The church of the Thessalonians was a church birthed amidst opposition (Acts 17:1-9). And, apparently, the opposition didn’t stop when Paul left. Though the church planting phase might have been over with, the church enduring phase had just begun. In fact, Paul would boast of these believers as he visited other “churches of God,” telling of their “steadfastness and faith” in all their persecutions and in the afflictions that they were enduring.
Their faith was growing abundantly . . . their love for one another was evident increasingly . . . and, day in and day out, they dealt with pressures, trials, testings, and afflictions enduringly. And in that they endured, . . . in that they were able to hold up under the pressure, . . . in that they stood erect despite the oppressive weight on their shoulders . . . in that they were able to bear the continuing assault of their enemies, they were considered worthy.
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering . . . (2Thessalonians 1:3-5 ESV)
Believing the message of the cross came with a cost for these believers. Receiving Christ as Savior was but asking neighbors to be enemies. Gathering with the saints was inviting the disdain and derision of the multitude. Holding fast to the Word of life was to go against the flow. But they did. Their faith not only sustained them, but it grew abundantly . . . as did their love for each other. And all this was proof . . . all of it evidence. Evidence that they were considered worthy of the kingdom of God.
Not that they were considered worthy because they were special . . . or that they merited God’s calling to faith. Not counted worthy because of who they were or what they were able to do. Not deemed worthy because they were tougher, mentally and physically, than others who might wilt under similar pressure. But their suffering, and ability to stand firm amidst it, was daily evidence of God’s calling upon them to represent the kingdom of God. God had considered them worthy.
They were suffering because God had determined to make them fit for the kingdom. They were enduring amidst the opposition because God had purposed to allow them to know the reality of the strengthening power of the Spirit who lived within them. They could keep on keepin’ on because of God’s intention to daily pour out, without measure, His all sustaining grace.
That they didn’t throw in the towel did not make them worthy of the kingdom . . . that they didn’t throw in the towel was evidence that God, in His sovereign purpose and steadfast love, had considered them worthy of the kingdom. Considered worthy not that they might boast, but considered worthy that, in the day when Christ returns, Christ would be exalted.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(2Thessalonians 1:11-12 ESV)
Not many of us in this part of the world are called to endure for the faith what these brothers and sisters at Thessolonica endured — at least not yet. But there is not one of us who doesn’t know some trial, some testing, some affliction. And that we are able to stand fast amidst these is evidence that we have been considered worthy.
Considered worthy because of grace . . . considered worthy for His glory.