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07 May 2012

Victorious Living - 07 May

Welcome to our new study! I know that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by life. Sometimes I feel like no one could possibly understand what I’m going through (I have a little Drama Queen in my DNA!)

Have you ever felt that God has turned His back on you and doesn’t understand your pains? Do you find yourself asking why God allows bad things to happen to His children? Should we be exempt from pain once we’ve accepted Christ as our Savior? As always, we look to God’s Word for answers to these questions.

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness[1] and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring[2]. 2 Thess 1:3-4 (ESV)

Well – it seems that Paul was thankful because fellow Christians saw their faith and love increasing – through the persecutions and afflictions they were enduring. Indeed, they responded to their circumstances with steadfastness and faith. How do you respond to similar circumstances? Do you endure faithfully and patiently, or is your first reaction to lash out, or run in circles, screaming and shouting? How would Paul describe YOU?

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions[3] and in the afflictions[4] that you are enduring. 5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8  in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10  when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thess 1:4-12 (ESV)

Flaming fire! Vengance! Repayment! Get ‘em, God! YESSSSSS!
Oh… but… the repayment is for my suffering in this world.
So the Thessalonians could look forward to relief when Jesus comes. Their sufferings make them worthy of God’s calling and allow Jesus to be glorified. How does that apply to you today? Can you see that suffering is ultimately good for us? Yuck.

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 1 Thess 1:6-7 (ESV)

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 1 Thess 2:1-2 (ESV)

Can you see that believers are expected to suffer, and that even in the suffering we are expected to declare the gospel? How can we be expected to do that?

When someone is mean to me, or verbally abuses me, I can usually (!) pray for them before I open my mouth. That’s been quite a long process, and I emphasize USUALLY.  In these passages, I see that I’ve missed something – the bold declaration of God’s gospel. I am to be a witness for God’s love and new life in Christ in thought, word and deed. I am to be joyful because the Holy Spirit gives me joy. (but can’t I kinda gloat that they will get theirs? Just a little? That whole flaming fire thing…)

My parenthetical statement, of course, shows my human nature. The nature that says we need to get even. But is that what God calls me to do? NOT EVER. God wants me to have the joy of the Holy Spirit in my sufferings, and through that joy, the gospel can be shared.

One of the reasons unbelievers call Christians “hypocrites” is that we tend to say one thing and do another. The non-Christian looks for instances where they can remind us of our failings. When we don’t live through the joy of the spirit, our testimony is harmed – and so is the cause of Christ.

Through this study, I pray that we all learn how to deal with the stresses of life in a way that’s more pleasing to the Father. I pray that you look at these verses in the next day or so, not for the vengeance that God promises us, but for the way that God expects us to act and react during our persecutions.

I will see you Wednesday! May God richly bless your time of study.

[1] This word, also translated perseverance, is hupomone in the Greek. That means “patience or endurance in difficult circumstances”. This shows that the brothers weren’t surrendering or running away.
[2] Anecho, or “patiently wait”
[3] Diogomos – hostile persecutions (pursued by enemies)
[4] Thlipsis, to crush or squeeze (from outward pressure); to press or be troubled.

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