Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Products of Persecution

Temple Baptist Church - 9-18-2016
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4

A.  We have taken a look at the persecutions, afflictions, and deep poverty that these precious church endured of the testimony of Jesus Christ. 
1.  Thessalonica was the capital city of the Second Province of Macedonia under Roman rule.   God hating, Christ hating, Christian hating, church hating infidels who worshipped the emperor of Rome as God. 
2.  Our natural tendency is to feel sorry for these precious brothers and sisters in Christ and, yet, the Bible is clear that they were blessed of God and flourishing spiritually.  They gave themselves first to God and then to the missionaries.  They had great joy and were liberal in their giving in hard financial times. 
3.  Just the opposite of most of the churches of our day.  Today’s churches are spiritually destitute, have lost the joy of knowing Christ, and are stingy with their finances while mission’s giving declines.
B.  What makes the difference?  Persecution, affliction, and poverty!  These three things have always caused the people of God to get on fire for the Lord.  I have often said that the worst thing that ever happened to churches is the Loadicean Church Age.  They have need of nothing and “and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” 
C.  Though none of us like it, hard times are actually good for the church.  Standing on a mountain top and viewing the world on its lofty height is a wonderful thing but you must then come down to the valley were we all have to live.  It is in the valleys that we grow.
1.  Though God’s grace is sufficient, He uses troubles to purge the local church.  Persecution will separate the chaff from the wheat!
2.  Though God’s peace is promised, He uses troubles to purge the hearts of His children.  It is in the valleys that we examine ourselves and seek His face.
D.  The Holy Spirit enlightens us in these first verses of 2 Thessalonians concerning spiritual blessings that accompany physical tribulation and poverty.
1.  “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet.”  We find the thankfulness of others who cannot help but are watching and praying from the sidelines. 
a.  “bound” – to accumulate or to accrue.  It gives the sense of having watched over a period of time with apprehension as communications were no doubt few between Paul and the churches and the “great trial of affliction” and “deep poverty” were not brief periods of time.  “Bound” also shows the moral obligation of others to be observant and involved in the problems of other Christians. 
Hebrews 13:3  Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
b.  “meet” – to draw or to deserve praise.  Giving credit where credit is due.  These people withstood and having done all, stood in the face of great adversity and—in so doing—set a wonderful example for all of us to follow and encouragement when we are in the midst of the fires of persecution.
1 Thessalonians 1:7  So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.
2.  “that your faith growth exceedingly”  I have seen the phrase “A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.”
a.  Not only a personal faith but also a church’s faith.  “Your faith growth” is written to the local church.  It shows the value of staying by the stuff corporately when troubles come.  Satan wants to divide and conquer but our strength is found both in the Lord and in numbers.  Too many people jump ship when troubles come instead of staying in the church and battling together.
1 Thessalonians 5:11  Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
b.  “exceedingly”  This speaks of greater faith than they could have ever imagined.  A trust in God that could only come from the depths of tribulation.  A faith much more precious than of Gold.
1 Peter 1:7  That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
3.  “and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth”  I will give a little disclaimer here: I am not advocating for people to watch the series “Band of Brothers” because of the language found in it but there is a “brotherhood” that comes when people are in the same “foxhole.”  We find this with the military, police, firemen, etc.
a.  “and the charity of every one of you all toward each other”   This speaks of a bond that cannot be easily broken.  We are to love one another fervently and problems weld us into a very strong union.  I know that troubles here at Temple have given us a strong nucleus of people who love one another beyond faults.
1 Thessalonians 3:12  And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
b.  “aboundeth”  Not only did these trials produce love in “all” of the members, it produced an abounding love in a continuing sense.  “eth”
1 Peter 1:22  Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
4.  “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure” 
a.  Patience is a product of tribulation. 
Romans 5:3-5  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;  (4)  And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  (5)  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
b.  The example of the Thessalonian believers gave encouragement and hope to their contemporaries as well as to us upon whom the end of the world is come!  They made it and so can we.

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