“For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?” (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10, ESV)
Paul speaks of his great concern for the saints at Thessalonica. They had persevered through many trials, and some of them seemed to be getting discouraged. Paul expresses his deep compassion for the brethren for he wishes to be present with them but cannot. His presence might make matters worse since his opponents had forced him to leave there in the first place. Yet he does wish to address the problem as some saints were turning away from the gospel and from Christ. Paul reminds them that suffering and persecution should not surprise them as they are part of the normal Christian life.
This should come as no surprise to us either, despite what the proponents of the health and wealth gospel maintain. If we are committed to the Lord, to living a life of righteousness and avoiding sin, we will suffer. First of all we will not compromise with the world or follow its ways and values. That will often mean lost opportunities for advancement, higher earnings, or fame. That will mean missing out on the “American dream” as we give “our” money for the Kingdom of God. Commitment to righteousness will also invite persecution first in the form of the criticism and scorn from those who want to live in the world. Our lives will shame them by pointing out their sinfulness. Finally, our stand for the integrity of the gospel as the truth will antagonize those who believe in political correctness and the equality of all religions. We will be persecuted for our faith in Jesus even the more as the world slides into chaos. Yet we have hope for the coming of the Lord is near.