This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.2 Thessalonians 1:5(NASB)
The Thessalonian believers had been fed some false information from a bogus letter which they mistakenly thought was from Paul. They were undergoing increasingly intense persecution and started to fear that they had somehow missed the Rapture, about which Paul spoke in his earlier letter. They feared that they were in the middle of the Great Tribulation!
These dear saints of God had to come to an understanding that suffering is often a clear indication of God's righteous 'judgement' on them - not a judgement of condemnation, but one that proves them to be worthy of their heavenly calling, in the kingdom of God. The suffering of the saint is often a badge of honour, for in this age we are called to share in the suffering of Christ but will one day rejoice and exult when His glory is revealed.
None of us likes it when suffering and persecution knocks on our door, and we can start to wonder if God is punishing us for some wrongdoing or lack of commitment. And so Paul wrote this second epistle to these faithful believers at Thessalonica, to allay their fears and encourage them in their Christian life.
Before addressing the issue at hand, Paul's introductory remarks are truly heartening. They begin with his characteristic greeting of, "grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." But he continued by strongly commending these dear believers for the wonderful growth of their faith in God and the abounding love they had for one another, which was being demonstrated in their midst.
If these Christians felt that they had missed the Rapture, because they had not been 'spiritual' enough, Paul removed their fears by telling them that he boasted to other churches about their exemplary spiritual growth and their patient endurance in the midst of the severe suffering which they were going through.
These suffering servants needed to hear this great encouragement from the apostle Paul, but they also needed to understand that it is not what WE did that saves us, but what Christ did at Calvary, on our account. And it is not what we do that keeps us in the power of God, but the promises of the Lord Himself, Who pledged that, "nothing can pluck us out of His hands and nothing can remove us from the hands of His Father."
The Thessalonians needed to stand on the many precious promises of God, which are 'Yes' and 'Amen', in Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul had already assured them in his earlier letter, that by God's grace, "we have been delivered from the wrath to come," and that by His grace, "we have been appointed to obtain salvation."
Paul had already taught these Christians that 'we are children of light' and that we have been blessed with the gift and pledge of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who will never leave us not forsake us - that we are chosen in Christ, that we are not in darkness, but that it is God Who works in and through each one of us.
They needed to be reminded - and comforted in the knowledge that our faithful God has promised to sanctify each one of us wholly and completely - spirit, soul, and body, and that before the Day of the Lord and the Great Tribulation, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God. On that day the dead in Christ will rise first and then we who are alive and remain, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air - and so we shall always be with the Lord.
These are many of the words of comfort and consolation that Paul had already shared with these dear believers in his earlier letter. But because of the suffering they were going through, he needed to remind them of things he had already taught them that the suffering or persecution we endure in this life is for Christ's sake, for we are 'identified with Christ, in His sufferings'.
He needed to remind them that we are being conformed, day by day, into the image and likeness of Christ. And just as Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered, we are to follow in His footsteps, for His name's sake - as we grow in grace and in a knowledge and likeness of Jesus
Jesus told us that, "in this world we will see tribulation," and we will be, "persecuted for righteousness’ sake," - but we are to be of good cheer and trust His Word - for He has overcome the world, and in HIM we are all overcomers - for the one who overcomes the world, is the man or woman who BELIEVES that Jesus is the Son of the living God. "This is the victory that has overcome the world," the apostle John writes, "even our faith."
The child of God Who lives for Christ is the one who will suffer for righteousness’ sake. But suffering is often an indication of God's righteous 'judgment', and wise child-training. Just as Jesus identified with US, and suffered for righteousness’ sake, so we are identified with HIM and will suffer for righteousness’ sake - so that we will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, which is a reason that we suffer in this fallen world.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the words of encouragement that are found in Scripture. Lord, there are times that I consider that the bad things that happen to me are because You are angry with me and yet I come to understand that just as Christ suffered for righteousness’ sake, I too am identified with Him, in His suffering, during my sojourn on earth. Help me to see more clearly that by patiently enduring suffering is honouring to Your name, and helps to equip me for my role in the coming kingdom of God. Give me the mind of Christ, I pray, and teach me to endure suffering with patience and humility, until that glorious day when You come in the clouds to take us to be with Yourself, forever. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.
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