A. The story is told of an angel who appeared at a college faculty meeting and told the dean that in return for his unselfish service, he would be rewarded with his choice of wealth, wisdom, or beauty.
1. Without hesitating, the dean selected wisdom.
2. “It is done!” the angel said, and then disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
3. All of the other members of the faculty stared at the dean with amazement.
4. Finally one of them said, “Now that you have infinite wisdom, Dean, say something wise.”
5. The dean looked them and said, “I should have taken the money.”
B. Life is all about the choices we make.
1. Sometimes we make the right choices and sometimes we don’t.
2. But with each choice we make comes the consequences of that choice.
C. Another story is told of a teacher who was having a difficult conversation with a student.
1. The teacher said, “Didn’t you promise that you would behave?”
2. The student said, “Yes, sir.”
3. The teacher continued, “And didn’t I promise to punish you if you didn’t behave?”
4. The student said, “Yes, sir, but since I broke my promise, you don’t have to keep yours.”
D. What we will learn from 2 Thessalonians Chapter 1, is that choices have consequences and that God will keep His promises.
1. If we keep our promise to be faithful to God, then He will keep His promise to reward us.
2. If we don’t keep our promise to God or fail to make a promise to God, then He will keep His promise to punish our rejection of Him.
E. I’m sure the Christians in Thessalonica were thankful to God for Paul’s first letter.
1. The letter we call 1 Thessalonians must have given them some encouragement and must have answered some questions, but it did not immediately solve all their problems.
2. It appears that the persecution they were facing continued.
3. Then it appears that a letter arrived claiming to be from Paul, stating that the Day of the Lord was present or had occurred.
4. Needless to say, the Thessalonians were confused, and began to become irresponsible as they awaited the imminent return of Christ.
F. In response to this situation, Paul immediately wrote a second letter to address these developments.
1. It is estimated that there was only 6 months between the writing of 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
2. In the first chapter, which we will cover today, Paul shared three encouragements with his suffering and confused friends.
I. The Encouragement of Praise
A. After giving his traditional greeting, Paul launched into a statement of praise to God for what God had been doing in the lives of Thessalonians.
1. Paul wrote: 3 We 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. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
2. Here we see Paul practicing his own admonition from the last letter – “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18).
3. No doubt the Thessalonian believers didn’t consider themselves to be doing very well spiritually as they suffered through persecution and confusion.
4. Often times you and I are in the worst position to evaluate our own spiritual lives.
5. Many times we can’t see the spiritual improvement that is happening in our lives, but others can see it more clearly.
6. What things did Paul see in their lives that he was thankful for and wanted to encouragement with?
B. First, Paul encouraged them by giving thanks that their faith was growing.
1. In many ways, a faith that hasn’t been tested cannot be trusted.
a. The faith of the Thessalonians was being tested and was not only remaining firm, but was growing.
2. Faith is like a muscle – it must be exercised to grow stronger.
a. Troubles and persecution are often the things that God uses to strengthen our faith.
b. Troubles and persecution strengthen our faith by driving us toward God that we might depend on Him even more.
3. Unfortunately, often an easy life leads to a shallow faith.
4. The great men and women of faith that are mentioned in Hebrews 11 all suffered in one way or another, or faced some kind of tremendous obstacle.
a. It was through those things that their faith grew and was shown to be true.
5. Paul had prayed that he might be in a position to supply what was lacking in their faith (1 Thess. 3:10), but God answered his prayer in a different way.
C. Second, Paul encouraged them by giving thanks that their love was increasing.
1. This also was something that Paul had prayed for them in the first letter (1 Thess. 3:12).
2. Unfortunately, sometimes suffering causes us to become selfish and self-centered.
3. But when we face our suffering with faith and grace our love for others can increase.
4. True, real love is not some kind of fuzzy sentimentality or emotional feeling, but is a commitment that acts in loving ways through sacrifice and service to others.
D. Third, Paul encouraged them by giving thanks that their perseverance was enduring.
1. It is impossible to develop perseverance and endurance by reading a book.
2. A person must first face something that demands or requires perseverance and endurance.
3. The Thessalonians were certainly facing those kinds of things and were responding to them with such faith and perseverance that Paul boasted to others about it.
4. What a great example the Thessalonians had become, and Paul wanted them to feel good about their encouraging effect on others.
5. So not only can suffering help us grow, it can help others grow as they follow our example.
E. So Paul had every reason to praise God and to give thanks for what God was doing in the lives of the young Christians in Thessalonica.
1. It is interesting that in the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul thanked God for the Thessalonians because of their work produced by faith, their labor prompted by their love and their endurance inspired by hope.
2. Here at the beginning of the second letter, we see Paul again praising them for their faith, love and endurance.
3. As Paul wanted to give them more encouragement, he now turned to the encouragement of promise.
II. The Encouragement of Promise
A. No matter how difficult the Thessalonians’ present circumstances may have been, Paul wanted them to know that they had a secure and glorious future.
1. He wanted them to know that great relief and rewards lay ahead for them.
2. He also wanted them to know that great punishment lay ahead for their persecutors.
3. Let’s read verses 5-10: 5 All 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. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and 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. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
B. Let’s look at the promises that are included in these verses.
1. First, there is the promise that God’s judgments are right.
a. God is watching everything that takes place on earth.
b. God’s assessments and judgments about what we do and what happens to us are accurate and right.
c. God is just in all of His judgments.
2. Second, there is the promise of reward for the faithful.
a. The Thessalonians and other faithful Christians will be counted worthy of the kingdom.
b. This does not suggest that any of us earn the right to go to heaven, because we know that we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9).
c. But being faithful through suffering, and through trials, and through life and ministry shows the genuineness of our faith.
d. Our Lord never promised that life here would be easy; in fact, He taught the opposite.
e. But He also promised a future reward for all who were faithful to Him (Mt. 5:10-12; Rev. 2:10).
3. Third, there is the promise of punishment for the wicked.
a. As I said a minute ago, God sees all that is happening and He knows how to judge.
b. Those who persecute His people and do evil and do not repent and obey the Lord will receive the punishment due them.
c. Certainly, the wicked who persecute the godly do not always receive their just payment in this life.
d. In fact, the apparent prosperity of the wicked and the difficulty of the godly have posed a problem for many of God’s people throughout time.
e. But we must keep in mind that God is just and His justice will be issued in His own time.
f. I like the old story of the two farmers – one was a believer and the other an atheist.
1. When harvest season came, the atheist taunted his believing neighbor because his crops were better than his neighbor’s.
2. The atheist said, “I thought you said it paid to believe in God, but my crops are better than yours.”
3. The Christian replied, “It does pay to believe and obey God, but God’s rewards to his people don’t always come at the September harvest.”
g. What kind of future does the unbeliever face?
1. Look at the dramatic words Paul used: trouble, punishment, everlasting destruction, and being shut out from the presence of God.
C. Some people struggle with the thought that God will punish people at all.
1. They might say something like: “I can’t believe that a righteous and loving God would send people to hell.”
a. What they don’t realize is that it is a righteous thing for God to judge sin and to condemn sinners.
b. A holy God cannot leave sin unjudged or unpunished.
2. Those who can’t believe that God would do such a thing fail to understand the holiness of God and the awfulness of sin.
a. While it is true that God is love, it is also true that God is light.
b. God’s holiness demands that sin be dealt with.
c. God’s love caused Him to offer His Son to satisfy the demands of holiness and justice.
3. God sent His Son to die in our place and He pleads with us to enter into a covenant through His Son’s sacrifice.
4. If a person refuses to know God and obey God, then there is nothing left for God to do but to judge that person and give them their just rewards.
D. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to be encouraged by the fact that their suffering would be rewarded and that those who caused their suffering would be justly punished.
1. So they should not abandon hope, but remain faithful and await the day when the Lord comes to be glorified in His holy people.
2. So Paul encouraged the Thessalonians with praise and promise, but he had one more encouragement for them.
III. The Encouragement of Prayer
A. Paul was a man of prayer who prayed often for the churches he planted.
1. 1 Thessalonians contained his prayers for them and 2 Thessalonians also contains Paul’s prayer.
2. Look at the last two verses of chapter 1: 11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Wouldn’t you like to have the apostle Paul praying that prayer for you?!!
4. Do you think the Thessalonians were encouraged by Paul’s prayer on their behalf?
B. These are things we should be praying for ourselves and for others.
1. We should pray that God may count us worthy of His calling.
2. We should pray that God would fulfill every good purpose we have and every act prompted by our faith.
3. We should pray that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in us.
C. How would you feel if someone told you that these are the things that they are constantly praying for you?
A. I’m sure the Thessalonians were happy to hear from the apostle Paul a second time.
1. I’m sure they were encouraged by this first chapter of Paul’s second letter.
2. I’m sure they were encouraged by Paul’s praise, by the promises Paul reminded them of, and by the prayers Paul prayed for them.
B. I want to finish this lesson by returning to the thoughts that we considered at the start of the lesson.
1. If we want to receive the encouragement that the Thessalonians received, then we have to make the same choices that they made.
2. Choices have consequences.
C. A hard to miss characteristic of our modern consumer culture is choice.
1. To walk into a supermarket or department store is to find oneself immediately surrounded by a mind-dazzling or mind-numbing array of choices.
a. On the shelves we are faced with 2 dozen varieties and sizes of soap, 15 different brands of snack chips, a dozen kinds of toilet paper, and nine shoe stores in the same mall.
2. But even as the range of choices has multiplied, the significance of those choices has decreased.
a. Much of the difference between similar products is superficial rather than real.
b. All the brands of soap clean effectively, and my car runs the same regardless of the brand of gas I put in it.
3. In the long run, most of the decisions one makes in the course of the day are inconsequential.
a. A year from now, it is unlikely that my life will have been affected by which brand of paper towels or variety of soap I purchased.
D. When it comes to choices about spiritual things we find ourselves with an amazing variety of choices.
1. There are many forms of unbelief, spiritualism, and major, historic world religions.
2. Notice this diagram that shows symbols of 14 religions. Clockwise from the top they are: Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, Wicca and some other Neopagan religions, Zoroastrianism, and Druidism.
3. And inside of all of these major religions, including Christianity, there are choices to be made – like which kind of Christianity is a person going to practice – Catholic or Protestant, and which kind of protestant, mainline or non-denominational.
4. Just like with the assorted kinds of soap to choose from, it’s easy to think that the spiritual choices are inconsequential.
5. Let’s keep in mind that God is concerned about the spiritual choices we make.
6. It does matter how we handle God’s Word and how we put it into practice.
8. We must strive to live a life that is worthy of the gospel.
E. Choices do have consequences.
1. To refuse to know God and obey God has terrible consequences.
2. To refuse to do with will of God has terrible consequences.
3. I think Matthew 7:21-23 are some of the most sobering words of Jesus. Jesus said:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
F. The story is told of a mother who explained to her five-year-old daughter that if she chose to disobey her, she would have to live with the consequences.
1. “Oh, Mommy!” she said with a terrified look on her face. “Please don’t make me live with the Consequences. I want to live here with you!”
G. I want to live forever with Jesus. I don’t want to live with the consequences. How about you?
1. I don’t want to forever be shut out from God’s presence – I want to be with God forever!
2. Therefore, because choices have consequences, we must choose wisely.
The NIV Application Commentary, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Michael W. Holmes, Zondervan, 1998.
The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, John MacArthur, Moody, 2002.
The Bible Exposition Commentary, 1 Thessalonians, Warren W. Wiersbe, Victor Books, 1989.
The Daily Study Bible Series, 1 Thessalonians, William Barclay, Westminster Press, 1975.