1 Thessalonians 1:6-10
6 And p you became imitators of us q and of the Lord, for r you received the word in much affliction, s with the t joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord u sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth v everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of w reception we had among you, and how x you turned to God y from idols to serve the living and z true God, 10 and a to wait for his Son b from heaven, c whom he raised from the dead, Jesus d who delivers us from e the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 1:6-10
6 Καὶ ὑμεῖς μιμηταὶ ἡμῶν ἐγενήθητε καὶ τοῦ κυρίου, δεξάμενοι τὸν λόγον ἐν θλίψει πολλῇ μετὰ χαρᾶς πνεύματος ἁγίου, 7 ὥστε γενέσθαι ὑμᾶς τύπον πᾶσιν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ καὶ ἐν τῇ Ἀχαΐᾳ. 8 ἀφʼ ὑμῶν γὰρ ἐξήχηται ὁ λόγος τοῦ κυρίου οὐ μόνον ἐν τῇ Μακεδονίᾳ καὶ [ἐν τῇ] Ἀχαΐᾳ, ἀλλʼ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν ἡ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἐξελήλυθεν, ὥστε μὴ χρείαν ἔχειν ἡμᾶς λαλεῖν τι. 9 αὐτοὶ γὰρ περὶ ἡμῶν ἀπαγγέλλουσιν ὁποίαν εἴσοδον ἔσχομεν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, καὶ πῶς ἐπεστρέψατε πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων δουλεύειν θεῷ ζῶντι καὶ ἀληθινῷ 10 καὶ ἀναμένειν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν, ὃν ἤγειρεν ἐκ [τῶν] νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦν τὸν ῥυόμενον ἡμᾶς ἐκ τῆς ὀργῆς τῆς ἐρχομένης.
When God's people suffer joyfully, the gospel multiplies Introduction Suffering. The elephant in the room, the only real litmus test of any set of beliefs. Context: The Thessalonians suffered from the very beginning. 1. When we suffer joyfully we copy Jesus and the early church (v6) 'The essence of discipleship is imitation'. 'Affliction' (thlipsis) = tribulation. A present reality for all Christians, yet more severe for some then others, and at some times than others (and cf Revelation 1.9). Related but distinct from 'the great tribulation'. 'I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, ...' received/welcomed; like receiving a guest to a meal joy of the Holy Spirit. NB the NT as a whole, consistently, does not call us to begrudging faithfulness, but to joy in affliction. cf Philippians 1.29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake ... or James 1.2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Not joy from our own resources, but from the Spirit. 'the degree in which a believer is allowed to participate in the sufferings of his Lord should be the measure of his joy' Reading the Psalms, for instance, gives us words to use to express our feelings, including our lament and hurt and suffering. But the 'overlay' of the gospel hope directs them all into joy in light of our living hope. I.e., we come to see them all as a participation in Jesus' sufferings, and therefore a cause of joy. Application : Joy from participating in Jesus, or trying to manage on your own resources? 2. When we suffer joyfully we become examples to countless others (v7) The 'Job' principle. He didn't see or know how many millions he would encourage through his patience in suffering, and his joy in the Lord. Application : aware of the bigger picture when you suffer? 3. When we suffer joyfully we help the gospel to spread (v8-10) sounded forth/rang out/thundered. We get 'echo', related. Macedonia and Achaia; ie northern and southern parts of Greece. The Thessalonians' reputation was making Paul's job easier - people more eager to receive him and hear what he had to say. suffering actually provides a megaphone in terms of the Christians' reputation [cf early church; Christians in USSR, or China, or IS, etc] 'Plausibility structures' and knowledge. 'It is one thing for a few Christians to be joyous in trials, but when a whole group of believers in an area displays such living, the gospel has a striking effect on the surrounding unbelieving community, as happened in Thessalonica.' They report it; i.e., it's become widely known how the Thessalonians received the Gospel and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus the one rescuing us from the coming wrath [orge] [present participle; it is coming now, and it is to come] God's glory: He is the living and true God, the one who raised Jesus from the dead. The one who grants the privilege of participating in Jesus' suffering and therefore his joy. FCF: we despise suffering; avoid it, resent it, begrudge it. Opt for British cold endurance - begrudging. Rather than Spirit-dependent joy. We may think affliction is pointless, so avoid it or remove it and chase pleasure and security and comfort. Or think that since we're supposed to be able to handle hardship, we'll try to be tough and carry on. Use the lingo. Talk in abstract terms about providence, and God's will. Or, there are the false-teaching versions of health and prosperity on one hand, or triumphalism on the other - that suffering essentially doesn't belong in our lives now. Overall, suffering has become a kind of 'elective' topic, which you think through when you face it, but generally don't think is central to Christian life, joy, and vigour. In the NT, suffering is the normal current experience, and it's also the current gift. Fighting your flesh is suffering, and resisting the world, and enduring persecution and mockery and slander, and resisting temptations and accusations of the devil. All thlipsis. Person of Jesus: He himself suffered, and shows us Hebrews 12.2 what it is to endure because of joy. He is the one with his people in the fire, as he was with Daniel's friends. He is the Comforter and the Rock and the Refuge, the One who lights our darkness and dries our tears. Work of Jesus: he suffered so that we might never face orge, and the thlipsis would now become a gift of participating more richly in his joy. If there is any kind of special access code to knowing Jesus more richly, it is suffering. The Spirit takes bigger buckets of grace from Jesus' treasury. Union with Jesus: Having turned, I keep turning. I have died to idols and turned to the living God. As I serve him, I keep waiting for the return of the Son our rescuer. I can have joy in suffering as I depend fully on him. Whatever the type, he has walked it and his grace right now is enough for my joy in the midst of it. Conclusion So we have Christians in the midst of great tribulation, yet confident of being rescued through Jesus from the coming wrath. Question is, how will we suffer? Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground... John 12.23-28: And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. 27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” ... John 12:23-28 ESV