2 Thessalonians 1:5-7
Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God…
I. THE MEANING OF AFFLICTION.
1. It does not mean, that God is angry with us. Job's friends thought so. So did Asaph once; but when he went into the sanctuary of God his eyes were enlightened; he understood then that God himself is the Portion of his people; that there is nothing upon earth to be desired in comparison with him; that though heart and flesh may fail, God is enough, and more than enough, for his chosen in this world, and in the world to come will receive them to glory. God's dealings with men are often misinterpreted; people use the word "judgment" carelessly and without knowledge. Affliction would be almost intolerable, if it were indeed always a proof of the Divine wrath. But, God be thanked, he himself has told us it comes in love.
2. It is a trial of our faith. Satan said, "Doth Job serve God for nought?" The world often says so now; it imputes lower motives; it refuses to believe in unselfish goodness. The man who can say in the midst of troubles, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord," is a living proof of the reality, of the sustaining power, of the presence of God; one of those miracles of grace which, thank God, are still daily wrought around us in the world. These things are among the facts registered by the observer of spiritual truths - facts as real as the facts of external nature, and of far deeper and more abiding moment.
3. It worketh patience. The trial of God's saints is more precious than that of gold which perisheth. Gold is tried by fire; God's people are tried in the furnace of affliction. Affliction, meekly borne, hath a refining power; it elevates and refines the whole character; "it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby." Faith is strengthened by trials; patience is acquired by the habit of enduring affliction. Without endurance, without suffering, there is no opportunity of developing the grace of patience.
II. THE ULTIMATE ISSUE OF PERSECUTION.
1. To the persecuted. Rest - rest with all saints; with St. Paul who had been the means of their conversion, who was then writing to comfort them. The weary and heavy laden who come to Christ, as he bids them, find in him rest for their souls even in this present life. There is an inner rest of the spirit, amid outward unrest and trouble, which is the pledged possession of the soul that hath found Christ and resteth in faith on him. "Thou shalt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength;" or rather as in the margin "the Lord Jehovah is the Rock of ages." The only rest for the penitent, for the sorrowful, is on the breast of Jesus. We find rest there now; but the truest, deepest rest is yet to come in the kingdom of God. "Requiescat in pace," we say of the departed. They are found worthy of that rest in the kingdom of God who have endured affliction in faith and patience. God is pleased, in his gracious condescension, to call them worthy. "They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy." That worthiness is of God; it is his gift; he makes them worthy by his grace. He called them not because they were worthy, says St. Augustine; rather by his choice he makes them worthy. It is not their merit but his election, not their goodness but his grace, that makes them what they are. They have not chosen him, but he hath chosen them that they should bring forth much fruit. They are not wise, or strong, or holy; but Christ their Lord is all. He is present with them, abiding in them by his Spirit, purging away their sins, communicating to them more and more of his own holiness and love. As he is, so are they in this world; and they know that, when he shall appear, they shall be like him, for they shall see him as he is. For his sake they are counted worthy of the kingdom of God, and in the hope of that kingdom they are willing now to suffer. But these present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory. They know it, and they suffer patiently, for they recognize that great truth that only by the way of the cross can we enter into the kingdom of heaven.
2. To the persecutors. God will recompense affliction to those who afflict his saints. They who persecute the Lord's disciples persecute the Lord himself. It pertains to his justice that such must receive the due reward of their deeds. It is right; and because it is right, it must be so. Christians must pray for their persecutors; they must do what lieth in them to soften their hearts, to save their souls, to avert the coming judgment. But when the judgment comes they can but stand by, and recognize in solemn awe the justice of the most holy God.
1. Chastisements are sent in mercy; be patient, be thankful.
2. Chastisement is only grievous if we do not understand its meaning; accept it as sent from God; take it as a cross; be careful not to lose its blessed fruits.
3. Think of the great joy of those who are counted worthy of the kingdom of God; let that high hove be your comfort in trouble.
4. Envy not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways. - B.C.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: