Read 2 Thessalonians 1
Paul holds a very interesting tension as he opens his second letter to the church in Thessalonica. As they are facing persecution from the Roman Empire, the church is faced with a theological crisis. What are they to do and what does faith look like in the midst of such horrible backlash and trouble. Yet what we don’t hear from Paul is an ardent plea to “hold on to their faith,” but rather a thankful praise to God for their perseverance in the midst of all this.
He is thankful for what he has heard about the church and its work through this time, but he also wants to encourage them because he knows that the longer it goes on, the harder it becomes. It is to this end that Paul looks to the Gospel message of strength and hope for both now and in the future.
Far too often, when we face troubles, we look to future hope for comfort. We find solace in knowing that someday everything will be made right. This is true; Jesus will come again and all things will be put in their rightful place. Yet a Gospel based solely on future events actually minimizes the Gospel message.
Indeed much of the power of the Gospel message comes in the reality that the Kingdom of God is here and now! Jesus Christ ushered in the Kingdom on earth through His life, death, and resurrection. From that time on, the Kingdom of heaven has been expanding throughout the world. Paul celebrates this very thing with the church in Thessalonica. Despite all of the enemy’s attempts to stop them, the believers of that city continue to grow, adding to their number, and persevering through all the hardships the world throws at them.
We can learn from this too. The church in North America can face anything that comes our way, not through the power of lobbying groups and political work, but because of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives working in and through us to expand the Kingdom of God.