Summary: 8th in the series, "Left Behind: 1 & 2 Thessalonians."
Supreme Court Justice Horace Gray once informed a man who had appeared before him in a lower court and had escaped conviction on a technicality, "I know that you are guilty and you know it, and I wish you to remember that one day you will stand before a better and wiser Judge, and that there you will be dealt with according to justice and not according to law."
Some time later the same man was surprised while burgling a house in Antwerp, Belgium, the thief fled out the back door, clambered over a nine-foot wall, dropped down the other side, and found himself in the city jail (Oops: The Book of Blunders, 1980).
Justice. A story like that makes you feel good. On the other hand stories of injustice make us angry. Today’s passage is about the coming day of justice. But what I want to key in to here is this interesting juxtaposition painful circumstances and their meaning in the lives of individuals.
The point that I think is illustrated here is that not all pain is created equal but all pain is purposefull.
What is God’s purpose for pain?
That depends on who it’s happening to. The first purpose is for:
Perseverence and Purification
3We 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. 4Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
5All 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.
To place this in perspective, we needto understand that Paul was writing to people who understood what persecution really was. At the Nicene Council, an important church meeting in 325 A.D., of the 318 delegates attending, fewer than 12 had not lost an eye or lost a hand or did not limp on a leg lamed by torture for their Christian faith Vance Havner.
Someone asked C.S. Lewis, "Why do the righteous suffer?" "Why not?" he replied. "They’re the only ones who can take it."
What is the purpose of their suffering? James tells us that it develops perseverance which completes us.
A. Parnell Bailey visited an orange grove where an irrigation pump had broken down. The season was unusually dry and some of the trees were beginning to die for lack of water. The man giving the tour then took Bailey to his own orchard where irrigation was used sparingly. "These trees could go without rain for another 2 weeks," he said. "You see, when they were young, I frequently kept water from them. This hardship caused them to send their roots deeper into the soil in search of moisture. Now mine are the deepest-rooted trees in the area. While others are being scorched by the sun, these are finding moisture at a greater depth." Our Daily Bread.
As we develop perseverance we are being purified, fit out for God’s kingdom. Learning that indeed a quiet answer turns away wrath. Learning that in a desert land the Lord himself satisfies. Now becoming fit for God’s kingdom should never be confused with becoming worthy of it.
Little Frank Salazar was called "Bopsy" by his family, but in 1981at 7 years old, he was dying of Leukemia. Bopsy’s dying wish was that he become a fireman. The Make-a wish foundation contacted the Phoenix fire department and arranged for the day of his life.
Bopsy was welcomed to a fire station where a custom-made uniform was waiting for him complete with a yellow helmet and coat. He got a ride in the fire truck and got to use a fire hose. The day ended with his being given a firefighter badge.
Having the uniform and badge didn’t mean that Bopsy was qualified to be a fireman—He got to play fireman because of the grace of the fire department. But they fitted him out with the uniform so that he would look the part.
Similarly even the harshest of trials will never qualify us for heaven, nevertheless God fits us for his kingdom
Pain develops perseverance and purifies us. But pain can also have a very different purpose
Payment and Punishment
6God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7and 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. 8He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power