Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
2 Thess, the sequel to Paul’s first letter continues to praise the Thessalonians church for its testimony. While they are still being tested and persecuted by the culture and the Judaizers, their faith has remained steadfast. In Church history, when then Church experienced troubles [outside, not conflict within] it grew, the book of Acts is a wonderful example of how the Church comes together in unity and strength when adversity abound. The Corinthian Church is a prime example of what internal conflict looks like, but that’s another blog. Twice in this book Paul commends the Church for its faith and resolve to live godly before the world. This is most interesting, because they were not content to just make it through whatever ordeal was at hand, but their perseverance was causing the Gospel to be spread to other regions. This is significant because mankind is prone to focus on themselves and their problems rather than take the high road. Paul assures the Church that while they have been faithful; God will repay those who have dealt with them in a persecuted way. This leads to the 2nd chapter where Paul discusses the Return of Christ. This is a hot topic in our American Churches today. Everyone is talking about how bad it is everywhere; yet the facts are the Gospel is spreading into regions of the Lost world it has never been able to do before. For example; the ISIS and the Syrian conflict right now is doing great testimony for the Gospel; most people don’t look at it that way – but the fact that in Muslim countries, believers are willing to die for their faith rather than recant to Muslim speaks volumes to those that are looking for HOPE in this chaotic, apostatized world. We Americans should take notice of what REAL persecution looks like, instead of complaining about our inconveniences of comfort!
In America right now from pulpits and book publishers there is a myriad of sermons and books about the impending disaster of the End of the World. I believe American Churches are so focused about the possible end times and return of Jesus, that they have forgotten that millions are still waiting to hear that Jesus came the first time. This became a hot topic with the Thessalonians church, for some had said that the Return had happened already. There was a group that were so enamored with the Return, they quit their jobs and were waiting for the End to happen. I have read enough prophecy books and scripture to understand that, if “we” the Church are talking about the Return of Jesus and the world is talking about it as well; then it’s not even close. Matt 24 tells us that everything will be “normal” when Jesus comes. People missed Jesus the first time because of ignorance; people will miss Him the second time because of apathy and apostasy. while the Church is in a state of apathy and apostasy [In America] that is not necessarily true everywhere. Thousands are coming to Christ around the world! Not because of the All-gifted American churches; but because of God’s work in the world. [See Nik Ripken’s book Insanity of Obedience] If we are so focused on Christ’s return, we miss the work of being salt and light in the world. Just because the American Church is in apostasy, doesn’t mean God is done!
Paul outlines some specifics with the Return of Jesus; while I believe He, Jesus can come at anytime; I also find the long-suffering and compassion of God greater than we think. The task of proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples is greater today than in times past – yes I believe that things are pretty messed up; really out of control. But even though all looks so bleak – we must focus on the “journey of faith” instead of trying to hurry and escape from all the turmoil. Countless times scripture tells the believer that his life will be difficult and he will be persecuted, even killed for the Faith in Jesus. SO why are we surprised that today we are in difficult times? The Gospel is being preached, thousands are responding in faith at the risk of losing their lives – John 11:25-26; even though we die – we will live! The Resurrection is true! Besides Jim Elliot said “He is no fool who loses what he cannot keep, to gain that which he can never lose! The End of the World will come; if that is the near future, what manner of disciples should we then be? Oh, that He [Jesus] would find us faithful when He comes!