As the persecution not only persisted but increased for the Church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote this second letter to comfort and encourage them. He exhorted them that in spite of all the hardship they were currently enduring, they needed to continue their good works…which evidenced their faith. For fundamentally, good works and faith go hand and hand to show not only who a person is but how they are to behave. Later in this letter, Paul used the motivating statement, “Stand firm!” Right now, that statement is something all Believers need to hear. Stand firm in the face of fear and anxiety. Stand firm in the face of danger and trouble. Stand firm in the face of hardship and tribulation. For our Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (II Thessalonians 3:3)
Most historians agree that the Book of James was written shortly before he was martyred by fanatical Jewish Leaders for preaching the Gospel. So to have him exhorting fellow Believers to look at the trials in their lives as something good not bad is incredible. James went on, telling them, he knew they were completely aware of all their past afflictions, trials, and persecutions, and how their faith had been tested each time…but that they needed to continue to persevere with patience and endurance… learning to suffer well with a tranquil mind. I don’t know about you, but suffering well these past many weeks has been difficult! And now with the “Stay at Home” order being extended another month for COVID 19…looking at it with good cheer and gladness of heart is very difficult. But Jesus reminds me in the Beatitudes that I should rejoice and be glad in my trials, (Matthew 5:12) and that I need to continue to persevere so that when I have done the Will of God, I’ll receive what He has promised. (Hebrews 10:36) Thus with all this encouragement, I will joyfully accept persecution. (Hebrews 10:34)
In Luke 6:22 Jesus faced His disciples and said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” It’s called suffering disgrace for the Name. (Acts 5:41) But why? John 15:21 gives us insight into this when Jesus said, “They will treat you this way because of My Name, for they do not know the One who sent Me.” Worldly ignorance of God breeds fear, fear leads to distrust, and distrust transforms into hatred towards His people. But we shouldn’t look at this persecution negatively…for I Peter 4:16 says, “If you suffer as a Christian, don’t be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that Name.” For in the end we will be blessed for standing in His Name.
The early Church was forced to disperse after the stoning of Stephen, “for on that day a great persecution broke out against the Church at Jerusalem.” (Acts 8:1) Because they no longer had the support and encouragement of the Body of Believers around them they could of given up, gone into hiding, and denied their faith…but they didn’t. For it tells us in this verse that wherever they went they declared the Word of the Lord to those around them. They refused to allow persecution to silence them, and instead became Itinerant Evangelists sharing the Good News of Jesus.
Jesus reminds us in the Gospels that just as He was persecuted, Christians all around the world will be unjustly accused. And as evil domination snowballs…so will injustice towards those of the Christian faith. For it’s not a matter anymore of if, but of when…for the world is becoming increasingly more brazen and emboldened in its attack of what once was considered sacred and off limits. But just as David declared to King Saul… the Lord is our only judge and it will be Him that will vindicate and deliver us. ( I Samuel 24:14-15)
No matter what the world throws at you this coming year…remember that with the Lord you can overcome it. Whether it be troubles pressing down upon you from the outside, or anguish that comes from within…you can rise above them all with His help. Don’t try to make it on your own…God is there, ready to take those burdens. And in the end, you’ll rise victorious over all the pain and suffering.