TO CHEW ON: "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure." 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4
Paul had himself recently experienced the "persecutions and tribulations" he talks about. He and his companion Silas had found an active synagogue in Thessalonica. For three sabbaths Paul "reasoned with them from the Scriptures," trying to persuade the Jews that Jesus was indeed Messiah.
Some Jews believed, along with Greeks and prominent women. But the ones who didn't gathered a mob and attacked the house of Jason where they thought Paul and Silas were staying. The mob never found them, but later that night, the believers sneaked them out of the city. It's all in Acts 17:1-10.
So, in this letter, probably only weeks to months later, Paul is encouraging those believers, telling them that the patience and faith they are exhibiting is cause for him to boast about them in other churches he visits.
"That's fine for you," I can just hear the Thessalonian Christians say, as they read Paul's letter. "You could just leave. But we have to stay here and live with this."
God could, of course, have caused that persecution to stop. But here, throughout church history, and still around the world today the need for endurance in persecution, in sickness, and in personal trials, continues. What is the purpose of it?
Paul mentions three pluses of of toughing out persecution in these verses:
1. It grows faith.
2. It cements love (note also 1 Corinthians 13:7)
3. It is a source of inspiration for others (note also 2 Timothy 2:10).
Other Bible passages show us still more advantages of having to endure.
4. It proves we are God's sons and daughters when He deals with us like a parent does with a child (Hebrews 12:7).Are you living in endurance-challenging territory right now? Be encouraged. You are not unique or alone.
5. It toughens us as Christians, giving us focus and developing strength (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
6. Paul implies that it might be the new normal and what one should expect when involved in ministry (2 Timothy 4:5).
7. Enduring puts us in the select company. Abraham (Hebrews 6:15), Jesus (Hebrews 12:3), and Paul (1 Corinthians 4:10-13; 2 Timothy 1:8) are all characterized for their endurance.
8. Endurance assures our salvation (Matthew 10:22). Only the ones who endure will receive the crown of life (James 1:12).
For us whose lives are going along relatively smoothly, let's pray for people who need endurance while we keep our expectations realistic. The need for endurance will come. Let's be ready!
PRAYER: Dear God, help me to endure the small trials and tribulations that come my way. Please make me aware of people whose endurance is being challenged, so I can pray for them. Amen.
Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.