Hi everyone, it’s Mick here and welcome to Thursday’s Podcast. Today and tomorrow our reflections are from Paul’s second letter to this exciting new, first century church in Thessaloniki. It was thriving! Even though it was going through challenging times, it was healthy and growing – an encouragement for all of us today in the tough times we face. Our reading today is 2 Thessalonians 1:1-7 and our focus verse is v4 (MSG):
We’re so proud of you; you’re so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you.
This letter was written very soon, maybe 1 year, after I Thessalonians; probably after Paul’s friends Silas and Timothy had returned after delivering the first letter. Delivering letters in those days was a long, demanding, tiring and dangerous business. The situation in the church seems to have been much the same however, and Paul writes to encourage these new believers in Jesus to keep on living out this new Godly lifestyle and particularly to correct a misunderstanding about the return of Jesus.
This ‘second coming’ of Jesus is referred to by theologians as ‘eschatology’ – coming from two Greek words meaning ‘study of the end things/times’. Paul has spoken about this in his first letter – in fact, every chapter ends with a reference to this ‘second coming’ of Jesus but he emphasises this even more so in this second letter; in fact, 18 of the 47 verses here deal with this topic. The Thessalonians letters are often referred to by scholars as the ‘eschatological letters’ of Paul.
All very good if you’re a Bible scholar, but what does this mean to me and you today as we go about our everyday lives? It means this – our future is secure. As we face these challenging times our future appears anything but secure as we face uncertainty in so many area of our lives? However, the Bible is clear, Jesus is coming back to this earth and his second coming is the most important thing to know and believe about our future. It changes our whole perspective on how we live our lives because every moment of every day is touched with this great hope for our future.
This Coronavirus crisis has affected everyone – these are tough times for all of us, life has changed, lots of inconveniences face us every day. Queuing for the supermarket, homeschooling, working from home, wearing a mask (or not if you’re the President of the US). However, for many these days are more than an ‘inconvenience’ – they feel absolutely impossible, not knowing how they will survive this day never mind next week. These Thessalonian Christians were going through impossible days as they faced real persecution. Paul reminds them, and us of this great truth that it is often in our struggles rather than our ‘successes’ that we become stronger. Faith and love were growing in these believers in spite of – maybe even because of – the persecution and challenges that they were facing. Remember v4:
you’re so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you.
Paul goes further, he tells them that in the future God will put all things right when Jesus return (vv.6–7). ‘Justice is on the way’ (v.6, MSG). When Jesus returns there will be a righteous judgement, wrongs will be righted and justice will rule. As the prophet Amos says (5:24)
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
The great American civil rights activist Martin Luther King famously quoted this scripture in his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ in 1963. How this scripture needs to be heard again in these incredibly disturbing days in the US at present. The death of George Floyd should be repulsive to all right thinking people; the racism that still pervades the US in so many ways is a disgrace to our human existence. Over fifty years after the death of MLK, has anything really changed? And as we rightly condemn these actions in the US, let us not miss the ‘plank in our own eye’ here in the UK. The words of Paul are so relevant to oppressed people everywhere today:
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled.
Lord Jesus, we live in challenging and often disturbing times. Help us all to remember that you bring help to those in need and justice to the oppressed.
Thank you Lord Jesus for your promise to return again and make all things right. Till that day, strengthen us all, each of us in our own small way, to make our stand for justice that our small voices become your voice of peace in our world. Amen
BIBLE READING: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-7
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
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. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 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.