In the reading today, 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 jumped off the page at me. In this passage, we see that the church is under persecution and yet, they are still growing in their faith and love for one another.
I can’t help but wonder if it is partly even “because” of the persecution? There’s nothing quite like a struggle to bring a group together. Quite a few years ago I was involved in a church band in a traditional denomination. We never intended it, but found ourselves in the middle of a church war over style of worship. We were only trying to serve and provide the music that the Pastor had instructed, but the church members didn’t see us as servants. They either loved us or hated us regardless of whether they knew our hearts or not. Some became pretty nasty while others who enjoyed what we were doing said nasty things about their brothers in Christ who felt differently. It was an awful position for us and we tried to walk the line carefully in order to honor the people on both sides of the issue as well as the LORD. Now, without getting into the issue, let me just say that those guys in the band who endured with me through those times are some of my closest friends in the world. The persecution forced us to hold each other to high standards for our lives and we learned to have each other’s backs in ways that we never imagined. We learned to trust the LORD in new ways and how to discern His promptings in the midst of turmoil. It was a tough time, but it was a big part of my spiritual growth.
No one ever enjoys persecution, but it has served our faith throughout the generations by drawing believers together and creating a unity that wouldn’t otherwise exist. As the world has watched the way believers struggle, many have come to know Christ simply ‘cause they have witnessed the lengths to which a believer will go for his faith. They have seen the grace by which a Christian can endure. As Christians, we have the opportunity to demonstrate a real and practical faith in the way we respond to persecution and struggle.
In your struggles and persecutions, I will pray for you as Paul ended this great chapter: “… that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”