Today we begin our look at 2 Thessalonians, a letter written by Paul to the church in Thessalonica, probably in the early A.D. 50s, soon after he wrote 1 Thessalonians. Let's go!
2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)
3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
On verse 3: Paul commends the Thessalonian Christians for how their relationship with God ("your faith") was growing and their love for one another was also growing. Just like the cross has a vertical bar and a horizontal bar, there is a vertical aspect to Christianity (our relationship with God) and a horizontal dimension to Christianity (our relationship with others). Christian maturity is when we grow vertically in our faith in God and horizontally in our love for others. When you grow in your love for God, your love for people should also grow.
2 Thessalonians 1:4 (NIV)
4 Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
On verse 4: At the time that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians, the church in Thessalonica was facing various forms of persecution and difficulties. The fact that they faced such persecution and trials with faith and perseverance gave Paul and his team reason to boast.
What can we learn from this? Face trials and persecution with faith and perseverance. When you do, you show that your faith in Christ is genuine and you give the Christians around you a reason to boast and take heart themselves.
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 (NIV)
5 All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.
6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you
7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power
10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
On verse 5-10: In these verses Paul reassures the persecuted Thessalonian Christians of two things: (1) God will defend and reward those Christians who suffer for Christ's name; and (2) God will punish those who persecute Christians. While persecution may only be temporary, the reward for suffering persecution and the punishment for inflicting persecution on others are both eternal. Such rewards and punishment will be given out when Jesus Christ comes again (v7).
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (NIV)
11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.
12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
On verses 11-12: Paul reassures his church in Thessalonica that he and his team are constantly praying for them during this time of persecution. He encourages his church to focus on their God-given calling (v11) and on glorifying God with their lives (v12). We are found in Him, and Him in us.
It's easy to lose sight of our purpose when there's pain. So when you meet others who are going through a painful time, pray for them. It may also help to remind them of the calling that God has on their lives. It may also help to speak in ways that encourage them to give God as much glory as they can during the difficult season.
Lord Jesus, thank You for every time that I can be persecuted, as such persecution is an opportunity for my faith to be tested, my character to be refined, my spiritual family to be challenged and encouraged, and for You to gain more glory through my life. Be glorified in me today. In Jesus' name, AMEN!