Summary: II Thess Series #1: When trouble comes, it does NOT mean God is giving you RETRIBUTION. We may deserve RETRIBUTION --- but God offers RELIEF.
Retribution & Relief
SCRIPTURE READING: II Thessalonians 1:1-7
Have you ever seen one of those commercials for a cell phone where cellular static causes some confusion? I remember one where the wife asks her husband to “Bring home a movie; something old.” The next thing you see is a monkey lying on the couch with a thermometer in his mouth. The husband thought she said, “Bring home a monkey with a cold.”
Misunderstandings can lead to all kinds of trouble. In fact, misunderstanding was the reason Paul wrote this second letter to the Thessalonians. The messenger who had delivered 1st Thessalonians had evidently returned to Paul with a report on the church. Paul wrote this second letter right away in order to clear up some misunderstandings.
The Christians in Thessalonica were experiencing hard times. In fact, persecution was so intense that some wondered if they were receiving RETRIBUTION from God. This is a common misunderstanding among Christians. When things go wrong, it’s very common for Christians to wonder if God is somehow “getting back at them” them for something they did wrong.
• I remember a young married woman who told me she thought the reason she wasn’t able to have children was because God was punishing her for past sins. (By the way, she later ended up having 5 children.)
• I remember a dad whose child was seriously ill. He believed God might take that child because he loved the child too much.
• I’ve known people who fell on financial hard times --- loosing a job or having their business fail --- who believed this proved they had lost favor with God.
• I’ve even known Preachers who thought if their church was growing it meant God was pleased with them. And if their church was having hard times it meant that God was displeased with them. (I’ve been in ministry for over 30 years now in 3 different congregations. I’ve learned that the ups and downs of church actually have very little to do with how wonderful I am OR how awful I am!)
The point is that all these attitudes are wrong. They show a complete lack of understanding about the God of the Bible and how he operates. Believing that God is somehow “paying us back” for our sins when bad things happen is called the “Principle of Retribution.” And it is at the heart of every Pagan Religion.
It goes like this: if you displease the gods they will “get you” --- with floods, famines, disease, and death --- all these things are seen as the result of RETRIBUTION from the gods. It’s amazing how many Christians have the same idea about the One True God. Paul wanted to make it crystal clear that the suffering of Believers is never a sign that God has deserted them.
The first chapter of this letter makes it clear that RETRIBUTION is only for those who reject God. God promises RELIEF for those who belong to Him. If you ever get to thinking that somehow God is “getting back at you” for the things you’ve done wrong, remember these verses from II Thessalonians: God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 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. II Thessalonians 1:6-7
If you believe in Jesus Christ --- if you have taken him as your Lord --- if you are counting on Him for your salvation --- then God will never give RETRIBUTION to you. II Thessalonians says it clearly: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled … We’re going to take some time this morning to look at how God will give RELIEF to those who are with him and RETRIBUTION to those who are against him.
We all love to see real Justice done. But too often, we see only a frustrating mix of justice and injustice. Innocent people are convicted, and some times the guilty literally “get away with murder.” Some of you have been wronged or victimized by people who got away with it. It’s important to remember that pay-back time is coming. Paul promised: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you… Perfect RETRIBUTION will come on that day when Jesus Christ returns.
Several years ago Johnny Carson had Billy Graham as a guest on The Tonight Show. At one point there was a lull in the conversation and Johnny said, “You know what, Billy? I bet if Jesus ever came back to earth, we’d do Him in again!”
Billy Graham leaned forward in his seat, and said, “In the Bible we read that Jesus WILL someday return to earth again. The first time He came in love. The next time, He’ll come in power. And no one will do Him in!”