Paul's second letter to the church in Thessalonica was written about A.D. 52-53 from Corinth a few months after the first letter. It was written between the events of Acts 18:22 and 23. This would be the third of Paul's epistles with Galatians being the first.
He wrote this letter to clear up the confusion concerning the second coming of Christ.
In this letter, he commended them for their growth in spite of persecution, corrected their misunderstandings about the day of the Lord, and exhorted them about living in light of the coming of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1
In this chapter, Paul thanked God for their faith, love, and perseverance in the midst of persecution and affliction. He tells them that those who persecuted them for their faith and who do not obey God will face everlasting destruction when Christ returns. This everlasting destruction is the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14) - the place of eternal separation from God. Even though this is their end, we do not want that for anyone. That is why Christ told us to pray for those who persecute us and love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). The Thessalonians were being persecuted by both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 17:5-9).
"If you haven't crossed the devil at least once a day, maybe you're walking in the same direction."
I have this quote written in my 2 Thessalonians Precept Upon Precept Study from 2004. (I have no idea where I ran across it.) After studying this chapter, and learning about the persecution of believers, I wrote this:
5-24-04: I am not in a season of suffering right now, but my friend, D, is in a season of suffering. I pray that I can be an encouragement and support to her in her time of need. I am holding up OK right now, but I am sure I will need to rely on Your strength and comfort as the days go by. Lord, thank You for the timing of all of this, and I pray I might honor and glorify You in this.
I had flown to be with my friend in her distress over a shocking dismissal from her work. She had stood up and spoken truth where there were many lies and deceptions, and she paid a big price. She was so distraught. She would cry with me for hours. Then, she would be so overwhelmed she would have to go into her bedroom and pray and cry out to the Lord. Each time she did that, I came in and studied 2 Thessalonians and prayed. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect chapter to be studying at that time.
Later that day I wrote:
5-24-04: Oh Lord, the timing of this could not be more perfectly timed. I love how You do this. I marvel at Your great goodness. I have been able to share these key verse with D and write them on note cards. I've been able to pray for her and comfort her. I know I can do better, but I will let You lead me through this.
Anytime we go forward in truth, there will be persecution. We learned from previous books in the Bible Book Club that we need to be gracious with outsiders (Colossians 4:5) and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We will learn in the future about giving an account to others for the hope that is in us with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Yet sometimes, no matter how gentle, loving, gracious, and respectful we are, people will be offended by truth. With that offense, persecution often follows. There is such a fine balance between the two. I pray we can find it!
It is really good to develop a "theology of suffering" that will help you through tough times. Here are some verses to get you started:
Matthew 5:10-12; 10:16-25, 34-40
John 15:16-25; 16:33; 17:14-18
2 Timothy 3:10-13
1 Peter 1:6-9; 4:12-19; 5:8-10
Psalm 73; 119:67-71
Lord, we know we have an enemy who does not want us to go forward in faith. We come against him in the name and blood of Jesus Christ. Teach us to boldly go forward and have the hope that You have things all in control. Lord, we pray for the salvation of those who persecute us for their faith. We do not want them to suffer an eternity without You. Draw them to Yourself. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.