Paul, with Silas and Timothy, continues his letter to the church in Thessalonica, where people had received the message of Good News with joy but are suffering severely because of their neighbors and countrymen.
For me, Chapter 2 contains Paul’s words of encouragement to his beloved church because Paul remains separated from them despite his efforts to rejoin them. From Paul whose words are prompted by the Holy Spirit, we too can take courage and heart to persevere despite sufferings and opposition we will face.
First, as encouragement from Paul’s letter we are reminded that in our trials and sufferings, our purpose remains to please God and not people (v. 4). A basic human instinct is the need for praise and the acceptance by others which can drive us to behavior that veers from truth and good. But God frees us from this human need and calls us to focus our attention on Him and His purpose in the middle of our sufferings. Think of the implications for us in our human behavior and how much freedom results from pleasing the never-changing God instead of trying to please human beings whose needs can change daily. With the refocus and perspective, we view our trials in a different light.
Secondly, our service encourages us. As we serve and care for others, we do not keep a score of all our good deeds for others so that someday we can expect a payback from those who benefitted by us. Our purpose is to share the Good News and our own lives (v. 8) to others so we constantly “pay forward” to others because of Christ’s love and forgiveness for us. Our service to others in the midst of suffering will require work “night and day” so we do not become a burden to others. There is no free pass from work in the Lord’s service as Paul acknowledges. Our service to the Lord keeps our minds and hearts occupied on meaningful work, fills us with joy for others, and reduces the isolation and impact of the trials and sufferings we experience.
Finally, and most importantly as encouragement, we should remember our blessings and remain thankful to God that we accepted Christ’s love and forgiveness by God’s grace. Paul reminds us that as believers in Christ, we will suffer even at the hands of our own families, friends, and neighbors. Jesus had told his followers to expect this because He had been persecuted. But the greatest encouragement of all in this chapter is the blessing of hope and joy of Christ in our lives and looking forward to the reward at the end when Jesus stands next to us before God to speak on our behalf.
It gives me great comfort and hope for the future when I look back at how God protected and provided for me and gave me a family, friends, and a roof over my head and food on the table. As the Great Provider, God can be trusted to provide in the future even as He has provided for each of us in the past. There is no greater encouragement than having God walk hand-in-hand with us each day of our lives. God’s blessings of the past encourage us to look forward to God’s blessings in the future.