Where Was Paul When Job Needed Him?

16 “If you have understanding, hear this;
    listen to what I say.
17 Shall one who hates justice govern?
    Will you condemn him who is righteous and mighty,
18 who says to a king, ‘Worthless one,’
    and to nobles, ‘Wicked man,’
19 who shows no partiality to princes,
    nor regards the rich more than the poor,
    for they are all the work of his hands?
20 In a moment they die;
    at midnight the people are shaken and pass away,
    and the mighty are taken away by no human hand.

21 “For his eyes are on the ways of a man,
    and he sees all his steps.
22 There is no gloom or deep darkness
    where evildoers may hide themselves.
23 For God has no need to consider a man further,
    that he should go before God in judgment.
24 He shatters the mighty without investigation
    and sets others in their place.
25 Thus, knowing their works,
    he overturns them in the night, and they are crushed.
26 He strikes them for their wickedness
    in a place for all to see,
27 because they turned aside from following him
    and had no regard for any of his ways,
28 so that they caused the cry of the poor to come to him,
    and he heard the cry of the afflicted—
29 When he is quiet, who can condemn?
    When he hides his face, who can behold him,
    whether it be a nation or a man?—
30 that a godless man should not reign,
    that he should not ensnare the people.

31 “For has anyone said to God,
    ‘I have borne punishment; I will not offend any more;
32 teach me what I do not see;
    if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more’?
33 Will he then make repayment to suit you,
    because you reject it?
For you must choose, and not I;
    therefore declare what you know.
34 Men of understanding will say to me,
    and the wise man who hears me will say:
35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge;
    his words are without insight.’
36 Would that Job were tried to the end,
    because he answers like wicked men.
37 For he adds rebellion to his sin;
    he claps his hands among us
    and multiplies his words against God.” – Job 34:16-37 ESV

Elihu is unmerciful in his brutal assessment of Job’s condition, removing all doubt as to his guilt and any hope of getting a hearing before God. In Elihu’s far-from-humble opinion, Job is getting exactly what he deserves and has no right to blame God for his problems or to expect the Almighty to relent in the deliverance of justice. From Elihu’s perspective, God is only doing what comes naturally to Him.

Could God govern if he hated justice?
    Are you going to condemn the almighty judge? – Job 34:17 NLT

God is a just and righteous deity who must punish all sin regardless of who commits it. He shows no partiality, treating all guilty individuals the same, whether they are rich or poor, well-connected or disadvantaged. Even the wealthy and well-to-do receive unbiased justice from the hand of God.

He doesn’t care how great a person may be,
    and he pays no more attention to the rich than to the poor.
    He made them all.
In a moment they die.
    In the middle of the night they pass away;
    the mighty are removed without human hand. – Job 34:19-20 NLT

While all of these statements offer an accurate assessment of God, they lack nuance and the benefit of contextual application. Elihu is speaking in theological generalities and drawing sweeping conclusions regarding Job’s life. He has no way of knowing what Job has done and has means of assessing the true condition of Job’s heart. Elihu has evaluated Job’s circumstances through the lens of his own theological rubric and confidently ascertained his friend’s guilt. But there was much that Elihu failed to understand about God and even more information he lacked about Job.

He was correct in saying that “God watches how people live; he sees everything they do” (Job 34:21 NLT), but Elihu didn’t possess that same 20-20 vision. He couldn’t see all, so Elihu was left to assume, conjecture, and speculate. He was far from all-knowing, but he had no problem coming across as a know-it-all. That’s why he could haughtily insist, “…listen to me if you are wise. Pay attention to what I say” (Job 34:16 NLT).

Elihu’s logic was simple.

  1. God hates sin.
  2. God punishes sinners.
  3. Job was suffering, therefore,
  4. Job was a sinner.

Once again, there is a degree of truth to Elihu’s logic. In fact, the apostle Paul would conquer that Job, like all human beings, is a sinner.

“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23 ESV

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, shared Paul’s conclusion.

Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins. – Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT

But just because all people sin, it’s not fair to conclude that Job was suffering as a result of a sin or sins he had committed. His suffering could have been nothing more than the unfortunate outcome of living in a fallen world where disease, difficulties, and even death are common and unavoidable occurrences. Even Jesus warned His disciples about the inevitable reality of suffering.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” – John 16:33 NLT

Jesus didn’t add the caveat: “When you sin.” He wasn’t warning about the judgment of God poured out as a result of willful disobedience. His words were merely a statement of fact that were followed up by a promise of hope.

“But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 NLT

The presence of trials and sorrows is not a litmus test for the presence of sin. If that was the case, the apostle Paul should have been the poster boy for the judgment of God. But in defending his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul virtually boasted about the many trials and tribulations he had suffered as a minister of the gospel.

“But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too.  Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, butI have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.” – 2 Corinthians 11:21-25 NLT

Paul goes on to describe himself as having endured sleepless nights, going without proper food and shelter, and hot having enough clothing to keep himself warm. Yet, none of this was an admission of guilt or proof of God’s punishment for some sin he had committed. It was actually meant to be evidence of his apostleship and calling by God. He saw God’s hands on his suffering but recognized it as divine enablement and part of his ongoing sanctification.

“I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.” – 2 Corinthians 11:30 NLT

In the very next chapter, Paul talks about a very specific trial he had been called to endure. He referred to it as “a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7 NLT). We are not told the nature of this trial, but Paul repeatedly prayed for God to remove it from his life.

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.” – 2 Corinthians 12:8 NLT

But he came to recognize that it was actually a gift from God, to keep him from becoming proud and self-sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:7). And the presence of this thorn in the flesh actually produced a positive outcome in Paul’s life. Each time Paul asked God to remove it, God responded by saying, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT). And this seemingly irresolvable trial became a means of spiritual transformation for Paul.

“So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT

Job was not there yet. He was not ready to embrace his difficulties with open arms or to boast about his many weaknesses. He wanted them removed. He desperately desired that his pain go away and his damaged reputation be restored. On top of that, he was ready for Elihu, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to catch the next bus out of Uz and leave him alone.

But Elihu was not going anywhere, and he had no interest in viewing Job’s plight as anything but hard evidence of unrepentant sin. Unwilling to buy Job’s excuses, Elihu declared, “Job speaks out of ignorance; his words lack insight “Job 34:35 NLT. Then he followed up that compassionless assessment with an ever harsher prediction of Job’s inevitable fall.

“Job, you deserve the maximum penalty
    for the wicked way you have talked.
For you have added rebellion to your sin;
    you show no respect,
    and you speak many angry words against God.” – Job 34:36-37 NLT

Too bad Job didn’t have a friend like Paul; someone who could have brought a much more balanced and optimistic perspective to the conversation. Paul would have built Job up, calling him to run the race to win (1 Corinthians 1:24), to press on (Philippians 3:12), and to endure suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3).

But sadly, Elihu was too busy pouring salt in Job’s wounds to see that his words were doing more harm than good. Sometimes the best thing anyone can say is nothing at all. Sometimes, silence is the best policy or, if you have to speak, the only words that come out of your mouth are, “I don’t know.” But Elihu was too proud to plead ignorance and too in love with his own voice to stay silent. Much to Job’s detriment and dismay.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Future-Focused Faith.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? – Romans 8:31-35 ESV

There is no longer any condemnation hanging over the heads of those who are in Christ. We now live according to the law of the Spirit, not the law of sin and death. As a result, we are free to say no to sin and walk according to the Spirit, in newness of life. We our now sons and daughters of God, who have an inheritance awaiting us in heaven. And speaking of heaven, we have our future glorification awaiting us, which makes any suffering we go through in this life pale in comparison. So, Paul asks, “What then shall we say to these things?” What should be our response to these marvelous truths? If God is the one who called us, justified us and will one day glorify us, what do we have to fear? If He refused to spare His own Son, but sent Him to die on the cross in our place, why would we ever think He would abandon us or turn His back on us. We must constantly remind ourselves that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). We didn’t earn God’s love and we cannot behave our way out of it. We can’t lose it or have it taken away from us. Our circumstances, no matter how bad, are never an indication that God has fallen out of love with us. God has already justified us, declared us as righteous before Him, because of what Christ has done, not because of anything we have or have not done. So if someone brings a charge against us, God’s response will always be, “They’re righteous!” If anyone attempts to condemn us, God will simply respond, “Their debt has been paid!”

And the most amazing aspect of what Paul is trying to teach us is that nothing and no one can ever separate us from the love of God. No one can do anything to diminish or negate the love that Christ showed us by dying on the cross for us. There is nothing we will ever go through in this life that will ever diminish God’s love for us. And we should never let anything that happens in this life cause us to doubt God’s love for us. Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” The New Living Translation puts verse 35 in words we can understand: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?” When we view our lives from a temporal perspective, we run the risk of misinterpreting God’s actions and involvement in our lives, which can lead us down the path of doubting His love for us. “After all,” we surmise, “if God really loved me, He would not have let this happen to me.” But if we keep out faith future-focused, and recognize that God’s will for our lives culminates on our future glorification, we will realize that His love for us is unstoppable. Present problems are no match for future-focused faith. Which is exactly what Paul meant when he wrote, “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT).

Paul said, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:14 NLT). He lived his life with the attitude, “I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Philippians 3:12 NLT). So should we. Jesus died so that we might be saved, but also that we might be glorified. That is the culmination of God’s glorious plan for us. We should not spend out lives seeking to experience our best life now, but with our eyes set on the future reward that God has promised for us. God’s best is yet to come. And any pain and suffering we experience in this life only enhances the glory of what is waiting for us in the future. God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. And one day He is sending His Son back to get us. His work is not yet done. God’s plan is not yet complete. Our glorification has not yet happened. But it will.

Esther 3-4, James 1

Such a Time As This.

Esther 3-4, James 1

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 ESV

We sometimes forget that while Ezra, Nehemiah and the remnant of Jews who had returned to Judah were busy rebuilding the temple and restoring the walls of Jerusalem, there were thousands of Jews left behind in captivity. They had chosen to stay in Babylon, rather than return to their native land. And the story of Esther tells us what was happening to them while their brothers and sisters were thousands of miles away. Through an amazing turn of events, Esther had become queen of Persian. Four years after her coronation, another significant event would take place that would dramatically impact the lives of the people of God. King Ahasuerus had promoted one of his officials “and set his throne above all the officials who were with him,” commanding that he be shown proper honor by bowing down before him. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, refused to do so. Perhaps because Haman was a descendant of the Amalekites, enemies of the Jews. When word got out that Mordecai refused to show proper honor and pay homage to Haman, he became incensed and in his anger came up with a plan to destroy all the Jews living in Persia. He convinced the king to put his royal blessing on the plan and issue a decree to that effect. When Mordecai found out, he went into mourning and into action. He informed Esther of the situation and begged her to use her position as queen to plead with the king on behalf of the people of God. But Esther became fearful. She had yet to reveal her Jewish identity to the king. She also knew that unless she was summoned by the king into his presence, any attempt on her part to see him would result in death. Things looked bleak. The situation appeared hopeless.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But we must remember that this story was being written for those Jews who lived long after the events recorded had taken place. This book is a reminder of God’s sovereign hand in the lives of His chosen people. The story of Esther is the story of God’s sovereignty and faithfulness. When we read of the promotion of Haman and Mordecai’s stubborn refusal to bow down before him, we can easily wonder why these things had to happen. We can question why God allowed this evil man to be given so much power and authority. We can marvel at Mordecai’s hard-headed decision to dishonor Haman. We can speculate how things might have turned out if he had just swallowed his pride and bowed down before Haman. But there is something far greater going on in this story. God had a much larger plan in mind and was working behind the scenes in ways that King Ahasuerus, Haman, Esther and Mordecai could not see. It is interesting to note that Haman used Lots to determine the best day to put his sinister plan in motion. In other words, he relied on chance. But we read that “the king’s scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month” (Esther 3:12 ESV), and the edict was issued. It just so happened that the day the edict became official was the day before Passover – a yearly Jewish holiday commemorating God’s miraculous deliverance of His people from captivity in Egypt. This was not luck or chance. It was a not-so-subtle reminder that God was still in control. As bad as things looked, the people of God needed to always remember that their God was fully aware and fully in charge of all that was happening around them.   

What does this passage reveal about man?

Haman was power hungry. His new-found position had gone to his head. When one man refused to bow down before him, he because so angry that he determined to wipe out an entire people group in retaliation. This scene had been played out time and time again for the people of Israel over the centuries. Their history was filled with other stories of men attempting to annihilate them. But God had protected them. He had been there for them. And He would do so again. As evil as Haman was, he was no match for God. But this did not mean that the people of God were just to sit back and do nothing. It does not mean that they were to simply accept the situation as is and wait for God to act. Upon learning the news of the king’s decree, Mordecai went into mourning. He fasted. But he also took action. He did what he could do to step into the situation. He went to Esther and appealed to her to use her influence as queen to beg for the king’s mercy. He recognized that this young girl’s unexpected elevation to her position as queen had a divine purpose behind it. He warned Esther that her silence would not save her. While she had managed to keep her Jewish identity a secret all these years, it was just a matter of time before the truth became known. Her life was in danger just like everyone else. Then Mordecai told Esther, “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place” (Esther 4:14 NLT). In this simple statement Mordecai revealed that he believed God was going to protect His people. He would act. But Mordecai also believed that Esther had been made queen of Persia for a reason. “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NLT). He knew that Esther held a unique position and believed that God had orchestrated her rise to prominence and influence for just such an occasion. She had a God-ordained role to play.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Esther was scared. She was justifiably frightened at the prospect of having to confront the most powerful man in the kingdom and beg him to counter his own decree. She knew that the odds were stacked against her. Centuries later, James would write, “when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4 NLT). Trouble had come Esther’s way. But James would have told her to consider it an opportunity for great joy. Her faith was about to be tested. She needed wisdom. So James would have told her, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone” (James 1:5-6 NLT). And it’s interesting to note that Esther asked Mordecai to call all the Jews living in the land of Susa to fast on her behalf. The inference is that they were to take their situation before God and lift up their sister, Esther.

One of the things that jumps out at me in this story is that no one, including Mordecai or Esther, blamed God for their circumstances. They didn’t shake their fists at God and question His love or wisdom. They didn’t get angry and demand to know what He was going to do about their situation. In the letter of James, he tells us, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19 NLT). James was writing to people who were living under tremendous pressure and persecution. The natural tendency, when things get tough, is to get mad at God. We can find ourselves getting angry for allowing difficulty into our lives. We can demand to know why He isn’t acting or why He allowed it to happen in the first place. But James would tell us to be slow to speak and slow to anger. Instead, we are to listen. Ask God what He is trying to teach us – about Him, about ourselves, about our faith or lack of it, about His power and our failure to believe in it. Esther and Mordecai had no idea what God was going to do. They had no guarantees about the outcome. But rather than get angry, they got busy. They prayed. They planned. They took advantage of their God-ordained positions and acted.

Father, You never said this life would be easy. There are always difficulties to be faced. There are always trials alone the way. But You have promised to always be there for us. You have told us that You are greater than our greatest obstacle or enemy. You have proven Your faithfulness and illustrated Your saving power over and over again. When times of trouble come, may I learn to focus my eyes on You. But may I also understand that You have me right where You want me and I must seek to know what it is You would have me do. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Nehemiah 1-2, Hebrews 6

Standing On the Promises.

Nehemiah 1-2, Hebrews 6

Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.”  Nehemiah 1:8-9 ESV

Nehemiah was living in captivity in Susa, the winter capital of Artaxerses, the king of Persia. He was part of a group of Hebrews who were living in exile as a result of their sins against God. Nehemiah was an employee of the king, serving as his cup-bearer. He was well-acclimated to conditions in Persia, but still had a heart for his native Judah, When he received news of just how bad things were back home, he was devastated. The images of the broken down walls of Jerusalem and the burned gates were too much for him to bear. He recognized that his home town, the city of God, remained in a state of disrepair and the remnant who had returned under the direction of Ezra had failed in their efforts to rebuild. As a result, they remained easy prey for their enemies. But rather than allow this bad news to demoralize him, Nehemiah took action, and he began with prayer. He took the need before God. He confessed their sin, recognizing that the entire situation, including their exile and the broken down walls of Jerusalem, were the result of disobedience and God’s punishment. They had gotten what they deserved. But he appealed to God’s love and covenant faithfulness. He reminded God that He had promised to restore them to the land if they would return to Him and keep His commandments. Nehemiah puts his hope in the character of God. He knew that God was a promise-keeping god who never goes back on His word.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Nehemiah was very familiar with God. He refers to Him as the “God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments” (Nehemiah 1:5 ESV). He knew that God heard the prayers of His people. In fact, he counted on it. He knew that God kept His promises, regardless of how things might look at the present time. He knew that God was powerful and had a track record of rescuing His people from their self-inflicted problems. He knew that any hope they had would be found in God alone. So he prayed.

The writer of Hebrews also knew a great deal about God. He recognized that, when God made His promise to Abraham, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you” (Hebrews 6:14 ESV), God had guaranteed that promise by swearing on Himself. In other words, God bound His word to His own character. The promise being referred to in this passage is the one God had made regarding Isaac. He had promised to bless Abraham through Isaac and make of him a great nation. But God had also asked Abraham to sacrifice this same son on an altar. And Abraham had been willing to obey because he trusted in the promise of God. He believed that God could still fulfill His promise even if Isaac had been killed. God could have restored Isaac to life. God’s promise was greater than Abraham’s predicament. Nehemiah believed the same thing. As bad as things appeared back in Jerusalem, God was greater. The problem was formidable, but God’s promises were more reliable and dependable.      

What does this passage reveal about man?

The context in chapter six of Hebrews is the danger of believers “falling away” from the faith. The reality of the day was that there was real pressure on Jewish converts to Christianity. They were under constant pressure to reject their faith in Christ. These were real believers facing real persecution. And the possibility of them giving in to that pressure and persecution was just as real. There had already been those who had denied Christ or had turned to a compromised version of the truth. They were not in danger of losing their salvation, but of becoming incapable of repentance and restoration. The writer is addressing those who find themselves hardened by sin and living unrepentant lives. “Take care, brothers lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12 ESV). He reminds his readers that they, like Abraham, must stand on the promises of God. God has promised them eternal life. He has promised to keep them and protect them through this lifetime, and fulfill His promise to give them a place in His eternal home. So the writer of Hebrews uses God’s promise to their own ancestors as a reminder to keep trusting, even when things are hard. “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18 ESV). The two unchangeable things are God’s promise and His oath. God has promised us future blessings. And He has sworn to keep that promise based on His own character. Rather than fall away, we need to stand on His promises. Rather than cave in to the pressures of this world, we need to stand firm on what we know of God and His unchanging character.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order or Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20 ESV). When Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, He went where we could not go. But He did so as an assurance that He will one day return to take us to be with Him. His presence with the Father is a reminder that the promises of God are true and reliable. Just before His death, Jesus told His disciples, ““Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3 ESV). Where I am you may be also. That’s a promise. We can stand on it. We must place our hope and trust in it. In this life, we will face trials, troubles and tribulations of all kinds. But we must stand on the promises of God. We must stand firm on the character of God. Jesus Himself told us, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).

Father, Your promises are totally reliable because they are based on Your character. You are a holy and wholly trustworthy God. You do not like You never go back on Your Word. You never fail to keep Your promises. Help me to focus on that fact. Don’t let me be overcome by the pressures of this world, but let me focus on the promises found in Your Word. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Thessalonians 1

God’s Call.

2 Thessalonians 1

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. – 2 Thessalonians 1:11 NLT

A few months had passed since Paul had sent his first letter to the Thessalonians. Evidently, he had received word back that caused him to write them again, addressing additional concerns and confusion caused by his first letter. It seems that there was a problem with the Thessalonian believers having become so engrossed with the coming of Christ, that they had lost their focus. Some were saying that, due to the increase in persecution they were experiencing, the second coming of Jesus was just around the corner. This entire letter was written by Paul to clear up confusion and to encourage them how to balance their longing for the return of Christ with their need to live faithful, diligent lives in the meantime.

Paul starts out his letter with words of encouragement. He commends them for their flourishing faith and endurance in the face of growing persecution. It was not easy for these new believers to live out their new-found faith in Christ in the midst of a hostile, pagan culture. But he reminds them that God is just and right. He is fully aware of what they are going through and has a purpose behind it and a just outcome in store for them. Rather than view their trials as unjust and unfair, Paul encourages them to see them as part of God’s righteous judgment. He uses them to separate believers from unbelievers. Trials and tribulations have a way of exposing the weaknesses and flaws in our faith, so that God, through His grace, can purify and refine us. They reveal our false idols and expose the self-righteous props on which we have built our lives. Paul wrote, “God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering” (2 Thessalonians 1:5 NLT). Rather than see God’s justice and judgment as relegated to some future event tied to Christ’s second coming, Paul wanted them to understand that God was at work at that moment, refining, separating, and preparing a people for Himself. And at the right time, God was going to deal justly with those who were doing the persecuting. But for the Thessalonians, the focus needed to be on living for Christ in the here and now, not waiting idly for Christ to come in the by and by. Yes, there is a time when Christ will return and “provide rest for you who are being persecuted” (2 Thessalonians 1:7 NLT). At that time He will come “bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8 NLT). There is a time coming when God will separate the faithful from the unfaithful, the saved from the lost. But the greatest separator will be the way each has lived his or her life on this earth. The evidence of God’s work and transformative power in their lives will be what sets them apart. So Paul’s prayer is that God will enable them to live lives worthy of their calling. He asked God to give them the power they would need to live the life of faith in the midst of persecution. It is only God’s grace that makes it all possible. So when Christ does eventually return and the saved are separated from the lost, God will receive glory and honor because the faith of the believers will be clear proof that they are His children, transformed by His grace and according to His power.

Father, sometimes this world does not make sense. There are days when the troubles and trials seem too great and appear to be purposeless and unfair. But You are just, righteous and always right. You know what You are doing. You have a plan in all that is going on around me and in me. You are refining and purifying me. You are exposing my weaknesses and removing my dependence on all those things I falsely rely on instead of You. You are making me worthy of Your Kingdom. Help me to see that truth every day of my life and view the difficulties of this life as instruments in Your hands to transform me and prepare me for eternal life. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men