"Good News About Suffering"
Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. It is an issue that has caused many to not believe or to stop believing in an all-powerful God. But what good can come from suffering?
Good News about Suffering
(2 Thes. 1:1-4)
A. There are many parables that Jesus told that touches the heart of those who heard, and one such parable was that of the younger brother who took his inheritance and wasted in an ungodly lifestyle. If you know this story, the young man did fine until his money ran out, his friends ran out, and his food ran out. Now he was left alone and longed to eat slop he was feeding pigs.
B. Jesus says something about this young man that I just want you to hear (Luke 15:17). “But when he came to himself.” NIV, “When he came to his senses.” The Easy-t0-Read version says, “The son realized that he been very foolish.” This young man had run away, not from his father, but from himself. He now saw himself for what he had become and wanted what he had in the past.
C. My point is, the best thing that happened to this young man was the suffering he was facing at that point in his life. There is good news in the face of our suffering, if we will allow it to help our faith to grow.
I. Trails Dark On Every Hand
A. Charles Tindley wrote, “Trials dark on every hand, and we cannot understand all the ways that God will lead us to that blessed Promised Land. But He’ll guide us with his eye and we’ll follow till we die, we will understand it better by and by.” Charles was born the son of a slave man in 1851. His mother was a free-woman and so he was not born into slavery. The song was written after the death of his wife. These words were his life’s story.
B. But the point is there is some good news in the face of suffering if we are willing to accept it. When people say, “It can’t get any worse” they are wrong. It normally can. In the case of the persecution in Thessalonica, Paul knew it was bad when he wrote the first letter, but now it appears in this second letter it had gotten worse.
C. The wicked can prosper and the godly can suffer. David understood this wrote what many have felt in Ps. 73:1-5, 12-20. David said, “It’s not fair! How can bad people have it good and good people have it bad!” But then he realized when he entered the sanctuary of God, it was there he understood the end scene, their final destiny. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is similar in nature. He opens with the admission life is difficult, not because of their sin or God’s anger with them, but because of their righteousness.
D. Is it worth it? To be a Christian is not easy. It means death to self and selfish desires. It means getting out of the driver’s seat and letting God direct your path. When that happens expect trouble. Peter writes that when the world sees our changed life (1 Pet. 4:4) Jesus also underwent persecution and even warned his disciples. “If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated me first.” Jesus goes on to warn them that because they are different the world will not like them. So I come back to my question – is it worth it? Listen to Rev. 2:9-10. Be faithful to the point of death and God will reward us with the crown of life. Yes, it’s worth it.
II. Encouragement In Difficult Times
A. Paul begins this second letter with great encouragement, much like he did the first. He begins and ends this letter with the words “grace and peace.” Boy did this church need those factors. He lets them know that they are not alone and he and God are proud. They are counted worthy of the kingdom of God, even though currently they suffer because of it. He turns again to their faith and love and lets them know how thankful he is to hear of these virtues.
B. When I am going through trials in my life, it is nice for someone to help me see the good in me. Paul says to these Christians that have “super growth” in their faith. Look at verse 3-4. Their faith is growing more and more and the truth is it has to. When I face trials, if my faith is weak I say, “Why does God let this happen to me? I am good person. I try hard. Why do I have to suffer?” That type of faith does not help me to endure hardships.
C. Paul writes to these people and tells them how he has to be thankful to God and tell other churches about the body of Christ in Thessalonica because their faith does not quit. Those people are the spiritual ones I desire to be like. I want the super grow of faith and love so that no matter what, God and I will stay together.
D. I talked to my uncle who does short-term teaching to preachers in India. He told me about a man named Sadguna Ral, a preacher he knows. This man was out preaching when people in that area beat him because of his teachings of Jesus and left him on the side of the road. A kind person helped him and took him back to his home about 30 minutes away. The following week Sadguna went back to that same town and began to preach. He kept going back and within a few weeks, one of the people who had beaten him responded to God’s calling and became a Christian.
E. Sarah told us that in Thailand 90% of the population are Buddhist. She talked about how long it takes for a person to decide to become a Christian. When I talked with her she told me about Idea. This young lady was hurt by everyone around her until she found Christians.
F. The church in Thessalonica, people like Sadguna, and Idea all have their story told so that you and I can decide if we are willing to pay the price to live our faith.
A. Peter writes that we have everything we need for life and godly living. In fact, Peter says that these great promises are what can use to get us through the trials so that we “escape the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desires.” Then Peter tells his readers to “add to their faith” and gives them a list of virtues. When he finishes that list we get these words (READ 2 Pet. 1:8-9).
B. Live your faith, don’t just talk the talk. When your made fun of or when people think your actions are “holier than thou” remember what Paul said in our text, “We boast about you.” The point: stay strong, stay faithful, and keep on keeping on.