Are you “worthy” of being a Christian?
I ask that because as the second letter to the Thessalonians opens, this is Paul’s prayer for them – and he mentions it twice.
Being “worthy” of the kingdom of God and Christ’s calling has nothing to do with meriting (or earning) that status – as if you deserve it. It has everything to do with honoring the status you have received by the way you live your life. Elders and Deacons are to be “worthy” of respect (1 Timothy 3:8; 5:17). They have the office, now they should live in such a way to honor their calling.
Paul lists the requisites for worthiness: a growing trust in God (faith), an increasing love for fellow Christians, and a dogged determination to live as God would have you to live in the face of temptation, opposition and persecution. Paul believed it also took something else: prayer. Particularly the prayers of others. It’s why he prayed for the Thessalonians and what he prayed for them. You might remember that as you go about your prayers and pray for your brethren, that they would be counted worthy of the Kingdom. You might also ask them to pray the same for you.
Remember something else too: “worthiness” is do-able, but it is not a destination. It is a direction; a direction of growing Christlikeness. Such a direction is critical considering the consequences of Christ’s inevitable return.
Most of us struggle with the notion that success depends on us. It does.
And it doesn’t.
Certainly God has expectations of us with regard to trusting Him and being obedient. So as 2 Thessalonians comes to a close, Paul emphasizes the importance of being obedient to God – to the extent that if one is not obedient, being stubbornly rebellious to Him, that person should be removed from the fellowship of the Church.
But there’s a difference between being stubbornly rebellious and struggling with obedience. That’s why, as Paul concludes this letter, he points to prayer and the help that comes from God. Notice how dependent Paul indicates he is on the Lord for success:
* That the faith of the Thessalonians and their ability to hold up under persecution is growing and has grown so well is due to the Lord’s help (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).
* That God’s name might be glorified in their lives is dependent on the work of God Himself (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
* God will work on those who do not believe the truth and who delight in wickedness to the extent that they will not be able to change (a sobering thought!) – 2 Thessalonians 2:11.
* Encouragement and strength for every good deed and word comes from the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
* Success in evangelism is dependent on the Lord (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
* Protection from Satan is dependent on God’s work (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
* Peace comes from the Lord (2 Thessalonaisn 3:16).
Is there anything we must do?
Yes. Trust God and His way and be obedient to Him.
But beyond that, it’s all up to the power, presence, and love of God.
Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church was prompted by a mean trick played by an unnamed opponent of Christianity. Someone had written the church a letter and told them that Jesus had already come – and they had missed it (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).
Christians today might well wonder how anyone could fall for such foolishness. After all, if Christ had already come to redeem the faithful, Paul must have missed it too, otherwise, he wouldn’t be writing them!
But remember: these were new converts to Christianity and all of this was new to them.
2 Thessalonians 2 is regarded as one of the most difficult texts of the Bible. Paul mentions a “man of lawlessness,” whom many regard as the “antichrist” (despite the fact he is not actually called the “antichrist”), and this leads us astray.
It is better to think of the “man of lawlessness” as Satan himself, who is the mastermind behind the work of of the lawless one. Jesus will destroy the “man of lawlessness” with the splendor of his coming. The result will be that Christians will no longer be deceived and Christianity will have no rivals. Since, however, these things persist, the man of lawlessness is still at work (2:7) and Christ has not come.
Christianity requires thought. The Bereans were noble because they “searched the scriptures,” daily. Paul told the Corinthians they should examine themselves to see if they were “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). The moment we stop thinking critically, we can be led astray.