In these verses Paul reminds the Christians at Thessalonica that, while he was with them, he said repeatedly they would experience persecution. Just as he had predicted, persecution had struck, and they were fully aware of the fact. Suffering is the way of the Christian.
Peter describes believers’ trials as a good thing, because they prove the genuineness of our faith and bring praise, glory, and honor at Jesus’ coming (1 Peter 1:6–7). James states: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4). Such a positive attitude would enable the Thessalonians to see God’s purpose in trials and keep them unmoved by their afflictions (1 Thessalonians 3:3).
Christians in America are often surprised by suffering. Many a believer’s faith collapses underure. But suffering is a tool in the hand of a loving sovereign God, to increase our ministry, produce humility, and redirect our attention toward heaven. So this week’s discussion will be on the purpose of suffering.
- Did anything stand out to you from Bill’s message from 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 on suffering?
- What is it about suffering that causes people to ask why?
- Bill reminded us to expect suffering for the cause of Christ. How is this attitude different from the attitude that most American Christians have towards suffering and trials because of their faith in Christ?
- Is it sometimes good to suffer? Is there a benefit to it? Read Psalm 119:71; Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4; John 9:1-3.
- It seems that some people suffer more than others. Why is this? Read Isaiah 55:8-9, Psalm 73:16-17, Psalm 135:6.
- When tragedy strikes in your life, how do you cope? Do you scramble to find some framework to make sense of it all in the moment? Do you temporarily adopt a religious framework just to get through and then discard it when it’s not useful anymore? Or do you have a worldview that is objective, immovable, and not subject to the ever-changing circumstances of life? What is that for you?
- Focusing on the greater reward helps us endure difficulty. Bill said the hope of heaven was the reason many early believers embraced suffering. What do you say to those who say that heaven sounds boring or that they don’t WANT to live forever?
- Do you have any final thoughts on the issue of suffering?