“For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. “ (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10, ESV)
At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Jews were in a state of discouragement. They had heard no prophets for hundreds of years. The Romans ruled over them through violence and humiliation. Their religious rulers were corrupt and hypocritical tools of that evil Roman government. Many despaired of relief, wondering if the Lord had forgotten them. The Lord provided hope in the midst of despair with the birth of the Messiah.
The saints at Thessalonica were suffering similar discouragement. They were enduring suffering and persecution. Some of them seemed to be getting discouraged as they awaited what they believed to be the imminent and expected 2nd Coming of Christ. Some were turning away from the gospel. Paul wrote to encourage them to persevere. He wanted to remind them that suffering and persecution should not surprise them as they are part of the normal Christian life. Christ will come again and make all things new and whole. Meanwhile they were to continue to live lives of love and righteousness in the midst of the trials they were enduring.
We too tend to become discouraged as we await the 2nd Coming. Life is hard. The Gospel of faith in Christ is not popular. As believers we are committed to living a life of righteousness. Consequently, we will suffer for we will not compromise with the world or follow its ways and values. That will often mean lost opportunities for advancement, higher earnings, or fame. That will mean missing out on the “American dream” as we give “Our” money for the Kingdom of God. Commitment to righteousness will also invite persecution, first in the form of the criticism and scorn from those who want to live in the world. Our lives alone will shame them by pointing out their sinfulness. Finally, our stand for the integrity of the gospel as the truth will antagonize those who believe in political correctness and the equality of all religions. We will be persecuted for our faith in Jesus even the more as the world slides into chaos. And yet we can have hope for the coming of the Lord is near.