2 Timothy 2
Paul exhorts Timothy to not only uphold the truth of the gospel but to pass it on to others, those who are faithful stewards of God’s household and good Bible students. These will be trained to become Bible workmen who handle the truth with scrupulous care in order to ensure that the gospel will be passed faithfully and accurately to future generations after Paul and Timothy are gone. They are to focus on preaching the gospel rather than arguing over esoteric teachings and theological minutia. They should devote themselves to godly living, humility and righteousness that will serve as an example of Christ to those they teach.
Paul warns Timothy to advise them that they will encounter resistance and hardship. This is why Paul compares the one who passes on the gospel to a soldier, an athlete and a farmer. The soldier is obedient and loyal. The athlete is disciplined. The farmer is patient and hardworking. All three endure hardships, deprivation and pain faithfully and without complaint for they are focused on achieving their goals. The faithful preacher must be as dedicated and focused on the goal of advancing the Kingdom of God. He must persevere to the end with his mind focused on the goal of glorifying God above all else, even self-comfort. The Lord knows those who are His own. He knows those who seek to use Christianity as means for self-advancement or material gain. Christians who behave in such self-serving ways must be rebuked and avoided, but the Lord will weed such false believers out of our fellowship as we preach the truth.
2 Thessalonians 1
Paul opens this letter with words of encouragement for the saints at Thessalonica who are undergoing severe trials and persecution. He thanks God for their perseverance. This may seem unusual to us for in our contemporary culture obsessed with self-achievement. We thank people directly for their deeds, talents and accomplishments and heap lavish words of praise as well as trophies, awards and medals. But all the glory should go, as Paul indicates, to the Lord. We should not demand or even expect praise for ourselves for any of the things we do and attain in our lives, on the job or in school. All that we who are in Christ do is done by the power of the Lord. This includes even perseverance through trials and suffering.
Those who endure persecution and trials ought to rejoice for such suffering indicates that they are on the right path. Of course we might be tempted to feel that such suffering is unjust and unfair because we are hurting and in pain, but we can have joy in their midst. Those who inflict injustice and pain on the righteous and the innocent will one day be judged by God. He will punish them by giving them what they want. They have chosen to rebel against Him, they have rejected Him and all His offers of love and help. Their punishment will only confirm what they desire: separation from God but for all eternity.
The thought of God’s justice and our ultimate reward helps us endure but it should also make realize that we have an obligation to preach the good news while there is still time so that the lost will cease their rebellion and accept Jesus. God does not rejoice in the death of the wicked but desires that all come to repentance. When we think about the punishment that awaits the unbeliever, we ought to feel sad but motivated to reach them with the gospel no matter the cost to us.
1 Thessalonians 5
It appears that one of the problems at Thessalonica was that there was a great deal of speculation about the date of the Lord’s return. Some had even quit their jobs and sold their possessions. These had become burdens on their brethren because they were overly concerned with being ready for the imminent return of Jesus.
Paul reassures them that certain signs must take place before that happens. We can interpret these signs as heralding His return but in fact no one knows when these will actually occur. He will return unexpectedly like a thief in the night to launch a series of events which no one can change or forestall. We must realize we will never be perfect this side of eternity but we do not have to worry. We who are in Christ will be spared the wrath of God because it has already been poured out on Christ for us.
In the light of the Lord’s return Paul ends his epistle with words of exhortation to excellent Christian behavior. We are to pray at all times and give thanks in all circumstances. We are not to be overly concerned about the future because that leads to speculation and idleness. Unfortunately Christians love to speculate about the end times. They often dwell so much on the details of the Lord’s return they forget to do God’s work. Because of this millions go to hell because the Church neglects her task. The best thing we can do to be ready for Christ’s return is live our lives in righteousness and charity, always doing the work of the Lord and spreading the good news of forgiveness in Christ, so that when the master returns He will find us doing His work.