2 Thessalonians 1 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Kevin Lai, Gracepoint Hsinchu

Reflect on the fact that “God is just.”  How should this reality affect the way I deal with suffering, persecution, trouble, etc?

Many times, when people face suffering or difficulties, their initial response is whether God is there or why is He allowing this to happen. However, as seen from this passage, when Christians face suffering, persecution or trouble, we can rest assured that God is in control, that He will “pay back trouble to those who trouble you” and “give relief to you who are troubled” (v. 6). For me, I haven’t really gone to the extent of suffering or being persecuted much, but even in the face of little suffering, I can begin to doubt God’s goodness or think Christian life is hard. However, as a Christian, I should know that suffering is a natural part of Christian life, as seen in Jesus’ life and Apostle Paul’s ministry. Many times, I like to please people around me and avoid uncomfortable situations. But this attitude stems from my self-absorbed and self-preserving attitude, and ultimately lack of trust that God is sovereign and that He is in control. From this passage, I see how I need to do my best in following God and I shouldn’t care too much of how the world views me, and I should leave the rest to God.

Is this motivating me to live a life worthy of his calling?

In this passage, Apostle Paul connects the fact of suffering with the phrases of “worthy of the kingdom of God” (v. 5) and “worthy of his calling” (v. 11). As part of the Taiwan mission team members, some of us were able to go to a Youth Missions Conference this past week,

Gracepoint Hsinchu at Youth Missions Conference

and I was challenged by all the stories of the “great cloud of witnesses” throughout the history of missionaries in the world and in Taiwan. When I think of “being worthy,” many times, I can think of being able to bring many people to Christ or being competent, etc. But at the conference, a speaker shared about Robert Morrison (missionary to China) and Adoniram Judson (missionary to Burma), who received much persecution and ridicule throughout their lifetime. At the end of their lives, they only had a handful of converts and they did not see the fruits of their labor. However, it was their obedience to following Christ’s example to the cross and their trust in God’s sovereignty that led them to give their lives fully to God’s kingdom. Eventually, only after their deaths did their fruits of labor in terms
of translating the first Chinese Bible and the first Burmese Bible impact so many people. All these missionaries’ lives reaffirmed this passage that being worthy of God’s kingdom is a life that is fully trusting and obedient to God. Now, serving in Taiwan, I pray that I may let this truth sink in: that it’s not “how effective” I can be as a minister or “how much I can do,” but how obedient I am to God’s commands, how much I trust Him, how much I embrace suffering that would make me worthy of His calling.

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Submitted by Jisup Hong

O. What does Apostle Paul boast about among the churches?

About the Thessalonians’ perseverance and faith, and those in the context of all the persecutions and trials they are enduring.

A. What is the picture that emerges of the Thessalonian church based on what was written about faith and love, and now perseverance and faith?

Here is a church that is growing in faith and love for each other, but the context that they are in is persecution.  It is not like out of a great abundance of good things happening, or happy circumstances, or success, they are growing in faith and love—but in the midst of trial and persecution.  So perhaps this is why in v.3 it is faith and love, but it v.4 it is faith and perseverance—because there is something there that in the midst of persecution and trials, that their love for one another is increasing—rather than each of them turning to their own interests, trying to take care first of their own problems.  Wouldn’t then love be decreasing?  So what Apostle Paul is so proud of them for is that although they are being persecuted, yet they are holding onto their faith—in the gospel—and they are living it out more and more—their love for each other is increasing.  So then, this is something that Apostle Paul can point to among God’s churches to say, this is how you should be.

A. Why does Apostle Paul boast?

Interesting that in Gal 6:14? he said, may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…  Well, one thing, he is certainly not boasting about himself or about how he is better than someone else.  His boast here is about the Thessalonians’ perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials they are enduring…  perhaps then this is what he cherishes and delights in—perhaps this is what it looks like when you boast in the cross of Christ, rather than yourself.  This is what the cross of Christ, what Jesus did for us, is doing—it has made these people—the Thessalonians, into brothers—and made the into such people that even in the midst of persecutions and trials, they are enduring, and not only so, but their faith is growing—their appreciation for the cross is growing—and their love for one another is increasing.  How great is what Jesus did for us on the cross!!

P. What are some points of application for me?

Well, it means that I cannot use difficulties in my life as an excuse as to why I am not increasing in loving the particular people that God has placed in my life—because, in fact, difficulties, persecutions, and trials—this is the very context in which God calls me to love people in.  This is what brings glory to God.  My context is that I am a graduate student, way behind in my thesis for various reasons, that I am raising a small child, that modern life is busy with commuting, daycare, email, cellphones, etc., that I keep getting sick, and that my responsibilities given my age and stage in life often challenge the limits of my character and life skills, that I minister to people who are also stressed and busy, attend school where most of the people I work with regularly are hostile to the gospel, etc.  Still, all this is quite far from the persecutions and trials that people of the early church experienced, and that many Christians throughout the world today contend with.  Indeed if I think I have an excuse, then I am deluded.

I also need to be careful not to fool myself into thinking that I love people just because I have feelings or sentiments for people even though I do not engage in love acts toward specific people such that they might not even know that I had such feelings or sentiments—it is very clear here, that love must be concrete and specific, based on the very precise wording here, which is unnecessary if a kind of general “love” were sufficient—or at least I don’t know that it would evoke thanksgiving like here.

I also need to see that the love I have for people and care about whether the love that those I am responsible for have for others is increasing.  There is a huge temptation to just settle—here is my scope of people—a circle of people with me in the center—and to be satisfied there, which is really in a sense to say that since my needs are met, I don’t need to do more.  That seems to be quite self-centered, which is not the way of the cross of Jesus.  Even if there are only few people that I have love for—that should be increasing, so that sooner or later it should spill over onto others, and it ought to be Jesus, and not me, deciding when is enough.  What Apostle Paul actually says here is quite challenging, love that every one of them has for each other—the scope is their whole church.

Once again, I realize that an actual church, a body of real people who are in the same place—that is how the gospel is lived out.  You can talk about loving people all you want, but you have to ask, where are the people?  Who are the people?  Apostle Paul doesn’t say—“because your love for humanity is increasing,” he doesn’t say, “because your love for all believers everywhere.”  Not that Apostle Paul has something against loving people outside your church, but if I think that I love all believers everywhere, but there are not many concrete people that I actually show love to at my own church—based on what he writes here, it seems like he might think that was empty talk rather than an inspiring love.

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