2 Thessalonians – Patient endurance
“May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5
Communication is interesting. You can control what you say but you cannot control what people hear. You can choose the words you write, but there is no guarantee that they will be understood the way you intended. And this is the challenge of good communication. Many times we just hear what we want to hear.
This was the case with Pauls communication with the young church in Thessalonica. From the moment the church started, there had been harsh community backlash. While many believed the Word of the Lord, many others did not. And as is always the case, antagonists, without the peace and love of God in their hearts, are usually vocal and aggressive. Instead of coexisting they somehow feel the need to persecute – and they did.
Paul had taught the young believers that Jesus was coming back. Jesus had promised the disciples on many occasions that His departure was temporary, and that He would surely return for them. God the Holy Spirit would be the guarantee of His certain return. So it makes perfect sense that these brothers and sisters, just a few weeks old in the Lord, persecuted for their faith from day one, would start talking about the second coming of Jesus. “Life is hard, He must be coming soon!” “He’s been gone over twenty years, surely He is coming soon.”
So Pauls first letter addressed Jesus’ return. He told them in essence that the day of Christ’s coming was not something you could find on a calendar, it was information known only to God. But, even so, a date didn’t really matter, because whether a person was living or dead at the time of His return, He was returning for all of His faithful ones. The living will gather to Him and the dead will be raised, everyone will be together. He told them to encourage each other with those words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Then he gave the example of a thief and how he strikes when no one is expecting it, when everyone is asleep. But, again, they didn’t have to worry about this because they were children of the Light, children of the Day, they were fully expecting the coming of the Lord so it would be a welcome, wonderful event, not a surprise.
Well, some of the well-intentioned believers there in Thessalonica read Pauls first letter and decided that they would not be caught sleeping, so they quit their jobs and spent day and night waiting for the Lord’s return. Others became discouraged because Jesus was taking so long, while others began to think He had already come and somehow they missed it.
You can control what you say, you just can’t control what people hear.
So Paul writes them again, a letter of deep love and clarification. He confirms the one thing they got right – Jesus is coming back. He adds that before the Lord comes a few things will happen including a great falling away from the faith and the antichrist will arise and deceive many. But even these things facts shouldn’t affect their day to day lives. God has all that covered. He’s working His plan, building a kingdom, saving and healing people by loving them through His Spirit-filled people.
We are part of that. Opposition is actually part of our ongoing pruning, helping our faithfulness and endurance, helping our love to grow (1:3-5). By the grace of God, our lives will be different, honoring Christ, living by faith, accomplishing good things for God (1:11-12)
In a sense, persecution is like a strong wind in our face, its gusts striking us, trying to knock us off balance, make us fall, or turn and run with the wind instead of against it. Paul knows from personal experience that living against the wind is hard and writes:
“With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.” (2:15)
The second coming of Christ is imminent, He is coming back. It is as certain as anything truth in the world because God has revealed it in His Word through Christ Jesus, and the Holy Prophets and Apostles. It may be soon as each generation is given an expectant spirit because of our love for Jesus, and it may still be a long ways off as God desires that each person in every generation have an opportunity to know His love and be saved.
Our role is to stand firm on the solid rock of Jesus Christ, to keep a firm grip on the Apostles teaching and Holy Tradition, and to live with patient endurance, growing always in love and good deeds.