Summary: How many of you think that Jesus is coming back to earth this week?
NO REST FOR THE WICKED
INTRO: HOW MANY OF YOU THINK THAT JESUS IS COMING BACK TO EARTH THIS WEEK? The Christians in Thessalonica were grateful to God for Paul’s 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 caused real confusion.
Some of the believers concluded that since the Lords 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.
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 Thessalonican 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 improvement when you and I miss it completely. For what blessings did Paul give thanks and thereby encourage his friends?
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 Gods ways to strengthen our faith.
An easy life can lead to a shallow faith. The 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 (1 Thes. 3:12). 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 Patience Was Increasing (v. 4). Perhaps “perseverance” would be the best translation of this Greek word. Huamonas means Endure, Hold Out (see Matt. 10:22; Mark 13:13). You do not become patient and persevering by reading a book or listening to a lecture. “You have to suffer.”
4. 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.
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF PROMISE (vv. 5-10).
No matter how difficult their present circumstances may have been, the Thessalonican believers had a secure and glorious future. We are prone to think that suffering proves that God does not care, but just the opposite is true. Furthermore, the way we act in times of trial proves to others that God is at work. Three experiences are involved in the promises of God for His people.
1. Reward (v. 5). This was one of Gods 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. We are to walk by faith, and not by sight.
3. Rest (vv. 7a and 10). God will recompense tribulation to the lost, but rest to the saved. 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, Gods people are pressured, “pressed out of measure” and under the burdens of trail and persecution. But when we see Christ, we will be released.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF PRAYER (vv. 11-12).
Paul prayed for his converts. His “wherefore” in verse 11 means, “And because of all I have just said.” There were three concerns in Paul’s prayer.