Will the angels be astonished when they look at your accomplishments and your character…at what you have become?
This is our sixth lesson on Paul’s letters to the new Greek Christians in Thessalonica. It feels rather disjointed to me because of the time between the posts, so I think we should review a little before going on. (Don’t forget, you can always review a whole category and revisit each lesson. But, you must go backward! Scroll all the way to the end of the category on Thessalonians and that should be the first lesson.)
Remember the stories of Lydia and the Philippian jail escape? After that, Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica and taught in the synagogue for three Sabbaths using the Old Testament to prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah (Acts 17: 1-9). The Jewish leaders got very upset! They organized a mob which dragged some of the new believers before the Roman authorities and slandered them all. Paul and Silas escaped by night, but the new Christians were in for troubles and more troubles. Some were apparently even killed. Therefore, Paul says, “…for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, …” (I Thessalonians 1:6). These new Christians hung in there. They spread the gospel in their area and kept in touch with Paul and Silas. Three people are named: Jason, Aristarchus and Secundus (Acts 17 and 20). These last two were with Paul when he gave his farewell address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20). I am sure they returned to Thessalonica and told of those emotional moments. So, my point being, these connections were tight, and the two surviving letters show us Paul’s advice on how to live through difficult times. He told them to live simply and focus on the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you know someone going through difficulties? Are you having a hard time right now? Let me call your attention to 2 Thessalonians 1-16.
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).
Their lives gave evidence that they had believed the gospel. Others could see faith, love, steadfastness, endurance. They had put their lives on the line for Christ. Paul’s advice to them is to remained focused on Christ Jesus’s return. Jesus’ judgment would be horrible for those who opposed them so vehemently. The angels with him would look like flames of fire “inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (1:8). In contrast, they will be viewed with wonder and astonishment that day because they believed when Paul explained the Bible’s storyline to them.
Does your life give evidence that you are believing the gospel? Love, joy, peace, patience…. in spite of your troubles. Will the angels look at you with wonder and astonishment? Paul wanted that for Jason and his church. So he prayed,
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 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 Lord Jesus Christ (1:11-12).
Notice it is not their worth, resolve, or work that will cause the angels and others to marvel at them. It is God’s work in them. Paul’s prayer is that God will work in their lives with power so that even angels will be amazed at what they have become.
What is it you are resolving to do or be amidst your own troubles? I am facing a lot of trouble right now, and you might be too. Our hope lies in the power of God in us, not in our own ability to overcome our troubles. Our prayer, like Paul’s, should be for God to work in us. We are to focus on what the Bible says about the return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
Pray like this for yourself and others. And then the angels will marvel at how you lived and what you became amidst your troubles