Suffering as a Christian
Preached in Quabbin Valley on 4/26/09
Lesson Text: 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12
We all have bad days, don’t we? We have days where the car broke down; we had a fight with the wife or husband, and maybe even fired from our job. We have all had hard times and we all know what it’s like to suffer in different ways. Some, maybe more than others.
But what about when you give your life to God, don’t things get better; aren’t we now protected from suffering and bad days?” Well, were not in fact we may end up having people hate us and want to do harm to us because we are Christians. For no other reason but we follow Christ. Now don’t get me wrong life is better in Christ but not because we don’t suffer.
You might think “if we were truly God’s people nothing would happen to us especially just because were Christians”. We often say “If God is for us who can be against us” and by that we mean nothing bad will ever happen to us and we will be living in peace and prosperity with no suffering at all. That’s the heresy of the name it and claim it, Gospel, the health, wealth, and prosperity Gospel. That’s just a lie. Ask Paul the Apostle he had times when he had nothing. Most of his life as a Christian was filled with physical suffering.
a. Suffering comes to all. Non-Christians suffer and that often is a result of their sins but not always. But people who are far from God suffer
b. Christians suffer, sometimes from our sins and when we do suffer because of our sins God is disciplining us like a loving Father.
i. Deuteronomy 8:5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. (Deu 8:5 NIV)
ii. Proverbs 3:12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Pro 3:12 NIV)
iii. Hebrews 12:10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. (Heb 12:10 NIV)
c. Christians suffer, sometimes from our sins and when we do suffer because of our sins God is disciplining us like a loving Father.
d. But sometimes Christians suffer for no other reason than that they are Christians.
2) Suffering as a Christian
a. The 2nd letter to the Thessalonians that we started looking at last week gives us a clear picture when it comes to this subject.
i. These Christians are suffering for the name of Christ. This is not “I’m having a rough day” kind of suffering. This is persecution. Persecution has to do with someone oppressing or harassing, annoying and wanting to harm someone all because they follow Christ.
1. Earlier … Sunday evening, three strangers showed up to Manuel's house. When Manuel answered the door, one man put an automatic pistol to his head and dragged him and his wife, Olivia, to his church next door. They taunted him for six hours, pointing guns at his head saying, "We're going to kill you now. ... You think because you're a pastor we won't kill you? You will not leave here alive." After hours of this sinister game, one of the kidnappers pulled the trigger. The hammer of the gun struck, but the gun did not fire. He fired again, but, the gun did not shoot. Frustrated, the gunman began to beat Manuel. The attackers fled, but not before they robbed the church. After that day, Manuel began getting threatening phone calls. The callers told him, "Your days are numbered. Get out of the church." (VOM pg 4 special issue 2009)
2. There was a recent story I read about a Christian school teach. Her only crime was being a Christian. She was dragged out side beaten with a club until she was dead and then they burned her body.
ii. That’s persecution that’s the kind of things that the Thessalonians are going through. There are people who are trying to imprison them, and even kill them all because they believe in Jesus.
iii. What might be the natural though in your mind if you were going through this? Maybe I’m not a child of God maybe God hates me or I have done something wrong.
1. 2Thessalonians 1:4-5 Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 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. (2Th 1:4-5 NIV)
iv. Paul says that there suffering proves not that they are hated by God but that they are children of God and are counted worthy of the kingdom. It’s not that their suffering earns them salvation but this suffering for the name of Christ proves they are his children and in the kingdom.
1. Jesus said they hated me; they’re going to hate you.
2. Peter said: 1 Peter 4:16 … if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
v. Far from showing that they are not God’s people. Paul wants to encourage them to see the truth that this persecution is actually confirmation that they are God’s people.
3) Those persecuting will be judged
a. 2 Thessalonians 1:6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (2Th 1:6 ESV)
b. Paul also wants to inform these Christians of the fact that those who are doing the persecuting will be judged by the righteous judge of the universe, God himself. They will not get away with what they are doing. The Thessalonians don’t need to worry about revenge, or getting even with these people.
i. Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." (Rom 12:19 ESV)
c. When will they be punished Paul, when will this be over?
i. 2 Thessalonians 1:7 …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. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 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. 11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. (2Th 1:7 NIV)
d. When Jesus returns he will punish those who don’t know God and don’t obey the Gospel of Christ. They will receive everlasting destruction, shut out of the presence and glory of God forever. They will receive their wages the paycheck they deserve so don’t be concerned with getting even or feeling that they are above the law, they’re not and the righteous judge will deal with them. In fact even at that time they were under the wrath of God.
e. Trials and suffering of all kinds will one day cease. We as God’s people will not always suffer. We suffer in different ways now but only for a short time and then there will be no more tears, fears, or worries, no more heartaches or pain. No more being persecuted for being a Christian.
4) God wins
a. Finally we need to remember that God wins in the end. It doesn’t always feel like it, it doesn’t always look like it as a Christian woman is taken out and beaten to death and then burned, it didn’t feel or look like it when Jesus was tried in a mock trial, taken and beat for no reason and then crucified. It doesn’t feel like it when people are attacking us or hating us simply because we love the Lord, it doesn’t feel like it when our days are going from bad to worse and everything seems to be falling apart but God wins and those who remain faithful to him will win in the end. Those of us in Christ will not always suffer. There is coming a day when glory will surround us and love, joy, peace, and hope will be what our lives will consist of.
b. Paul is saying “hold on, don’t give up, and don’t give in”. Your suffering for Christ is proof you belong to him and there will be judgment poured out upon those who rebel against God and glory for the faithful.
2 Thessalonians 1:11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12 We pray this 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. (2Th 1:11 NIV)
What can we take away from this passage of scripture that we looked at today from 2 Thessalonians?
1. If we are ever persecuted for our faith in Christ that proves we are God’s people.
2. Suffering in all its forms will one day be done away with. If you are suffering with something today it will not last forever there is glory waiting for you.
3. Those who persecute Christians and who don’t obey the Gospel of Christ will be punished and we ought not to spend our time trying to get revenge.
4. God wins in the end and so do his people.
Take a moment now to consider once again our great God and savior Jesus Christ, let’s enjoy the supper.