2 Thess 1:3-10
· 2001, Dr. Pierce Scranton, wrote Playing Hurt, a book about his 17 year career as team physician for the Seattle Seahawks
· Chapter, “Catastrophic Injuries and the Toughest Players I’ve Ever Known” – writes about former Seahawk linebacker Greg Gaines.
· Dislocated toe – attached a steel-toe orthotic to his shoe, taped up his toe, and back in he went.
· Dislocated shoulder in playoffs – Simply popped the shoulder back in, and back in he went. After the game, tests revealed a muscle tear, but Greg just strapped on a shoulder harness for the next game.
· Also played the entire season with a dislocated finger taped up to the next finger.
· Ruptures the long head of his bicep, but keeps playing anyway. Today, he still has a balled up “Popeye muscle” in his forearm as a result
· When he tears open his finger during a game, Dr. Scranton just staples it shut without anaesthetic, and he keeps playing.
· Only after rupturing rupture disks in his back twice, did Gained finally decide to retire.
· For many athletes, playing hurt is just part of the game. If you want to win, sometimes you gotta play hurt.
· Today: A sport in which everyone has to learn to play hurt: LIFE.
· Life is a full-contact sport!
· One of the features of contact sport is – sooner or later, you have to play hurt.
· The wisdom of “playing hurt” in sports might be debateable, but the reality of “playing hurt” in life simply IS.
· The apostle Paul knew what it was like to play hurt. He experienced his share of suffering, persecution, and “full-contact” Christianity.
· Church in Thessalonica also seems to have experienced playing hurt.
· (Acts 17) – Paul in Thessalonica caused a riot.
· Accused of insurrection against Rome.
· Couldn’t find Paul, they went after Paul’s friends in Thessalonica, specifically Jason.
· That very night (to spare Jason further trouble) Paul was sent on to another city - Berea.
· Cf. Romanian pastor repeatedly thrown in prison. When they couldn’t stop him, they started harassing his parents, until he left for Hungary.
· Evidence from Paul’s 2 letters to the Christians in Thessalonica suggests ongoing opposition/persecution.
· So, when the veteran Paul writes to the young Christians in Thessalonica, one of the things he talks about is how to “Play Hurt”
· Text: 2 Thess 1:1-12
· Paul writes, in part, to encourage the believers who are under pressure because of their faith, and are perhaps beginning to feel discouraged and beaten down.
· Paul’s understanding of suffering is critical to understanding this letter.
I. Paul’s Perspective on Playing Hurt
· Common Christian logic:
1. Pain and suffering are caused by sin.
2. Christ died and rose again to free us from the pain and penalty of sin.
3. Therefore, those who have new life in Christ should be able to live free from all pain and suffering.
· This logic is Biblically grounded, and ultimately true; but it is also incomplete.
· There is also a suffering that is a direct result of our association with Christ. Sometimes …
1A. Suffering is a proof of our calling & identity
· Suffering proves that we are worthy of Christ’s name.
· This is not suffering caused by sin or stupidity (i.e. making poor choices and paying the price).
· It is a suffering that happens as a direct result of our choice to follow Jesus.
· v.4 - kind of suffering that leads to a steadfastness and endurance that we can celebrate. (“I boast about you, because of how you have persevered.”)
· v.5b – it is a kind of suffering that God uses to refine us and prove that He has indeed made us worthy of His Kingdom.
· v.4 – May be linked to “persecution” (v.4) – opposition & attack. If you obey God fully, somebody won’t be happy.
· May also simply come from “hardships” (= trials, pressures, troubles) in a more generic sense.
· New Testament’s perspective on suffering is very consistent.
· Paul - 2 Tim 3:12 “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”
· Preacher: “If the Devil’s not attacking you, you might want to stop and ask why he isn’t particularly concerned about you.”
· James 1:2-4 - 2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (NLT)
· 1 Peter 1:7 - 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (NLT)
· 1 Peter 4:12-14 - 12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. 14 So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. (NLT)
· Matthew 5:11-12 - 11“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
· In this broken world, when we suffer for following Christ, that very act of suffering becomes a sign of the validity of our faith in Christ.
· Suffering for Christ marks us out as true followers of conviction, not just consumers of convenience.
· Suffering for Christ helps us understand the ugliness of sin and appreciate the hope of salvation
· Suffering for Christ helps us feel how much sin hurts Christ – and helps us develop a holy hatred of sin.
· Suffering for Christ helps us relate to the pain of rejection that the God of the Universe feels when His own creation refuses Him.
· Suffering for Christ builds strong faith and character that is certified under testing and pressure, and proves that God is at work in us.
· Suffering for Christ proves we belong in his family, his army, his battle. If the world opposes Christ, why wouldn’t it oppose us as well?
· Enduring through suffering is one of the ways we demonstrate our identity as true Christ-followers … because we endure the same kinds of trials and persecutions that He endured.
2A. Suffering is a path to our future hope
· v. 6-7 – Even though suffering is painful, do not despair. You will find
· God will provide justice and relief.
· God will bring justice.
· Cf. Psalm 73 (esp. v.17)
· Pt A – Why do the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer? It’s unfair. Is it pointless to follow God?
· V.17 – then I entered God’s sanctuary (presence). Then I understood.
· There is a day of justice coming, when God will address the unfairness of life and reward the righteous. So I have made God my refuge and my hope.
· God will bring relief
· Romans 8 depicts the world as a pregnant woman in the throes of childbirth. The child to be born is the Eternal Kingdom, the New World of the Resurrection. Right now, we live in the time of labour
· I’ve never had a baby. The closest I’ve ever come to that level of pain was probably when I had my appendix removed. During one of my multiple attacks before doctors determined the problem, I remember being left alone in an observation room for … I’m sure it was at least three days …, writhing in agony, not allowed any drugs because the doctor hadn’t been in to see me.
· This was after Justin was born, and we had been to some pre-natal classes.
· Barb, because of pregnancy complications, had an epidural for both deliveries – so we didn’t do a lot of Lamaze stuff.
· But as I lay in that room I was using every Lamaze trick I knew to distract me from the pain. I think Lamaze coaches should be available for appendicitis cases.
· Now that pain I would have gladly avoided.
· I’ve yet to have a mom tell me: “If I had known how painful labour was going to be, I would have had an abortion. I would rather have lost my baby than endured the pain of that delivery.”
· Heb. 12:2 - Why did Christ endure the cross? “because of the joy set before him.” Because he knew the future, he endured the present.
· Suffering for Christ sets us on the same path to victory that Christ travelled. He conquered sin and suffering, not by avoiding it, but by enduring it – passing through the fire and emerging victorious.
· When persecutions, trials, and difficulties weigh down on us, we are called to consider the final outcome. Christ is returning, our victory is certain.
· There is a day of victory coming – a day of justice and relief.
· Even if we suffer to the end of this life, we still have the hope of eternity.
· Emphasis has swung in recent years from “Christianity as Heaven when you die” to “Christianity is full life now.”
· It is both.
· The Christian life IS full of blessing and joy.
· But, the Christian life is also an experience of pain, trouble, persecution and injustice.
· Some things only come to completion in eternity
· Those who suffer with Christ can walk the path assured that they are on the path to victory
· Sometimes suffering is NOT a signal that we have strayed. Sometimes suffering is an affirmation that we are still on the right road – the road of Christ.
· Those who reign with Christ will be those who have first suffered with Christ.
· Those who endured because of their future hope, just as Christ endured because of his future hope.
· Christ’s victory was not won through avoiding suffering, but through enduring and conquering suffering. Likewise our victory is not the avoidance of pain, but the conquest of pain.
· Sometimes obedience is supposed to be difficult. Sometimes it’s only through painful obedience that we exercise true faith.
· It’s in the storm that the true nature of our faith is revealed. Are we really unsinkable through the Power of His Spirit, or just spiritual Titanics?
· Those whose hope is in Christ can face suffering with a totally different attitude than those who are without such a hope.
II. Paul’s Desire for those who Play Hurt
Vs. 11-12 - In light of this perspective, Paul prays for three things for those who are playing hurt.
· Three things that God desires for us.
· Three things that we also can pray for and pursue even in the midst of our pain.
1A. That your calling will be proven
· That every believer who faces difficulties, struggles, pains, pressures, obstacles and persecutions will demonstrate the kind of faith that – even though it may bend – never breaks.
· That we will face trials and troubles with a steadfast, immovable belief in the goodness of God and the certainty of His eternal promises.
· That we will not despair because present circumstances are bleak, or the challenges of obedience seem impossible. But rather, that we would find the strength and hope in Christ to endure, to persevere, and to obey.
· In so doing, we will be proven as people of true faith.
· One of the greatest proofs of faith is not how miraculously we avoid suffering, but how courageously we face it.
· “I pray that you will prove to be the kind of Christ-follower who refuses to shrink back” – in so doing, God makes you worthy of His calling.
2A. That your faith will be productive
· That every good intention and every act of faith – even and especially those done under pressure and persecution – will be fulfilled and completed.
· Even in difficult circumstances, we can still choose to pursue what is good and act in obedient faith.
· When we do dare a bold act of hard obedience, may God through His own power encourage us by fulfilling our efforts.
· Paul drew great encouragement from the churches he planted. One of the things that kept him going was seeing lives changed.
· “I pray that whenever you try to do right, God will bless your efforts and encourage you through tangible results.”
3A. That your conduct will point to Jesus.
· This is the ultimate request, to which the other two point.
· Jesus would be glorified, and us in him as well.
· That People are drawn to Christ by our every-day faith
· People would look at the church – persevering under pressure – and say, “I want what you have.”
· That we will anticipate our sharing Christ’s glory in eternity by praising him now, even in the midst of struggle.
· “I pray that your faith will always serve to bring glory to Christ. I pray that you will be filled with praise, and that others who watch you will be drawn to Christ because of the amazing things he is doing in you, even as you struggle.”
· If you light a match in a bright room, almost nobody notices. If you light a match in a dark room, everyone notices. A believer standing firm in the darkness of suffering is like a match burning in a black room.
· Ted St. Martin – holds Guinness World Record for most consecutive free-throws (5221).
· St. Martin has never played in the NBA.
· Instead, we get Shaq (7 free throws his entire career?)
· I remember watching the NHL All Stars skills competition and being amazed at how bad a shot some of these guys were in the accuracy competition. I used to have a set of those targets as a kid, and I would frequently shoot 4/4 and 4/5. Yet I’m not in the NHL, and they are.
· There is a vast difference between being able to perform a specific skill in practice or scrimmage; and being able to play well in the pressure of furious competition.
· Suffering is the arena when our true identity is proven.
· Here is where the “practice” Christians are separated from the “playoff” Christians.
· Here where “light contact” faith is separated from “full contact” faith.
· It’s often in our ability to play hurt that God’s work in us is most clearly demonstrated.
· So, in 2 Thess, Paul prays for those who are playing hurt because he knows that it is those who battle through – not those who run away – that win the prize.
· Are you playing hurt?
· Painful times of life (+ being kicked while down)
· Struggling to make sense.
· Pray these things
· That their faith will not break, but will prove to be genuine.
· That their obedience will be blessed, and that they will find encouragement even in their struggle.
· That, above all, Christ will shine in the midst of their struggle – and that both they and those around them would turn to Christ in amazement and praise for what he does in this battle.