behalf of himself, Silvanus, and Timothy (1:1-2), Paul encourages the church: We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters . . . since your faith is flourishing (1:3). Though the Thessalonians were experiencing difficult times, their faith was strong. Trials expand faith, just like exercise develops muscle. After all, how will you know God is bigger than your problems unless God gives you some you can’t handle on your own—some “faith weights”?
Paul also says, the love each one of you has for one another is increasing (1:3). This is a reminder that in the midst of suffering, one of the greatest things you can do is serve. Why? Because God’s power flows through his love! As faith reaches upward, love reaches outward. And as a result of the Thessalonians’ growth in faith and love, Paul and his companions boasted about the Thessalonians among God’s churches, about their perseverance and faith in all they were enduring (1:4). Other churches were being encouraged by the Thessalonians’ spiritual commitment, patience, and love for one another, in spite of the persecution they were enduring.
Remember, you go to church not just for yourself, but also impact the lives of others through meaningful service. If you’re ready to give up, I encourage you to stand firm. If you’re too weak to move, call on somebody else to move you, but hang on to your faith. Don’t disconnect. When believers suffer for the faith, they are gaining greater kingdom rewards and authority (see Rom 8:17).
1:5 You will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering. If you haven’t suffered as a Christian, it’s likely because nobody knows you are one. If this world order knows where you stand, it will resist you. Every believer, in fact, is going to have some kind of affliction. But remember this: When God finally establishes his kingdom, he’s going to reward those who are worthy. None of us is worthy in and of ourselves, but when we have suffered, we will be co-reigners with Christ (see Rom 8:17).
1:6-10 Moreover, God will afflict those who afflict you (1:6). Count on it: there’s a payday coming. God is going to take vengeance . . . on those who don’t . . . obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction (1:8-9). What’s the most frightening doctrine in the Bible? The doctrine of hell. If you don’t know Christ, pay attention: a day of reckoning is coming! Eternal destruction means never-ending pain and regret. But if today you receive Christ as your deliverer, he will give relief (1:7).
The Bible gives peeks at both heaven and hell. Those who like to hang out with Satan in life will be away from the Lord’s presence and from his glorious strength after death (1:9). There will be no answered prayers in hell. There will be no light and no peace, because God is light, and God is peace. Those who choose God, on the other hand, will experience glory unspeakable when they pass from this life (1:10). We should love heaven more than earth.
1:11-12 Life is like a machine, and prayer can recharge a person’s batteries. If you keep up ongoing communication with the Lord, God will fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith (1:11). Paul knew that if the Thessalonian church was recharged by prayer, it would have an even more powerful witness: The name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you . . . according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus (1:12).
If you go through a particularly difficult season and choose to lean on the Lord in prayer, somebody may look at you and ask, “How can you smile at a time like this? How are you standing when you ought to be stooping? How are you still worshiping when you ought to be complaining?” The answer will be that “those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isa 40:31).