5 This is evidence of God’s righteous verdict that resulted in your being counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also suffer. 6 Certainly, it is right for God to repay trouble to those who trouble you, 7 and to give relief to you, who are troubled along with us. When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his powerful angels, 8 he will exercise vengeance in flaming fire on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 Such people will receive a just penalty: eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from his glorious strength, 10 on that day when he comes to be glorified among his saints, and to be marveled at among all those who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
“Well, that’s not fair!” You know we have a church full of little babies, toddlers and young kids and if I would give one of those kids an ice cream cone right now, we’d have a church full of screaming kids who think they should have one, too! They may not say it, but they’re thinking it, “That’s not fair.” All through life we face situations that just aren’t fair. Attend a sporting event and listen to the fans who get a foul called against their team. “That’s not fair!” Apply for a job with several other people who have the same qualifications, but they get the job and you say, “That’s not fair!” Talk to a senior citizen that is racked with sore legs, hips, and back and wish God would take them home. Then, when they hear about the quiet, healthy neighbor who was on NO medications and feeling great….. was suddenly called to Jesus in heaven while they slept and you just might hear, “That’s not fair!”
Today is 2nd Sunday of End Time called Last Judgment. That means God is going to be doing some judging. If we try to apply our idea of fairness onto God’s plan for fairness, we’re going to get into some trouble just like the Thessalonian Christians did. They thought they were getting the short end of the stick way too often for being Christians. The devil used this to get them to forget about God’s grace and to question God’s fairness. This in turn called into question how God might act on Judgment Day. Would God really be fair? Paul was inspired to write what he had taught them, remind them of where they were at, and encourage them for the future. This gave them courage and boldness to continue steadfast in the Lord Jesus Christ knowing that God’s Judgment Stands.
As it was in the beginning
It’s not easy to face people who think they’ve lost their rights. To make the point let’s use the illustration of Farmer Joe. Farmer Joe lived in California on his homestead. During the days of the California gold rush a rumor had started floating around that a rich vein of gold was running right through Farmer Joe’s land. So, greedy prospectors tried to get him to sell his land. Nope. Then they tried the court system, looking for a loophole to claim that Farmer Joe didn’t rights to his homestead. But, the local judge ruled in Joe’s favor saying, “There are legal documents on file showing that Farmer Joe received his land as an inheritance from his father. That’s my ruling, and my ruling stands.”
Likewise, the Thessalonians had a tough time, too. They simply wanted to go about their daily lives and gather for worship of their glorious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But, some of the neighbors started spreading rumors about this new religion that worshiped and Jewish rabbi who had been executed by the Roman government. How could that be legitimate? Other neighbors had ties with Jerusalem and claimed that Jesus was not the Messiah they were waiting for because he told people to live free, instead of following the OT laws of Moses they had inherited from Moses. So, Paul wrote, “5 This is evidence of God’s righteous verdict that resulted in your being counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also suffer.” These Christians already had their legal documents in place by God himself in his eternal courtroom. The record was already set by Jesus who purchased their eternal homestead in God’s kingdom which they had already received through faith. It has always been this way from the beginning! Through faith in the Messiah, the Christ, in Jesus—God worked his saving faith in their hearts through the promises of his Word. God’s Judgment Stands as it was in the beginning!
So, we hear the Word of God today, we sing praises to God whenever we hear the news of another person being baptized into God’s family and when we step up to his altar to hear him tell us again, “Your sins stand forgiven!” But, then we step out of these doors into an ever increasing hostile world against Christianity. Their words echo in our ears: 1) How do you know you’re believing the right things?” 2) How do you know it’s all true? 3) How can you be so sure you’re on the right track? Paul has the answer, “10 on that day when he comes to be glorified among his saints, and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” From the beginning when God called you to be his very own to this very day, you are in God’s family and living on his eternal homestead and marveling at his grace. God’s judgment stands as it was in the beginning, and
Farmer Joe had a neighbor named Smith. Smith heard the rumor about the vein of gold and we wasn’t going to give up so easily. Smith was the richest man around—a mean, ornery fella. He really wanted Farmer Joe’s land. So, Smith sent his boys over to Joe’s land and shot a couple of his cows, started his barn on fire, and made life miserable for him. None of us here would have complained if Farmer Joe had complained, “This isn’t fair! I wish Smith would get what he deserves!” It was tough, but he knew there was nothing he could do about it since local law enforcement was bribed by Smith anyway. In the middle of all of this the situation seemed out of control on some days. But, Farmer Joe wasn’t going to give in. He courageously endured it all. In fact, right in the middle of it all the Farmer Joe and his whole family grew closer together when it seemed everyone was against them.
The Thessalonian Christians were being picked on because they believed and worshiped Jesus. Some lost their property and business, others lost their position in the community, and some lost their possessions, yet their remained faithful to the Lord Jesus. Matter of fact, their perseverance became known to others, too. In the verses earlier Paul wrote, “3 We are always obligated to thank God for you, brothers, as is fitting, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love that each and every one of you has for one another is increasing. 4 So we ourselves boast about you in God’s churches in regard to your patient endurance and faith in all your persecutions and in the trials that you are enduring.” In the middle of all their woes how many times do you think the Thessalonians prayed, “Deliver us from evil,” because they realized that either God would step in to end their problems, or he would give them the strength to bear up under it?!!
We can recall plenty of Bible people who endured tough times. Joseph thrown into the pit. Job losing it all. David running for his life. The Jewish people carried off into exile. Right in the middle of it all do you suppose they were tempted to say, “God’s not fair!” Maybe the time for you is right now. Illness, disappointment in the family, grief, pressure at work, trouble at school, friends who turn on you, or even a church group that has let you down can cause us to call out, “God, that’s not fair!” That’s when we need to hear Paul’s words again, “10 on that day when he comes to be glorified among his saints, and to be marveled at among all those who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” When Jesus returns he will find people like you who didn’t leave God when things got tough, but were drawn closer to him. Perhaps even realizing that if all things were going well, they would have been more likely to think, “Who needs God? I’m doing okay without him!” So God brings illness, grief and pressure to come our way, all designed to draw us closer to him and to each other now. Now is the time for us to repent for the times when we did forget about God’s love for us in Jesus. Now is the time for us to remember God’s goodness to us through Jesus that will last forever. Now is the time for us to marvel that Jesus died on the cross to wash away our sins and make us God’s very own through faith. Now is the time to listen through your ears of faith and hear God say, “Now, my judgment stands. You are my own. You are forgiven!” Therefore, we persevere because Jesus’ forgiveness stands as it was in the beginning, is now, and
Will be forever
You’d think things couldn’t get any worse for Farmer Joe. Then one day his dog died. He went out to bury Old Blue in the field. He dug a small grave and as he hoisted the last shovel, guess what? Yup, there were sparkling nuggets of gold rolling off the end of his shovel. So, what do you think Farmer Joe did? He buried his dog and keep on farming. While Farmer Joe patiently and quietly farmed, evidence of the neighbor Smith’s crimes made their way the judge’s ears. He notified the Federal Marshals who did their own investigation and brought evidence of their crimes to trial. Then, according to the judge’s own timetable and courtroom schedule, the Smiths found themselves on trial. During the trial Farmer Joe sat quietly and watched and waited. Then the verdict was read, “Guilty!” Everyone was looking at Farmer Joe and he didn’t smirk or gloat. No, he simply nodded his head in agreement. In the end, the judgment stands.
That was Paul’s encouragement for the Thessalonians. “When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his powerful angels, 8 he will exercise vengeance in flaming fire on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 Such people will receive a just penalty: eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from his glorious strength,” Dear Christian friends, God is still in control. You may have those times of trouble, pressure and having to face evil people, but leave vengeance to God. Let God be God and carry out his holy justice in his own time. In the end, you have God’s promise, “ 6 Certainly, it is right for God to repay trouble to those who trouble you, 7 and to give relief to you, who are troubled along with us.” God’s judgment stands forever. Condemning those who hate him and showing mercy to those who love him and keep his commandments as evidence of their faith.
“Life’s not fair!” will be a statement you hear, or maybe you’ll even be tempted to make from time to time. Well, let’s be thankful that God is not fair, but he is just. God does not treat us according to what we deserve, but he always comes to us with his judgment based on Jesus Christ. Through faith in Jesus we are confident that our ears will ring with the eternal words of God, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34). But, maybe you’d like to hear those words now because of some sin that weighs on your heart. There is a place for you to hear this today. You can come to your pastor and confess your sin. And what do you think you’re going to hear me say, “You dirty rotten sinner!” No! You called me to be a preacher of the GOSPEL! You will hear me say, “I forgive you. Jesus forgave you. You are forgiven!” Yes, as certain as Jesus died and rose from the grave, God’s judgment will stand as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever! Amen!