2 Thessalonians 1
If you’ve been a Christian for a while and you’ve never suffered, you’re doing it wrong.
I’m not sure how and where Christian constituents came up with the idea that a life of faith in Christ means evading illness, becoming wealthy, eluding lapses in faith, and everyone inherently liking you.
It’s so simple: upon observing Paul’s life — and we can all agree that He lived a sold-out life of faith — clearly none of this is true.
In fact, the life of a Christian is harder than that of average folks.
Christians see the same stuff as everyday folks: financial hardship, family issues, temptations and lusts, injury and sickness. But we get another layer of difficulty, like we beat an old NES game and, and now we have to beat it again in “hard mode”.
This doesn’t necessarily mean our lives are worse, however. This suffering is the best possible evidence that God is righteous and that He has actually saved you. It also means you’re serving Him, because this world hates Jesus.
Sure, a third of the world identifies with Christianity, but the majority of these people are not serving Jesus, and some don’t even believe He is Lord.
The hate is the result of believing Christ is Lord, and that He is God alone. This rhetoric will get you made fun of in the United States and most Western nations, and it’ll get you imprisoned and killed in several others.
People respond to this potential or realized suffering in two ways: they withdraw into halfway faith, or they go into delusional Christianity, and unfortunately a lot of churches house these behaviors.
There is an appropriate way to respond. It’s right here in the chapter.
Patience and faith
Patience doesn’t mean hanging around and doing nothing, and faith doesn’t mean enrobing yourself in magical God dust. Faith is proactive.
Instead, we must continue forth, and we must hang on. Continue your work as if you’re still on both feet and your knees aren’t knocking. Hang on as if you’re certain the Lord has your back. Persistence and perseverance severely lack in the American Christian landscape. If you step up around here, you’re going to stick out and become a witness to the wonder of God.
Recognition of imminent destruction
Even if your entire walk is rife with utmost difficulty and tribulation, there is finality: the death of the Christian means life, but the fate of the unbeliever and scoffer is fire and punishment. This hope is somewhat morbid and secondary in nature, but it’s good to know the opposition will get theirs in the end.
Understanding you’re in good company
I dare you to find a prophet or apostle of the Lord that did not endure suffering. It appears the more sold out a guy is, the harder his life becomes.
Paul even expends some ink bragging about his plight, with quite a bit of sarcasm. His account is detailed here in the Bible, and his contemporaries’ accounts are well-documented elsewhere. This hasn’t changed for followers of Christ since; it’s happening right now in the Middle East and Africa.
This might discourage a prospective Christian from making a commitment to Christ, and may deter a believer from making any sort of sacrifice out of fear for retribution. This is understandable.
The oft-referenced verse to commanding believers to stick it out is James 1:2, encouraging us to “count it all joy”. But I think there’s something to be said for joining alongside your comrades, present and historical who have suffered equally so, knowing that it’s not something strange, and that the pain is temporary. In short, you’re in good company, my friend.
Without question, the life of a believer is unique. We have eternal life, the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and we are called to serve one another. These characteristics separate us from the rest of the unsaved world. But if you want first-hand evidence of your salvation and God at work, sell out to the Lord, and watch this world resist your efforts. It might hurt, but you’ll be glad you did it.