Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering. In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you. (2 Thessalonians 1:3-6)
Paul had been persecuted during his first visit to Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-9). No doubt those who had responded to his message and had become Christians were continuing to be persecuted by both Jews and Gentiles. In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he said that Christ’s return would bring deliverance from persecution and judgment on the persecutors. But this caused the people to expect Christ’s return right away to rescue and vindicate them. Paul had to point out that while waiting for God’s Kingdom, believers could and should learn perseverance and faith from their suffering.
As we live for Christ, we will experience troubles because we are trying to be God’s people in a perverse world. Some people say that troubles are the result of sin or lack of faith, but Paul teaches that they may be a part of God’s plan for believers. Our problems can help us look upward and forward, instead of inward (Mark 13:35-36; Philippians 3:13-14); they can build strong character (Romans 5:3-4); and they can provide us with opportunities to comfort others who also are struggling (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
The keys to surviving persecution and trials are perseverance and faith. When you are faced with crushing troubles, you can have faith that God is using your trials for your good and for his glory. Knowing that God is just can help you endure, because you know that he has not forgotten you. In God’s perfect timing, he will relieve your suffering. Do you trust God’s timing? How has God helped you endure past trials? If you’re in the midst of hardship, your troubles may be an indication that you are taking a stand for Christ. How can remembering God’s provision in the past comfort you now?