So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.
— 2 Thessalonians 1:4
Have you ever been so proud of someone that you just wanted to brag and boast about him or her for a few minutes? When you’ve invested a lot of your own time, talents, and energy into people you love and then you see them prospering and growing strong in the Lord, it’s normal for you to want to shout and rejoice about it!
This is how my wife and I feel when we see our own sons. They are strong in the Lord, active in His service, and committed to do what He wants them to do. As parents, it simply thrills our hearts, and we have every God-given right to be proud of them and thankful for what is happening in their lives! They are diligent, serious, and unwilling to give in to fatigue or discouragement; they just keep marching forward like soldiers. Of course we are proud of our sons and have every right to feel that way!
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
We feel the same way about the men and women we have discipled and poured our lives into over the years. When they came to us, many of them were young and inexperienced, but so hungry to grow and to learn. They were willing to be taught, to be corrected, to be instructed, and to pay the heavy price we demanded of them. We weren’t interested in developing only believers, we were working to produce real disciples. So when we see them standing strong in their own ministries, firm in faith and growing in grace, wisdom, and mercy, it simply thrills our hearts!
When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he was so proud of them and the way they walked in faith and patience that he said: “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.”
I want you to notice that Paul declared how proud he was of the Thessalonians. He said, “We ourselves glory in [or about] you in the churches of God.” In this phrase, Paul used the word Greek word egkauchaomai. This is the only time this word is found in the New Testament, although it was frequently used in the secular literature of New Testament times. It means to brag, to boast, to give praise, or to speak laudatory words.
Paul was proud of the Thessalonians. As a spiritual father to them, he was thrilled with the growth they were experiencing. This is a healthy type of pride — the same kind of pride a father feels for his children when they do well. He went on to list the reasons he was so proud of them: “…for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.” Let’s look at each of these words one by one.
The word “patience” is a favorite word in Paul’s epistles. It is the compound Greek word hupomene, and it paints the picture of one who is under a heavy load but refuses to bend, break, or surrender because he is convinced that the territory, promise, or principle under assault rightfully belongs to him. This word denotes a refusal to give up and an attitude that is determined to receive what is promised or hoped for. The King James Version translates it “patience,” but a better rendering would be endurance.
This word tells us, first of all, that the Thessalonians were under severe pressure. They lived in an environment that was aggressively anti-Christian. Every day of their lives, they were affronted and assaulted for their faith. Yet regardless of how severe the pressure became, they refused to surrender to these attacks or to throw in the towel of defeat. Paul was proud of them for their conviction to stand tall and steadfast in spite of what they were facing!
Then Paul said he was proud of them because of their “faith.” The Greek word for faith is pistis. The very nature of the Greek word pistis, translated faith, denotes a force that is forward-directed and aggressive — never passive or backward-reaching, but always reaching forward to obtain or achieve a specific target or goal.
This means that the Thessalonians never drew back or retreated simply because they ran into difficult or hard times. Instead, their faith was like an arrow that had been shot and could not be retracted, constantly reaching forward to grab hold of God’s promises. Paul recognized that this was real faith, and he was proud of the Thessalonian believers for never backing up on the promises of God!
Paul went on to describe the intensity of problems the Thessalonians were encountering. He mentions this because their problems were not normal, but problems of the most severe and difficult kind. Paul used the word “persecution” to describe the events that were coming against them. This is the Greek word dioko, a commonly used word in Paul’s epistles, meaning to pursue, to follow after, or to aggressively seek after.
This word was first used as a hunting term to denote the actions of a hunter who strives to follow after, to apprehend, to capture, or to kill an animal. Thus, the word can be translated “to hunt.” This same word is also translated “to persecute” throughout the New Testament, indicating the brutal nature of persecution that was experienced by the Thessalonian church. They were viciously and relentlessly pursued.
As if this is not enough, Paul informs us that the Thessalonians had experienced some kind of life-threatening “tribulation.” The word “tribulation” comes from the Greek word thlipsis, a favorite with Paul when he described the difficult events he and his team encountered in ministry. This Greek word thlipsis is so strong that it leaves no room to misunderstand the intensity of these persecutions. It conveys the idea of a heavy-pressure situation.
One scholar says the word thlipsis was first used to describe the specific act of tying a victim with a rope, laying him on his back, and then placing a huge boulder on top of him until his body was crushed. Paul used this word to alert us to moments when he or others went through grueling, crushing situations that would have been unbearable, intolerable, and impossible to survive if it had not been for the help of the Holy Spirit.
But in this scripture, Paul used this same word to tell us what the Thessalonian believers had undergone. As noted above, their problems were not normal but of the most serious nature. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, it would have been enough to crush them — but they weren’t crushed. They were still walking in faith; they were pushing forward to obtain the promises of God; and they were believing for victory!
Then Paul used the word “endure” to denote the attitude with which they had faced these obstacles and moments of opposition. The word “endure” is from the Greek word anechomai, which means to put up with, to endure, or to bear up under. Yet this word doesn’t portray the sufferer as one who simply surrenders to defeat, but rather as one who exhibits an attitude of fortitude and resistance to such negative forces.
When you put all this together, Second Thessalonians 1:4 could be translated:
“We are so impressed with what God has done among you that, when we tell all of God’s churches about you, we’re outright braggadocios! We proudly tell them about your refusal to bend to pressure; your resolve to never abandon or give up what belongs to you; your commitment to hang in there, no matter how heavy the load; and your determination to “stay put” until your hopes are realized. We’ve also told them how your faith has remained aggressive and forward-directed, regardless of the ordeals you’ve been through — such as those times when you’ve been hunted down like animals and relentlessly pursued. Your faith has stayed out front, despite the horribly tight, life-threatening, terrifically stressful situations you have undergone but steadfastly resisted.”
I don’t know about you, but when I read all of this, it makes me want to be sure that I belong to the ranks of the Thessalonians! We have the same Holy Spirit living in us who lived inside the Thessalonian believers. If they could live so triumphantly for the Lord in their difficult position, you and I can make the decision to live victoriously for Jesus Christ in our situations too. Amen?
My Prayer for Today
Lord, help me invest my life in people who will grow strong and who will bring forth good fruit! I want to give my life to people who are going to do something in this world. I want to know that I have made a difference in the life of someone who is going to make a difference in the lives of others. The last thing I want is to have lived this life without ever making a personal investment in anyone else, so please help me recognize those people You want me to pour myself into. Then give me the wisdom and grace to pull up alongside and share with them the treasure You have placed in me!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I bear good fruit in the lives of people whom God has called me to help! They are growing! They are prospering! They are learning to overcome the evil one! They are strong, stable, resilient, reliable, faithful, and committed to do whatever it takes for them to fulfill the assignment Jesus Christ has given them. My fruit is good fruit — fruit that remains! In this I know that my Father is glorified, because I am producing the kind of fruit that brings glory to His name!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Who is that person or group of people God has called you to disciple? If you are not actively discipling someone right now, why aren’t you?
2. How does it affect you when you see that those you’ve poured your life into are doing well and growing strong in the Spirit? Does it make you want to stand tall, throw back your shoulders, and rejoice in the Lord that good fruit is being produced in them?
3. Do you take the time to let these individuals know how proud you are of them? How long has it been since you’ve put your arm around someone’s shoulder and let him know how pleased you are about what is happening in his life?