Encouragement to Endure
2 Thess. 1: 5-7
In the midst of their persecution and tribulations, the Thessalonian Christians persevered. They pressed on despite of the difficulties. Out of their difficult situation, they grew spiritually. Paul here is encouraging the Thessalonian believers so they can continue to hold on in the face of difficult situations.
Illustration 1: Narrow Escapes
We should be thankful for small escapes. In this uncertain and multi-coloured earthly life many occasions occur when we almost hit something or nearly are hit. A miss may be as good as a mile, but it is not pleasant to think how near at times one has been to a great peril. There are also recognized misfortunes, bad enough in the bearing of them, which might have been worse—and for that amount of mitigation one ought to be thankful.
The apostle Paul, writing to the ease-loving Corinthians, who dodged all privations and persecutions if they could, said: “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one” (2 Cor. 11:24). Paul also escaped death by stoning. In Acts 14, we read that Paul and Barnabas (through divine power) healed a crippled man in the city of Lystra (14:8–10). This miracle amazed the townspeople so much that they mistook Paul and Barnabas to be the pagan gods Jupiter and Mercurius, and were prepared to offer sacrifices to the missionaries. After Paul and Barnabas persuaded the citizens of Lystra not to offer pagan sacrifices to the missionaries, the Jews from Antioch and Iconium (cities from which Paul and Barnabas fled persecution earlier) came to town, stoned Paul, drug his body out of the city limits and supposed him to be dead (14:19). Perhaps he was nearly dead—but verse 20 tells us that “he rose up and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.” God had much more work for Paul to do on this earth. This narrow escape among others prompted Paul to write “Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me” (2 Tim. 3:11).
It may not be in God’s plans for any of us to suffer persecution for the faith as Paul suffered, yet in the kind providence of God, interventions on our behalf have occurred, so that the power of Satan to injure us was suddenly curbed. The limit of our enjoyment may have been passed, but not of our endurance. God knows how much we can stand—not alone, all by ourselves, but by the help of His grace. The same idea seems to be indicated in the Book of Revelation where it is said, “Ye shall have tribulation ten days”; that is, not nine and one half, nor eleven days, but for a strictly limited period. “Enough is enough,” both in money-making and moral suffering. To be a Christian is not leading a haphazard life on earth, but to constantly be a subject of our Heavenly Father’s care and providence. Satan can pester him, but not overcome him; he may be cast down, but not destroyed. We are not in the hands of a blind fate or under the lash of an unrestrained nature. No matter what our troubles may be, God will surely intervene, in answer to prayer, when our strength is nearly exhausted.
Practical Bible Illustrations From Yesterday and Today.
I. God is just (2Thess. 1:5)
A. The Thessalonian’ faith and patience under difficult situations can easily be seen not only by Paul and his companions but by others also. Indeed, their faith was real and it’s getting stronger. The truth that the Thessalonians suffered for Christ’s kingdom by their enduring faith is a proof of the reality of their salvation.
B. Their persecutions and sufferings were viewed by others as God’s punishments but that is not the case. God is a righteous judge and He will justly deal with the injustices against the Thessalonians in His future judgment.
C. When God would judge the Thessalonians, they would be declared worthy of God’s kingdom.
D. The purpose of the Thessalonians’ sufferings was to bring glory to God by manifesting His grace in the way they endured under their trials. Their suffering demonstrated that they were considered worthy of God’s kingdom. In another sense they were suffering as soldiers of Christ.
Illustration 2: The Greatest Blessing
For our light affliction…worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. – 2 Corinthians 4:17
If we could ask the apostle Paul what he saw as life’s greatest blessing, I suspect he would answer something like this: “Personal salvation with its provision of the present and the future.” For him, nothing else really mattered. He constantly looked beyond his trials and adversities, sensing the presence of Jesus Christ and rejoicing in the prospect of happiness in heaven with Him.
Romanian pastor Richard Wurmbrand spent 14 years in prison for preaching the gospel. Although his captors smashed four of his vertebrae and either cut or burned 18 holes in his body, they could not defeat him. He testified, “Alone in my cell, cold, hungry, and in rags, I danced for joy every night.” During this time, he turned to a fellow prisoner, a man he had led to the Lord before they were arrested, and asked, “Have you any resentment against me that I brought you to Christ?” His response: “I have no words to express my thankfulness that you brought me to the wonderful Savior. I would never have it another way.” These two men exemplify the supernatural joy that can be experienced by believers who live on the edge of death as the result of being severely persecuted.
Salvation, which brings strength for today and hope for tomorrow, lasts forever. Therefore, we don’t have to be defeated by troublesome circumstances. When we know we are saved, we have the assurance that God is at work in our lives, preparing us for the eternal realities of the better world. Yes, salvation is life’s greatest blessing. – H.V.L.
Our Daily Bread, Thursday, February 21
II. God will recompense (2 Thess. 1:6)
A. Seeing it is a righteous thing with God. We can translate the word “righteous” by the word just. God’s absolute righteousness demands justice. He will judge sin and condemn sinners He will settle the score with those who persecute the saints.
B. The word “recompense” means to repay; to return an equivalent; in a bad sense.
C. There will be future judgment for those who persecutes and inflict difficulties to the believers in Thessalonica. God will give back to the persecutors the same kind of treatment they gave in return. Because God is righteous, He incurs an obligation to do this. His retribution is not a matter of personal vengeance but of justice. God will recompense those who persecute the saints.
III. Rest for the Saints (2 Thess. 1:7)
A. And to you who are troubled, rest with us. While their persecutors have tribulation, the Thessalonians shall have that eternal rest reserved for the people of God.
B. The word rest means “relief, release, not under pressure.” It is the opposite of “tribulation.” The word describes the releasing of a bowstring. In this life, God’s people are pressured, “pressed out of measure” (2 Cor. 1:8), and under the burdens of trial and persecution. But when we see Christ, we will be released. We need not fear fiery wrath and judgment (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9), for God has already judged our sins at Calvary.
C. When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed. This event will happen when the Lord Jesus Christ will come to judge the world.
D. With his mighty angels. The Lord Jesus Christ will come and angel will accompany Him. What a glorious moment.
E. What kind of future is there for the lost? They face punishment and eternal judgment (2 Thess. 1:9), while the saved shall enjoy the rest and glories of heaven. The lost shall be separated from God, while the saved “shall see His face” (Rev. 22:4). Some cultists have tried to dilute the meaning of “everlasting destruction,” saying it means either temporary suffering or total annihilation; but both ideas are false. The phrase means “eternal judgment,” no matter how men try to twist it or avoid it (see Matt 25:41).
F. With the above, Paul was able to encourage the Thessalonian Christians.
Illustration 3: Rest in Six Aspects
Creation rest, broken by sin Genesis 2:2
Redemption rest, secured in Christ Zeph. 3:17
The sinner’s rest, by coming to Christ Matt. 11:28
The saint’s rest, in communion with Christ Mark 6:30
Paradise rest, present Rev. 16:13 and 2 Cor. 5:1-8
Eternal rest, future Heb. 4:9; Rev. 22:5
From the Book of 750 Bible and Gospel Studies, 1909, George W Noble, Chicago
Whatever persecution, difficulties, hardships, etc., that our enemies will do to us, we can be sure that Our Lord and Saviour is Just and will recompense everything that has been done to us. When he comes, He will give us rest.