Summary: 3 certainties about suffering
In Paul’s introduction to the second Thessalonian letter, he thanked God for their growing faith and love, and for their patience and faithfulness in times of trial and persecution. I have made mention on several occasions that the Thessalonian believers were suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ, and for a brief time they began to despair because they thought that perhaps they had missed the Lord’s return. Paul set them straight in the first letter, and it is evident that his words took heart because they continued on in love to serve the Lord with great power and might.
It was important to Paul to write this young church again to encourage them in their suffering, because a faith that won’t endure suffering is no faith at all. They needed to hang on just a while longer because the Lord’s imminent return would set all things straight.
I want us to finish this chapter tonight and visit this subject of suffering. God’s people are going to endure suffering before Jesus comes back. Now, that’s kind of a ridiculous statement considering that people have been suffering in the name of Christ since the days of Abel, but in our isolated way of thinking we forget how merciful God has been in protecting us for so long. So, let me clarify my statement by saying that it is my view that we in America are going to suffer for our faith in Jesus Christ before He returns.
I believe that to be true with or without the 7-year tribulation period that will precede the Lord’s return. The last 7 years are going to be terrible for anyone naming the name of Christ, but suffering will take place before that time begins, and it will intensify right up to the day it begins. As we consider our text tonight, I want to set forth for you three certainties about suffering that, if understood properly, will help you through your own times of personal suffering. Let’s read our text now.
“Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
God uses suffering to prepare His people for His kingdom
I want you to notice again what Paul said in verse 5. It begins with the word which. “Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God…” That word which takes you back to verse 4, where Paul said that he gloried in their “patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.” In other words, Paul rejoiced because they gladly and willingly suffered for their faith, and now he says that their suffering is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God. Now, the phrase manifest token simply means clear evidence, or a clear sign, a positive proof of something. So, let’s read the verse this way: “Your suffering is a clear sign that God is a righteous judge.” It is evidence or proof of God’s righteous judgment. Now think about suffering in this light. This would mean that the affliction of believers is part of God’s judgment and that it is right and just. God is so much in control of things that even the hostile and sinful acts of unbelieving men are part of his holy and just judgment.
Have you ever thought of the suffering of Christians in this way? Have you ever thought that behind the circumstances and affairs of your life there is a righteous providence of God, that God is at work behind the scenes in your life, using persecution and suffering as a part of His judgment?
Why does God use suffering in your life? The next part of the verse says that suffering is allowed so “that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God…” Does this mean that you have to suffer to enter the kingdom of God? Certainly not! Admittance to the kingdom of God is based on salvation – a personal relationship with God through Christ. Salvation is by grace through faith. It is faith plus nothing, and that means suffering. So, what does it mean that suffering counts you worthy of the kingdom? Let’s take a stroll through a few passages of Scripture. First go to 1 Corinthians 3:10. In verse 10 Paul is explaining how Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which our lives are to be built. It is important to know as we begin to build our lives on that foundation that there are some things we do in life that will be found pleasing in God’s sight and rewarded, and there are other things we do that are just a waste of a good life. Read with me verses 12-15.