Again, this chapter tells us that we are to be strong, but the source of our strength is not within ourselves, but in the grace of Jesus. Paul provides three examples of what it means to be strong in the power of grace, using the analogies of a soldier, athlete and farmer.
The first example tells us to embrace suffering, not to get entangled in civilian affairs and to be a soldier for Christ. Again this begs the question of what it means by civilian affairs. Where do we put our focus and what are we to ignore and not be distracted by? What counts as civilian affairs? It does tell us that we are to be single-minded and to only seek our general’s pleasure. Therefore, whatever we do, we do it to glorify God.
The athlete analogy again shows strength, endurance and hard-work, but within a set of rules. These rules are to show us that we are to be obedient to the word and to the commands of Christ Jesus.
The final example of the farmer suggests the fruitfulness of pursuing God’s purpose. By living within the will of God, we will receive his promises.
Then Paul reminds Timothy of Jesus’ death and resurrection, to encourage him to share in this suffering for the gospel. He also mentions his own suffering, that was endured in the pursuit of fulfilling this gospel. Verses 11-13 tells us that if we die and endure in Christ, we live and reign in his resurrection power. However, he we disown him, we, too are disowned.
The final part of this chapter shows how Timothy is to focus on the word of God and avoid quarrels and Godless chatter. He is to be kind and gentle, even in his rebukes. Then, Timothy can present himself as someone who is not ashamed of the gospel he has heard.
This chapter is about what will happen before Jesus comes again and gathers us to him. This is about a subject called eschatology or the study of end times. This is not a subject I’m very knowledgeable about. But according to this passage the following things will happen before Jesus comes again.
- There will be a rebellion.
- The man of lawlessness will be revealed.
- He will defy every god and tear down every place of worship; he will set up an altar for himself.
- This will be in accordance with Satan’s ways.
- It will be accompanied by signs and wonders.
- People will perish as they refuse to believe the truth.
- Those believing in the deception will revel in their sin and wickedness.
- God will turn them over to their sin and the judgment of their sin.
Then when Jesus returns he will destroy this man of lawlessness.
This sounds all a bit scary and makes us wonder when this will happen, how and whether we will be caught up in the great deception. However, there are words of reassurance to come.
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
We need to remember our security does not come from ourselves but from being chosen by God. We have been called and we have been saved, not through our works but by the work of the Holy Spirit. We are sanctified and being sanctified by these works and because of this we have confidence in the truth. We will share in the glory of our saviour, Jesus Christ.
Because of this confidence, we can stand firm. We need to hold fast to the teachings given to us: not just listening but in full obedience.
The chapter ends with a final pray that God may encourage us:
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
1 Thessalonians 3 talks about how Paul and Timothy were forced to leave Thessalonica due to persecution. This is timely because many friends and colleagues are leaving Phnom Penh, not because of persecution though, but because of COVID-19. Despite the obstacles and difficulties being difficult, it’s helpful to hear from the thoughts of Paul as he had to leave people he loved in a time of uncertainty.
Paul was worried about the faith of the Thessalonians; he feared the oppression would be too much and the believers there would fall away. So that is something to pray for in the uncertainty of coronavirus; that people do not fall away. Rather, we pray that believers across the world can be “standing firm in the Lord” as the Thessalonians did.
We can also pray this prayer for believers, the same one Paul prayed for the Thessalonians:
“May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”
So, during this time, lets pray for