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Future Glory | Present Trial: 2 Thes. 1:5-10

Future Glory - Present Trial :: Presence and Absence
September 19, 2021 :: 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10

This text is a continuation of the short introduction to Paul’s second, brief letter to the young church at Thessalonica, Greece. In many ways the church is struggling with its youth, and struggling rather typically. She is battling inexperience, ignorance and immaturity while trying to maximize its vigor, energy and passion.

But the persecution that sent Paul away in the middle of the night (see Acts 17:10) continued to rage for the new believers left behind (see 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10). According to Todd Still, an expert on the subject, this persecution “is best understood as vigorous, non-Christian opposition which likely took the form of verbal harassment, social ostracism, political sanctions and perhaps (some kind of) physical abuse.”

Along with the contents of Paul’s first letter, this remaining persecution and affliction seems to be related to the subject of Christ’s return, to which 2 Thessalonians devotes much attention and space. But before he properly addresses end times, Paul speaks directly to the space between the presence of persecution, affliction and suffering and the absence of God’s intervention on behalf of the church. This space begs to be filled with something, and Paul offers a fitting answer: faith.

The presence of suffering has long been a stumbling block for many Christians and nonbelievers alike. The church at Thessalonica would have been no different. So, oscillating between the church - those experiencing affliction - and the persecutors - those doing the afflicting - Paul’s introduction leads them to expanded faith in the justice and goodness of God, in the difficult present as well as the forthcoming return of Christ Jesus.

As we proceed, we will work to apply this to our current culture and evangelical concerns. We will also discuss at least three classes of suffering and the biblical response to each one.

Group Discussion Questions:
  1. When has suffering, affliction or un-answered prayer been a significant barrier to your faith or intimacy with Jesus? Share briefly with your group.
  2. How did you overcome?
  3. Have you ever been specifically targeted with aggression, dismissal, intimidation or injustice because of your faith in Christ? This is more than mocking or disagreement. This is significant persecution. Share with your group.
  4. How did this experience of persecution affect your faith in Jesus?
  5. What is your perspective on the three classes of suffering that Scot shared? (1. the groans of a cursed creation; 2. the consequences of personal sin; 3. the effect of sin committed against you) How would you change this list - add - subtract - rephrase?
  6. Do you think it is helpful to identify the class of your suffering? Why or why not?
  7. What is your perspective on the specific responses to suffering Scot shared? (1. faith; 2. faith and repentance; 3. faith, reconciliation, forgiveness, endurance) How would you alter or improve the statement of these responses?
  8. In what areas of your cultural context - think of work, family, market place, social and political spheres - do you feel greatest concern? Why?
  9. Why do you think it is becoming increasingly harder to live out Christian faith in the public sphere? Can you identify the major factors in this change?
  10. As a believer, what is your role in this changing culture?
  11. As a commissioned ambassador of Christ and “taker of the gospel,” how will you proceed? What do you feel or sense God is specifically calling you to do?
  12. Spend some time identifying specific application points and close by praying for these with your group.
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