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July 29, 2008

I’ve been reading First and Second Thessalonians over and over and over the past several days (and on and off for the past several weeks). I heard a teaching once – years ago – that challenged the audience to pick an epistle and read it every day for a month. I did it first with Philippians and wow. I highly recommend it, but this is about Thessalonians.

Usually the process starts to get boring around day four, which is where I can slip into “on and off” for a week or so. I’m past that with the Thess’ now, and have moved into being completely blown away by the concept of suffering for the kingdom of God.

Most, if not all, of the early Church suffered for the name of Jesus, but from these two short letters, it’s obvious that the Thess’ suffered more persecution and tribulation than most of the others. What’s really agonizing my soul, though, is the way Paul talks about it.

In 1 Thessalonians 2 (v. 13 -) Paul commends them in that when they heard the gospel, they received it as the word of God, and not the word of men. They believed that what they were hearing was of/from God, and how does Paul know? Because they did what other faithful churches did, and opened themselves to persecution for the Lord’s name. Verse 14 starts “For you, brethren …” They allowed the word of God to so work in their hearts that it incited their fellow countrymen to violence against them; violence that they persevered through instead of running from.

In 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul encourages their “patience and faith” through all the trials and persecutions, calling it “manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God.” Their endurance was manifest evidence of the righteousness of God, because it means they were found worthy to suffer for the kingdom, because “it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you.”

A couple verses later, Paul says they pray always that the Thessalonian church would be found worthy of that calling. When I think about being counted worthy, I tend to think about things like spending a lot of time in prayer, or giving to the Church or overseas missions. I don’t think about being persecuted, but I think it’s part of my mind that still needs to be renewed.

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they persecute you.” In Acts 5, the apostles leave the council excited that they had been “counted worthy” to suffer for Christ. I know the principle is there, and I believe it’s coming to the Church in the West, but am I ready? Am I worthy?

And if enduring persecution is a sign that I’ve received the Word of God properly, and evidence of God’s righteousness, what’s the opposite? If persecution does come to our society, and I manage to evade it, I am not worthy of the Kingdom.

John 15:20/Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. God's Love Changed Everything permalink
    July 31, 2008 3:10 am

    Hmmmm… and what about the way the Thess’ lived that made them the violent targets of their countrymen? I don’t believe it was hostile judgment that they showed them, but what?? And how can we live the same and be counted worthy?

    This brings me back to the culture and traditions of the Hebrews that are worth carrying on today that I discussed with you while you were here…. makes me wonder.

  2. Lex permalink
    July 31, 2008 5:35 pm

    In a society that considered Christianity heresy and punishable by death, I imagine they didn’t have to do much. It hasn’t come to that in the U.S. (yet?), but it’s still the case – as you know – all over the world.

    It’s the uncompromising spirit in the face of anything that gets me. And I think when Christians really refuse to compromise God’s word, there will be persecution – whether or not it comes down to physical violence. Life and death are in the power of the tongue.

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