For me, I think of New Student Outreach, classes, job applications, graduate school applications, travel plans, Urbana 12 travel plans, and a dizzying list of other things marked for the 2012 calendar.
But, one thing that I don’t usually think of is: the second coming of Christ.
This was not the case for the early church. In 2 Thessalonians 2:5-10, we see Paul encouraging the persecuted Thessalonian church to look to the hope of Jesus’ second coming, as they suffer trials and persecution because of the gospel:
“All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” (emphasis mine)
It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t tell the Thessalonians that God will “pay back trouble to those who trouble” them by defeating the trouble-makers tomorrow or the next week or the next month. And he doesn’t say that God will give relief to those who are troubled by making life more physically safe or spiritually comfortable any time soon.
On the contrary, the passage says that God will enact his justice and bring relief “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven.” In other words, God’s justice will come when God decides it is time—but more importantly, that it will come.
Some might argue that this idea of eventual justice is a discouraging because of the pain and perseverance that is required while waiting for God’s justice to arrive.
But, the one thing that Paul seems to repeat over and over in this passage is that:
God’s judgment is right. God’s judgment will come. And those that suffer for the gospel will be counted worthy of the kingdom.
One thing we can learn from the Thessalonian church, when we experience suffering because of our faith, there’s no guarantee that things will be made right tomorrow. But there is a guarantee God sees our suffering and one day, He will make everything right.
And as we hold fast to this guarantee, looking beyond our limited human perspectives to God’s divine promises, we will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.
Julia Powers is an English major at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, serving as a small group leader and as her chapter’s prayer coordinator.