2 Thessalonians 1
So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. – 2 Thessalonians 1:11 NLT
A few months had passed since Paul had sent his first letter to the Thessalonians. Evidently, he had received word back that caused him to write them again, addressing additional concerns and confusion caused by his first letter. It seems that there was a problem with the Thessalonian believers having become so engrossed with the coming of Christ, that they had lost their focus. Some were saying that, due to the increase in persecution they were experiencing, the second coming of Jesus was just around the corner. This entire letter was written by Paul to clear up confusion and to encourage them how to balance their longing for the return of Christ with their need to live faithful, diligent lives in the meantime.
Paul starts out his letter with words of encouragement. He commends them for their flourishing faith and endurance in the face of growing persecution. It was not easy for these new believers to live out their new-found faith in Christ in the midst of a hostile, pagan culture. But he reminds them that God is just and right. He is fully aware of what they are going through and has a purpose behind it and a just outcome in store for them. Rather than view their trials as unjust and unfair, Paul encourages them to see them as part of God's righteous judgment. He uses them to separate believers from unbelievers. Trials and tribulations have a way of exposing the weaknesses and flaws in our faith, so that God, through His grace, can purify and refine us. They reveal our false idols and expose the self-righteous props on which we have built our lives. Paul wrote, "God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering" (2 Thessalonians 1:5 NLT). Rather than see God's justice and judgment as relegated to some future event tied to Christ's second coming, Paul wanted them to understand that God was at work at that moment, refining, separating, and preparing a people for Himself. And at the right time, God was going to deal justly with those who were doing the persecuting. But for the Thessalonians, the focus needed to be on living for Christ in the here and now, not waiting idly for Christ to come in the by and by. Yes, there is a time when Christ will return and "provide rest for you who are being persecuted" (2 Thessalonians 1:7 NLT). At that time He will come "bringing judgment on those who don't know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thessalonians 1:8 NLT). There is a time coming when God will separate the faithful from the unfaithful, the saved from the lost. But the greatest separator will be the way each has lived his or her life on this earth. The evidence of God's work and transformative power in their lives will be what sets them apart. So Paul's prayer is that God will enable them to live lives worthy of their calling. He asked God to give them the power they would need to live the life of faith in the midst of persecution. It is only God's grace that makes it all possible. So when Christ does eventually return and the saved are separated from the lost, God will receive glory and honor because the faith of the believers will be clear proof that they are His children, transformed by His grace and according to His power.
Father, sometimes this world does not make sense. There are days when the troubles and trials seem too great and appear to be purposeless and unfair. But You are just, righteous and always right. You know what You are doing. You have a plan in all that is going on around me and in me. You are refining and purifying me. You are exposing my weaknesses and removing my dependence on all those things I falsely rely on instead of You. You are making me worthy of Your Kingdom. Help me to see that truth every day of my life and view the difficulties of this life as instruments in Your hands to transform me and prepare me for eternal life. Amen