November 6, 2022
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
The abundance of candy collected on Halloween creates trouble. For example, in a household with multiple siblings, there can be feelings of a disproportionate allocation in quantity and quality of candies, which leads to stealing. When caught stealing candy, there must be consequences. And if someone suffers consequences for stealing, that person cannot claim that it is unfair because that person did something wrong.
There is another kind of suffering that happens on Halloween. There are times when a child will wear a costume of their parents or guardians’ choosing out of love, even if it means suffering the name calling and rejection of their peers. In that case, the suffering is not fair, but it is endured because once that child gets home there will be no more suffering, only the relief of true, lasting love.
As with the child who endured suffering for the love of his parents or guardians, in our Gospel reading from Luke 19, Jesus warned the people not to go against the one who offered them something good. Using a parable to teach the people, 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ While he was gone, some rejected him, while others served him. When the now appointed king returned, he sent for the servants to whom he had given money. To the servants who were faithful, there was a reward, but for the servant who did nothing with the king’s gift, what he had been given was taken from him and given to one of the servants who had been faithful. Then, Jesus concluded the parable with these words, 26 “He [the King] replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’” In the parable, Jesus is the one of noble birth who became King. He is the gracious giver of life and of a place in his kingdom. He is also the one who will return to punish those who reject him and reward his faithful servants.
Waiting for Jesus to return is difficult. But listening to Jesus’ parable makes waiting for the king’s return sound easy. The free gift of money from the man of noble birth sounds like the free candy given out on Halloween, which all kids agree is a good thing and the people who give out the candy are praised by the kids, especially the ones who give out full size candy bars. The strange twist in Jesus’ parable is the group who rejected the gift giving king. They are the unbelievers. They are also the ones who make it difficult for believers to wait for Jesus’ return. This was the situation facing the believers in our New Testament reading from 2 Thessalonians 1; they were suffering because they believed in Jesus. In the verses before our reading from 2 Thessalonians 1, Paul outlined the situation in Thessalonica, 3 “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” The Thessalonians were faithful. They had turned away from the false gods of their peers, many were the false gods of Mount Olympus, which was visible from Thessalonica, to put their trust in Jesus. This brought persecution. Yet, they did not give up believing, but endured. The news of their faithfulness in a difficult situation was spread to the other churches and was an encouragement. Paul continued his letter to them making it clear that the Thessalonians were not an encouragement because they were such strong people, but the encouragement was that God was with them as they suffered for their faith in Jesus.
God is with you when you suffer for your faith in Jesus. Paul continued in 2 Thessalonians 1, 5 “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” The Thessalonians were not suffering for doing something wrong. They suffered for their Christian faith, which is good. Their faith did no harm to those around them. In fact, their Christian faith would have filled them with love for others and eagerness to serve them. You have the same God as the Thessalonians who allows you to suffer for following him. The suffering does not come from God. It comes from unbelievers who reject God and therefore reject you as we hear Jesus say in John 15, 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Our temptation when we suffer for our Christian faith is to question God. Our temptation is to doubt his love because we feel abandoned. Instead, Paul pointed out that suffering for your faith is not a punishment but a proof of your faith and the grace of God.
God calls you worthy of his kingdom when you suffer for him. Paul continued to write in 2 Thessalonians 1, 6 “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.” Paul spoke about the future. He pointed to the future when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. It is referred to as Judgment Day or the Last Day. On that day, your suffering will come to an end. On Judgment Day, everyone will see that God is just and gracious. He is just because the ones who rejected him and caused believers trouble will face trouble. He is gracious because there will be lasting relief for his people.
Our perspective on suffering for Jesus is changed with faith. With faith suffering is not a question of ‘why’, but ‘when’. We know the evil motives of unbelievers cause suffering to Christians. You have felt isolated for your faith. You worry about rejection each time a new person in your life discovers you are a Christian. The ‘why’ we suffer is because of those against God. We do not suffer because God rejects us. We suffer because God loves us, and we love God. The relief he promises will come on Judgment Day ‘when’ our Lord Jesus Christ will return to give us relief.
When we suffer for our faith, we look to what Jesus will do on Judgment Day. Paul wrote, 7… “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” Those who caused your suffering will be punished in the fire of hell. Two groups make up those who persecute you. It is those who reject God despite all the evidence of his existence and those who have heard the gospel, Jesus’ forgiveness of sins, but reject it. 9 “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” Those who caused your suffering will get what they wanted. They rejected God and God will honor their rejection by separating them from himself forever. They will suffer in hell, never experiencing the peace, joy and love of God in heaven. While you who believe the testimony of all whom God guided to write the Scriptures will have relief. When Jesus returns, you will praise God because he has saved you. You will also praise him for ending your suffering for his sake. On Judgment Day, you will be taken to heaven to live surrounded by all who love God and served him as his people in thanks for all he has given them.
You have purpose until your relief from suffering comes. Paul shared the gospel with the Thessalonians even though he knew it would cause suffering for those who believed in Jesus. He shared the love of Jesus because the future for believers is heaven through Jesus’ forgiveness. He shared Jesus because he saved the world from sin, death and eternal agonizing fire in hell. Jeremiah also shared the message with the people of his day. In our Old Testament reading from Jeremiah 26, we hear another reason why God allows us to suffer, 2 “This is what the Lord says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. 3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways. Then I will relent and not inflict on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done.” Jeremiah was called as a prophet to share the Word of God with the people of his day. He was called to warn them of the danger of rejecting God and share God’s grace that he would not destroy them if they repented. Then, after hearing his message, we read how the people reacted, 8 … the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die!” They did not put him to death at that time, but he continued to suffer for his faith. You and I suffer for our faith in Christ because of those who reject Jesus. You get to tell others about Jesus praying the Holy Spirit would work in the hearts of the unrepentant, rejecting even while they make you suffer. You also share Jesus with your suffering brothers and sisters so that we would all look forward to the day when Jesus returns.
You can suffer for doing bad or good. When you suffer for doing wrong, you get what you deserve. When you suffer for doing right, it is not fair. When you suffer for Christ, the encouragement from Paul and the Thessalonians is to endure. Jesus will punish those who cause you trouble. Better than that Jesus will relieve your suffering for him on Judgment Day. Amen.