It was our last morning at the beach. I rose early and made my way down the boardwalk to the shore line. The sun was just beginning to peak over the horizon. For a while I was the only one there, standing silently as the waves gently kissed my feet. The ocean was unusually calm that morning. I remember thinking it looked like a mirror reflecting the sky.
More than anything else the ocean brings a sense of peace to me. I'm sure the reason for this is the fact that the beach is the place I feel closet to my Lord. At the ocean I'm more relaxed. I have time to simply sit, watch, listen. And though physically I am surrounded by people, in my spirit it's just me and Jesus communing in His beautiful creation.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:2 Paul begins his letter with the traditional Jewish greeting of grace and peace. He says this grace and peace come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we receive God's grace we gain His peace.
Peace that keeps us calm in all circumstances.
Peace that passes all human comprehension.
Peace that comes from walking intimately with our Lord.
Peace of heart, soul, and mind.
And like that glassy sea reflecting the sky, our lives reflect the glory of our God.
The Amplified Version gives the definition for peace: inner calm and spiritual well-being Paul knew with God's peace the Thessalonians could continue to endure the persecution they were suffering.
Like many of his letters, he begins with a prayer for the recipients. In 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 Paul had prayed for the love of the Thessalonian believers to increase and their hearts to be strengthened. Now in 2 Thessalonians 1:3 Paul is thanking God because He has answered this original prayer. Though the believers were still enduring persecution, they didn't give up and walk away from the faith; instead their faith grew stronger. They didn't turn inward and become selfish, their love for others grew.
Many times suffering causes us to become self-centered, to think only of ourselves and our problems. Some people allow their suffering to kill their faith. They ask questions like: "If God loves me why is He allowing this to happen?" Still others panic when suffering comes. They fret and worry instead of trusting God.
Our suffering shouldn't surprise us. Our suffering shouldn't cause our faith to waver. Rather our suffering should produce well-established faith in us. Our suffering shouldn't make us selfish but more sensitive to the suffering of others. Paul told the Corinthians:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
In our suffering God is with us. His presence brings us peace. Our faith becomes well-established as we endure and see the ways God delivers us.
1 Peter 4:12 says:
"Dear friends, do not be surprised by the fiery ordeal that has come to test you, as though something strange were happening to you."
Jesus told us we would have troubles and tribulations in this world. He said:
"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Did you catch that word "peace" in there? With Jesus we can have peace no matter what we are facing. When we allow God's peace to settle our hearts in our suffering our focus turns outward. Colossians 3:15 says:
"Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who daily walks with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. To this peace indeed you were called as members of one body [of believers]. And be thankful [to God always]." AMP
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 is:
When Christ's peace is the controlling factor in our heart, panic has no control in our life.
How do you react to suffering? Does your faith waver or become well-established? Do you become selfish or sensitive to others suffering? Do you panic or trust God?
Like a mountain stream flowing toward the sea; Christ's love should be flowing from us no matter what circumstances we are facing. Some rivers begin as a small trickle of water high upon a mountain. Through the years that water flowed down, making its way over rocks and through earth; it had to fight to make the channels that formed a stream. Yet the water flows into a river, it doesn't become stagnant. Stagnant water stinks. Stagnant water grows algae. Stagnant water can't be used.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:4 Paul tells the believers of Thessalonica that he boasts about their faith to the other churches. He boast because their suffering has produced well-established faith in them. The Thessalonian believers have allowed God to use their sufferings to sanctify them making them worthy of His kingdom. Paul boasts because their suffering has caused them to become flowing water rather than stagnant. In their suffering they allowed the Living Water to flow through them to others.
We are not meant to be stagnant water but called to be living water for others.
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 is:
Our sufferings are meant for our sanctification; to make us like the Living Water.
In what ways is your faith boast worthy? How have your sufferings made you more Christlike? How are you being living water?
"For after all it is only just for God to repay with distress those who distress you, and to give relief to you who are so distressed and to us as well, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in a flame of fire." 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7
Paul contrasts the persecutors and the persecuted in these verses. He says when Christ returns in judgment He will repay those who were persecuting the believers. But he will give relief to the believers.
This is a common theme throughout Scripture.
1 Samuel 2:8b-10:
"For the foundations of the earth are the Lord's; on them He has set the world. He will guard the feet of His faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth."
"The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden. The Lord is known by His acts of justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God. But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish." Psalm 9:15-18
"It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another. In the hand of the Lord is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; He pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs. As for me, I will declare this forever; I will sing praise to the God of Jacob, who says, 'I will cut off the horns of all the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.'" Psalm 75:7-10
Many times it seems the wicked go unpunished and prosper in this world while those living a life faithful to God suffer. But this world is not our home. We are to live with our eyes fixed, not on our suffering, but on our Savior. We are to live with our hearts and minds set to eternity time, not earth time.
When Jesus comes in judgment the wicked and those who persecute God's followers will be punished. We have all sinned. We are all unholy. We all deserve punishment. Jesus has already taken punishment for all the sin of all people for all time. But
In verse 8 of 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul says God will punish those who do not know God and do not obey Jesus. Jesus explained His judgment with the parable of the sheep and the goats.
"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels of heaven with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me...Then He will say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me'...Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matthew 25:31-46 (select verses)
Here we have more contrasts: righteous/wicked; eternal life/eternal punishment.
The Message Paraphrase renders verses 9-10:
"Those who refuse to know God and refuse to obey the Message will pay for what they have done. Eternal exile from the presence of the Master and His splendid power is their sentence. But on that very same day when He comes, He will be exalted by His followers and celebrated by all who believe - and all because you believed what we told you."
Non-believers will be repaid and punished for their sins. They will face eternal exile from God's presence and power. They will face eternal destruction.
Believers will be released from suffering. They will receive eternal rest and will be eternally exalted with the Lord.
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10:
God will punish unbelievers and reward His faithful followers.
When God's judgment comes, will you be repaid or relieved? Will you be punished or pardoned? Will you be eternally exiled or eternally exalted? The choice in yours but eternity is coming. Decide today!
Paul ends this chapter with another prayer for the Thessalonians. He prays three things, that God:
make them worthy of His call on their lives
by His power bring their desire for goodness and good deeds to fruition
be glorified in them and them in Him
I've been thinking a lot about marriage lately; thoughts prompted by my son's upcoming wedding, no doubt! In preparing for the rehearsal dinner I've tried to pick out quotes on marriage to display on the tables. There's one made popular by the HGTV show, Fixer Upper that goes like this:
"Grow old with me, the best is yet to be."
When we get married we are so in love we see the future through rose colored glasses. We think everything will be easy and wonderful and we will have no problems. Then the honeymoon ends and life begins. Each year brings new challenges and hardships. Yet, for those who stay the course and do the hard work, the latter years truly are the best.
The same holds true for the Christian. In this life we have troubles, trials, tribulations. We also have joys, peace in all circumstances, and abundant grace. Our sufferings make us worthy of God's call; His Spirit living in us gives us power to be holy and strength to accomplish God's will; and when we submit all to the Lordship of Jesus Christ He is glorified in us and we in Him.
Still...the best is yet to be.
We have eternity to look forward to, where we will forever be in God's presence, see our Lord face to face, and be made perfect as He is perfect.
"Dear friends, we are already God's children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is." 1 John 3:2
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 is:
God's power working in us makes us holy, brings Him glory, and prepares us for eternity.
What evidence is there in your life that God's power is working in and through you? How have you submitted to the Lordship of Christ? Where do you still need to submit?
As God's children we will suffer in this world. Our attitude toward that suffering makes all the difference. James tells us:
"Consider it pure joy, mu brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
When we allow Christ's peace to permeate our lives, our perception is changed and His power revealed.
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 1 is:
What we believe and how we live determines our eternal destiny.
Come follow Jesus with me...the best is yet to be!
Praying we all allow God's peace, power, and person to permeate our lives!
Until next time, keep gathering manna, growing deeper, and gaining intimacy!
God bless and keep you,