encouraging a persecuted woman November 24 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 2Thessalonians

Physical and Mental Cruelty; How to Deal with it

Physical cruelty hurts our bodies. Mental cruelty hurts our spirits. Many of us have received messages, whether written or verbal, with the express intent to discourage and distress us. What do we do? How can we endure it?

While on his second missionary journey, recorded in the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul writes another letter to the church in Thessalonica. It has two purposes—to encourage the followers of Christ who are standing strong in times of persecution, and to refute some false teaching regarding the Day of the Lord, which he mentioned in his first letter (1Thessalonians 5:1-3). The Thessalonian believers are experiencing both physical and mental suffering, and they long for Christ’s return. Perhaps we have felt the same way.

Paul is encouraged that they are still standing strong in the face of adversity. Their testimony is becoming known far and wide among the churches. What is the purpose of their suffering? Apparently, it is to encourage other believers to stand strong. Although they may not understand it, their faith in adversity gives courage to other believers to endure hardships for Christ, proving that God’s judgment is right in allowing them to be persecuted (2Thessalonians 1:5). One purpose of adversity in our life may be the same—our faith during those times is meant to encourage others. They may then think or say, “If those Christians can stand strong in difficult circumstances, so can we!”

Even so, the question must have entered the minds of the Thessalonians, Will God do something about the injustices? Paul encourages them that God is just and will vindicate them. There will be an eternal punishment for the ungodly after Jesus comes back. Until that time, however, the Thessalonian believers need to persevere. Persecution purges our spiritual lives of impurities. When we persevere in faith, we walk closer to God, our faith and love become stronger, our prayers are more powerful, and we glorify the King of Heaven (2Thessalonians 1:3-4; 11-12; 2:13-17; 3:5).

Along with physical persecutions there were mental persecutions. Paul told the Thessalonians in the first letter that they have hope because Jesus is coming back to gather them together and to escape the coming wrath in the Day of the Lord (1Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:9). The Day of the Lord, a day of judgment, starts at the snatching up (rapture) of the church (every true believer in Christ) and ends after the return of Christ to the earth to conquer and rule the nations. But false teachers were mentally cruel in teaching them that the Day of the Lord had already come—they missed it! With all the physical persecution they were suffering, this teaching would be easy to believe. The Apostle Paul said the Day of the Lord will not be revealed, however, until the man of lawlessness appears. Who is this man of lawlessness?

The man of lawlessness is a person commonly referred to as the antichrist. He will be revealed during the day of judgment, the Day of the Lord. Paul says,

Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, NIV).

Much earlier in Bible history, a strange heavenly being predicted the coming of this man in a vision to the prophet Daniel.

The king [a probable reference to the man of lawlessness] will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place (Daniel 11:36, NIV).

Revelation 13 refers to this lawless man as the beast who draws his power from the dragon (another name for Satan; Revelation 12:9).

What are the Thessalonians to do about this false, misleading teaching? Paul instructs them to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us” (2Thessalonians 2:15, NIV).

What are we to do about mental cruelty? Remember what the truth is, and pay no attention to lies. Consider the source—let us not be swayed by false messages. We need to think clearly what the Scriptures teach, and stand firm with what we know to be the truth.

Paul offers a prayer of blessing for the Thessalonians before he closes his letter:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word (2Thessalonians 2:16-17, NIV).
May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance (2 Thessalonians 3:5, NIV).

Finally, like the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul exhorts the believers to be busy, not busy bodies (2 Thessalonians 3:11), so they might maintain good testimonies before others. We should not let ourselves be discouraged and turned aside from following the Lord when we are suffering. We should cling to the Lord, keep busy and keep a positive testimony, which will be an example for others to follow.

Lessons to Live By

  • Are any of us suffering physical or mental cruelty? God can help us if we know him (more...)
  • Our continual faithfulness in the face of persecution gives courage to others to follow the LORD. Let us keep at it.
  • We must not let ourselves be swayed by false messages. We need to consider the source of false teachings and believe the Biblical truths taught to us.
  • We should cling to the Lord, keep busy and keep a positive testimony, which will be an example for others to follow.

Focus Verse

2 Thessalonians 3:13 (NIV) “And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.”

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A Look Ahead: Being a Christian is not easy and Satan can oppose us. How do we handle Spiritual Adversity? Find out in our Next Lesson as we return to the book of Acts and read about Paul's Third Missionary Journey.

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