Christians will face persecution. It is not a matter of “if” but “when”. Our Lord was persecuted and suffered. All those who follow Him will experience the same. Believe it or not, persecution actually has benefits.
What are the benefits of persecution?
(1) Persecution forces us to turn to God and find hope in Him rather than the world.
Persecution serves to strengthens our faith in the Lord, as we are forced to turn to Him, rather than to our own abilities and the world. Steadfastness in persecution also acts as a witness to others.
(2) Persecution allows us to be a witness to the surrounding community.
While Paul doesn’t mention their witness to the surrounding pagan community, there steadfastness must have undergirded their gospel proclamation. Those who lived around them must have known that they were fully convinced of the gospel. They were suffering for it after all. They might not have agreed with them, but there was no doubt the Thessalonians believed what they proclaimed.
(3) Persecution allows us to be a witness to the church at large.
We are not sure of the impact the Thessalonians had in their city. Certainly, there were some who believed because of their steadfastness. What we do know is that their faithfulness served to strengthen churches outside of their city. Their witness — due their willingness to stand firm — spurred other churches on in the area to do the same, as they were encouraged in their faith by the Thessalonians.
The steadfastness of others should strengthen our faith as well. Right now, our brothers and sisters in China are suffering for their beliefs. We might not know them. We certainly aren’t experiencing the level of persecution they are experiencing. But knowing there are other believers who are suffering for their faith, and doing so with joy, should spur us on in our faith. It should strengthen and prepare us for times of suffering.
Jesus is worth more than anything the world can offer. He is infinitely valuable. As Christians, we are a part of His family. He is not a wise sage leading us to God, He is God who has come to rescue us. Not just rescue us but He adopts us into His family. The faithfulness of others through suffering reminds us of Jesus’ value and the relationship His suffering won for us, which should spur us on to greater joy and faithfulness.
(4) Persecution teaches us that our hope is not in this world but in the One who is to come.
This world and its idols cannot ultimately deliver us from the sinful acts of men. We might find protection in armed guards and fortresses for a time. Our money or abilities might buy us fame. We might be able to escape difficulty.
Scroll through your Twitter feed and you are bound to find a once famous person being attacked. Even if someone makes it through life without difficulty, they haven’t ultimately escaped.
We need deliverance from the wrath of God
We are reminded in verse 10 that we not only need deliverance from the world but from the wrath of God. Money, abilities, and connections can’t help us escape God’s wrath. If we hope to stand on our own merit before God, we will fall. No one is good, no one is capable of representing themselves before God. We need someone to act as our advocate. We need someone who can deliver us. The only One who can provide deliverance is Jesus.
Jesus provides the deliverance we need
Jesus took the wrath of God in our place. We know His sacrifice was sufficient because God raised Him from the dead. He didn’t deserve the curse of death, so He was given life. All those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior are connected to Him, so that His death becomes their death and His resurrection becomes their resurrection.
Jesus’ deliverance begins in this life and continues into the next
We are resurrected now to new life in Christ, which is evidenced by steadfastness in the face of persecution. We will be ultimately resurrected to a brand new way of life in the future at Jesus’ return.
Jesus is our hope. He is our rescuer.