Introduction: Who can say that they have no problems? If you are
like most others, you have things in your life that create problems
for you. Some of these problems are your own fault, some are the
fault of others, and some just seem to come floating into our lives
on their own power. Whatever the problem, God is the answer. We turn
our attention this week to Paul’s second letter to the
Thessalonians. This letter addresses the problems the Thessalonian
believers face. Let’s jump into Paul’s conversation and see what we
can learn about facing problems in our life!

  1. Greetings

    1. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1. Who is sending this letter?
      (The same people who sent the first letter to the
      Thessalonians – Paul, Silas and Timothy.)

      1. If Paul were writing to your church, and he said
        that your church was “in God our Father and the Lord
        Jesus Christ,” how would you react? (I would be
        complimented. We are a church that is “in God.” What
        better place could we be?)

    2. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:2. What are you looking for in
      life? If you face serious problems, what do you desire?
      What if I offered you a guarantee of salvation and peace?
      (That is Paul’s greeting: grace and peace to you.)

    3. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3. For what does Paul give thanks?
      (That the Thessalonians are growing in faith and love.)

      1. Consider how Paul begins his letter. How should we
        deal with fellow Christians? (He compliments them.
        He wishes them grace and peace.)

  2. Persecution

    1. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:4. Paul’s letter so far has been
      sweetness and light. Is life perfect for the
      Thessalonians? (No! They are going through persecutions
      and trials.)

      1. How are they dealing with these serious problems?
        (With perseverance and faith.)

      2. What do these two words, “perseverance” and “faith,”
        suggest to us about how we should deal with
        difficulties? (Faith would be trust in God.
        Perseverance is to accept something for now with the
        attitude that things will get better.)

    2. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:5. How is suffering evidence that
      God is just? (I don’t think that is what Paul is saying.
      He is saying that the fact of our suffering now justifies
      God rendering judgment at some time in the future.)

      1. Have you heard sceptics ask, “Why would a God of
        love execute judgment?” What is the answer?
        (Injustice calls for judgment. Persecution calls for
        judgment. If God did not love His saints, He would
        not be offended by the troubles the wicked heap on

      2. Do we earn salvation through suffering? (No. But,
        enduring suffering through faith and perseverance
        shows our relationship with God.)

  3. Payback

    1. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:6. If we love our enemies, why
      would we want a promise of “payback” against them?

    2. Read Romans 12:20-21. What do you think about this? Be
      nice to the people who are harming you and they will feel
      guilty about hurting you?

      1. Do you think this is the “payback” that Paul
        mentions in 2 Thessalonians 1:6? (Actually, I would
        like real payback. I don’t have anyone in my life
        for whom I wish “payback,” but there are some truly
        evil people in the world who deserve payback.)

      2. How do you reconcile Paul’s promise that God will
        “pay back trouble to those who trouble you” with his
        counsel to pay back our enemies with love? (This is
        an easy line to draw. We are not to be in the
        payback business. God is in the payback business. If
        you read Romans 12:17-19 you will see Paul makes the
        same point in Romans as he does in 2 Thessalonians.)

        1. Why does God get to give payback and we do not?
          (Because God is the perfect judge and we are

    3. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:7. What else does God promise,
      other than payback to our enemies? (That He will provide
      relief to us.)

      1. If you had to choose between relief and payback,
        which would you choose? (God gives us the better

    4. Look at 2 Thessalonians 1:7 again. What is the timing for
      the payback? (The Second Coming.)

      1. Is that also the time when relief will come?
        (Perhaps. Paul speaks of payback and relief
        together, and then says “This will happen [at the
        Second Coming.]”)

      2. What do you think about the news that relief may not
        come until the end of the world? (Remember that in 2
        Thessalonians 1:4 Paul compliments the Thessalonians
        for their perseverance.)

    5. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:8. What do you think this means?
      That those who are punished are those who neither know
      nor obey God? They fail on both points.

      1. Or, does it mean that those who are punished are
        those who do not know or those who do not obey? They
        fail on one of the two points. But failing either is

      2. If you say “neither know nor obey,” that would
        suggest that people who do not know God, but who
        obey God, would be saved. Could that be correct?
        (The commentaries I consulted said verse 8 should be
        understood to mean that they can fail on either
        point – those who choose not to know God and those
        who know about God but who choose not to obey Him –
        both groups are lost. This makes sense because
        grace means that no one gets to heaven by works.)

        1. Hold this text in your mind a little while
          longer. If the text means that the lost are
          those who “do not know or those who do not
          obey” then we must obey to be saved, right? We
          must not fail on either point, right? (This
          reinforces the idea that if we truly know God,
          that will result in a change in our actions.)

        2. The commentaries I consulted suggested two
          groups are described here. The Gentiles who
          worshiped false Gods (they failed the knowledge
          point) and the Jews who knew about Jesus, but
          who rejected His teachings (they failed the
          obedience point). How would you apply these two
          groups to the people of the world today?

    6. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10. When you think about your
      eternal destiny, what is it that you fear the most? (Most
      people talk about burning eternally. This text supports
      the idea that the burning is not eternal, just the result
      of the fire is eternal (“everlasting destruction”). If
      I’m alert and in pain, I have not been destroyed.)

      1. The other penalty is being shut out from the
        presence and power of God. Imagine a world in which
        God’s presence and power was absent from your life?
        (That would be horrible. The great loss for those
        who are not saved is that they miss eternity with

      2. What does Paul say on the topic of salvation? (He
        says the Thessalonians will be saved because “you
        believed our testimony to you.” That is the gospel,
        believing the testimony about Jesus.)

    7. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:11. What is God looking for in our
      lives? (That we will be worthy of our calling. That God’s
      power will flow through us to fulfill our good purposes
      and our acts of faith.)

      1. What do you think Paul means by “God’s calling?” Is
        this a reference to salvation? (God does call us to
        be saved. But, here the calling seems to partner
        with the Holy Spirit (God’s power) to fulfill good
        purposes and good actions.)

    8. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:12. Is the goal of our life to
      lead a trouble-free existence? To leave our problems
      behind? (No. The goal is to glorify God in our life.
      Whether we face problems or not, God calls us to live
      holy lives. Lives that bring glory to God.)

    9. Friend, if you face problems and troubles, have you
      considered how you can use them to bring glory to God? If
      not, why not ask God to give you the power of His Holy
      Spirit to glorify God through the challenges of life?

  4. Next week: The Antichrist.