Summary: As we come close to the returning of Jesus Christ the persecution will become more intense and even in those days we can find encouragement in the Truth of God’s word.
Encouragement in Times of Persecution
How many of you think that Jesus is coming back to earth this week? The Christians in Thessalonica thought he was coming back during their time. They were grateful to God for Paul’s first letter, but it did not immediately solve all their problems. In fact, the persecution grew worse and some believers thought they were living in the time of the Tribulation. Then a letter arrived claiming to be from Paul, stating that the day of the Lord was actually present. This casual real confusion, amongst the believers.
Some of the believers concluded that since the Lord’s coming was so near, they ought to quit their jobs and spend their time waiting for Him. This meant that the other members were under an extra burden to care for them.
It was in response to these needs that Paul wrote his second letter. He began with their most pressing need, the persecution they were experiencing because of their faith. In this first chapter, Paul shared three encouragements with his suffering friends, which I believe can be a encouragement to us as well today.
I. The Encouragement of Praise (vv. 1-4)
• Paul gave a statement of praise to God for what he had been accomplishing in their lives.
• He was practicing his own admonition.
• One of the best weapons for fighting Satan is praise.
• In spite of his pain, Job was able to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
• No doubt the Thessalonica believers did not consider themselves to be very spiritual as they suffered, but Paul detected what God was doing among them.
• You and I are the worst one’s to evaluate our own lives.
• Many times others can see the spiritual improvements when you and I miss it completely.
• Look at the blessings Paul give thanks for and encourages his friends with
1. Their Faith was Growing (v. 3a)
• A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.
• New believers must expect their faith to be tried, because this is the way God proves whether or not their decision is genuine.
• Faith, like a muscle, must be exercised to grow stronger.
• Tribulation and persecution are God’s ways to strengthen our faith.
• An easy life can lead to shallow faith.
• God’s Hall of Fame of great men and women of faith in Hebrews 11 all suffered in one way or another, or faced tremendous obstacles, so that their faith could grow.
2. Their Love was Abounding (v. 3b)
• Again, this was an answer to Paul’s previous prayer in 1 Thess. 3:12, “and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you.”
• Suffering can make us selfish; but when suffering is mixed with grace and faith, it produces love.
• When Christians suffer, their faith reaches upward to God, and their love reaches outward to their fellow believers.
3. Their Testimony was Helping Others (v. 4a)
• Not only can suffering help us to grow, but we can then help others to grow.
• God encourages us so that we may encourage others.
• Have you ever noticed that after you go through something big in life in the suffering realm of things that you run into someone that is going into that same type of suffering?
II. The Encouragement of Promise (vv. 5-10)
• No mater how difficult their present circumstances may have bee, the Thessalonians has a secure and glorious future ahead of them.
• We are all prone to thing that suffering proves that God does not care, but just the opposite is true.
• Furthermore, they way we act in times of trial proves to others that God is still at work.
• Three experiences are involved in the promises of God for His people:
1. Reward (v. 5)
• This was one of God’s purposes in permitting their suffering.
• It does not suggest that their suffering earned them the right to go to Heaven.
2. Recompense (vv. 6-10
• God will recompense affliction to the lost, but rest to the saved.
• To recompense means “to repay”.
• Certainly, the wicked who persecute the godly do not always receive their just payment in this life.
• In fact, many people ask the question, “Why live a godly life if your only experience is that of suffering?”
• As Christians, we must live for eternity and not just for the present.
• In fact, living “for eternity” is what makes our Christian life meaningful today.
• If we always judge our lives by how today went, we will always be beaten down