Patience with Faith, Hope, and Christ: Nuts & Bolts

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Background
2 Thess continues Paul's discourse to the Thessalonians. Scholars have not determined the time span between the first and second letter. The structure of the second letter is similar to the first. Both letters contain an opening greeting, prayer-report, instruction on the Lord's coming, instruction for life in the church, and closing greeting. The similarities also indicate Paul's attempts to address issues within the church. The second letter reveals that specific issues from the first letter remained outstanding. Paul emphasizes the outstanding issues by using stronger language. In addition, the letter exhorts the Thessalonians in righteous behavior with the clarity of the Gospel.
Context
I worked for a company where my boss treated me poorly. He responded abruptly to me. He interrupted me before I could respond. He became critical of my performance as he sought to discover a fault to exploit. His poor treatment escalated to the point of putting me against my co-workers. He sent out new policies to our department. We were not allowed to accept personal phone calls in the office. In addition, morning arrival times would be enforced. I continually had difficulty arriving in the office by 9 am. It was clear that both policies were directed toward me. Instead of addressing me, he forced the whole department to abide by them. Once my co-workers saw the notice, they turned to me. They blamed me for the notice. They were angry since they made personal phone calls to address the needs of their families. At first, I felt inadequate and insecure. I blamed myself that my co-workers had to suffer. I then felt angry that my boss would put me against my co-workers. I became angry at the blatant injustice. I experienced affliction by my boss. Unlike my experiences, the Thessalonians experienced affliction for their faith in Christ. They were persecuted and endured trials. Despite this affliction, they remained faithful in Christ.
Purpose
In the thanksgiving portion of the letter (2 Thess 1:3 – 4), Paul recognizes the Thessalonians' "patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance" and faith in the midst of enduring "persecution" and "distress". This steadfastness occurs in relation to hope and Christ. The hope that the Thessalonians' possess focuses on the final reward. The final reward occurs after clinging to the piety of life and work in spite of all opposition and temptation. Simply, the final reward signifies attaining salvation in Christ. As they persevere to attain this final goal, God provides the needed power of resistance. Therefore, it is not by their power, but God himself. God demonstrates his power by imparting Christ. Therefore through salvation in Christ, the Thessalonians are able to hold fast under their sufferings. Paul identifies this relationship in the letters to Thessalonians as he references patience with faith, hope, and Christ.

 

Paul identifies God's response to the afflicted and those who cause affliction. Verse 6 emphasizes God's vengeance upon those who afflict persecution. On the other hand, verse 7 places emphasis on the afflicted receiving relief from their persecutors. In both cases, God acts accordingly to those receiving and giving affliction. God's actions demonstrate his active participation in the Thessalonians' lives. While the Thessalonians are afflicted, he provides judgment to those who do not receive salvation through his son on the final day. On the Day of Judgment, those of faith will be glorified in Jesus. Therefore, God demonstrates his saving grace to those who are afflicted and his judgment upon those who cause affliction.

Application
When I was treated poorly by my boss, I endured his affliction. I continued to respond righteously. At the right time, I quit my position. God blessed me with a better job and pay increase. In addition, years later I discovered that my boss endured similar poor treatment when he transferred jobs. Therefore God, an active participant in my life, worked on my behalf. The scriptures describe clearly that believers will suffer for the sake of the gospel. During such hardships, we are called to endure the afflictions and persecutions, while clinging to our faith in Christ and piety of life. The reward for such patience occurs through the hope in Christ and the power of God through the saving act of his son. It is easy to conclude that in order to possess this level of patience, one must struggle without cause. However, the scriptures indicate that it is not by one's own strength to which deliverance occur. Deliverance occurs by the power of God imparted through Christ. Therefore today's believers are called to hold onto Christ in the midst of our afflictions and persecutions.