Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.
— 2 Thessalonians 1:6
We once had an employee whom we “thought” was the cream of the crop. He had come to one of my meetings to tell us that he believed God was calling him to be a leader in our ministry. Although I knew he had been in the ministry a long time, I didn’t know him very well personally, so I felt the need to dig deep to verify information about him. Everything I checked out confirmed this man would be a splendid addition to our team. At that time we needed a man with his skills, so we hired him to work in the office in a lower position to observe how he worked and performed with other people.
Over a period of several years, my top leadership team was very impressed with this man’s style of work and his commitment to get tasks done on time. He was professional and eager to learn, and he showed himself faithful in many respects. When the position of office manager opened up in that nation, we felt it right to move this man into that position. But once he had been entrusted with the oversight of money, serious problems started showing up. At first, the financial discrepancies were small, and we thought they were simply mistakes. But over time, it became apparent that there was a serious problem. This man was stealing money in very devious ways.
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I loved this man, so when I finally discovered that he was secretly robbing us of money, I personally traveled hundreds of miles to give him an opportunity to be honest about what he had been doing. When I walked into our ministry office to meet with him, and he realized we knew about what he had been doing, he erupted in anger!
I suddenly saw a man I had never seen or known before! He screamed, yelled, and commanded that we get out of his office, which in fact was our office! It was the official headquarters for our ministry in that particular nation. When I reminded him it was our office and he had no right to tell us to leave, he shouted, “So you think this is your office? Who signed the contract? I did! I signed it! It’s in my name — and legally that makes it my office! So I am ordering you to move off the premises immediately, or I’ll call the police to have you arrested for trespassing.”
My team and I were shocked at his behavior. We had known him a long time, and I’d anticipated that he would admit what he had done and ask for forgiveness. My goal was not only to confront the problem, but also to see how I could help restore this man. But suddenly the mask he had donned for years fell off, and when it did, it revealed a face red with anger! His eyes looked like a demon peering at us, and he screamed with a complete lack of restraint. He was a man out of control and wholly given to anger. He got so close to my face as he screamed that at one point, I actually thought his nose would touch my face.
But no matter how loud the man turned up the volume, I remained calm and told him that I wasn’t leaving until he was honest with me about the discrepancies we had found. The next thing I knew, he was picking up the telephone to call the police to have us evicted from our own office. Rather than allow this to escalate into a worse situation, my team and I walked out the door and left. That was the last time I ever saw that man.
Because we had operated our ministry in that location for years, I turned around to see it for the last time as we walked down the corridor. There on the door was the name of our ministry boldly printed for all those who visited. Behind those doors were nearly 100,000 letters addressed to Denise and me from our TV viewers. The shelves and the basement were filled with 250,000 copies of my books that we sent free of charge to people who wrote in response to our TV program. Eighty full-time employees paid by our ministry were working on desks, computers, typewriters, copy machines, fax machines, and tape duplicators that were purchased by our ministry.
The next day, we discovered that not only had this man robbed us of ministry funds, but secretly he had also legally registered everything in his name. This meant we had no legal claim to anything in that office. He had even registered the ministry automobile in his name! It was the slickest, most polished case of professional thievery I had ever personally witnessed.
One of my leaders suggested I take the man to court to reclaim what belonged to us. But because we were so well known in that region of the world, I knew that such an action would end up on the front page of the newspapers, and it would be talked about from one end of that nation to the other end. In that former Communist nation where faith had historically been persecuted, I knew that a story like this hitting the newspapers would “load the gun” of every atheist and Communist who hated the Gospel. The newspapers would surely report this as the “war of the preachers,” and it would have profoundly negative consequences on the work of God in that country.
I knew that the reputation of the Gospel — and the impact it was having on countless precious souls — was worth far more than our loss. So instead of getting into a legal quandary that we couldn’t win, we made the choice to leave it all behind. We only asked that he give us the letters addressed to us, the 250,000 books that had our names on them, and the sign on the door. It was hard to refuse the letters, books, and sign, because our name was written on them and we could prove ownership of these things. But everything else was lost as we relocated to another city and reopened our office with directors who had been with Denise and me for more than a decade. After that experience, we fixed things tight legally so this kind of situation could never occur again.
At the time these events transpired, staff members were amazed at how peaceful I was throughout the entire ordeal. They asked, “How can you just walk away so peacefully from this situation with no bitterness or contempt for this man?” But the truth was, I felt sorry for him, and I was more concerned about his soul than our loss. For him to do such a thing, I knew he had to be extremely deceived. I also knew that if he didn’t repent and make it right, God would hold him accountable and would avenge this situation. I really didn’t want him to reap something terrible, but there is a universal law involved here — the law of sowing and reaping — and a harvest will come from seed sown, whether people have sown good or bad seed. This man had planted terrible seed in the ground, and if he didn’t repent for his actions, that seed would take root and grow in his life as deadly fruit.
In Romans 12:19, Paul told believers who had suffered injustice, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” According to this verse, it was time for me in my situation to peacefully move out of the way and leave it all to be settled by God. I told our staff how thankful I was that I was not in the vengeance business! However, I knew that if this man didn’t repent, he would eventually reap the terrible fruit of his actions.
When Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers, they were suffering severe persecution and horrific abuse at the hands of Jewish unbelievers and pagans. That’s when he told them, “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you…” (2 Thessalonians 1:6).
Let’s take a little time today to dig into this verse to see what powerful truths we can extract that pertain to our daily lives.
In this verse, the word “righteous” is the word dikaios, which portrays something that is just, fair, or right. In the phrase “with God,” the word “with” is a translation of the Greek word para, which normally means alongside. However, this word para means with God or refers to God’s way of doing things.
For example, if you heard someone refer to me and say, “That’s the way it is with Rick Renner,” you would understand they were referring to my behavior, my habits, or my way of doing things. In this verse, the word para is used in this same way to tell us the way things are “with God.” It is used to describe the manner in which God behaves — I’m talking about His behavior, His habits, or His style. Thus, the first part of this verse could be paraphrased, “Being just and fair is the way it is with God! It’s His behavior, His habit, and His way of doing things….”
Paul continued by telling us about a specific behavior of God we need to know about. The apostle wrote, “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.”
Now let’s look at the word “recompense.” It is the Greek word antapodidomi, which is a compound of the words anti, apo, and didomi. The word anti means against; the word apo means to return; and didomi mean to give. When these three words are compounded as they are in Second Thessalonians 1:6, it means to pay back, to repay, to give someone exactly what is due them, to give someone exactly what they deserve, or to settle the score. It is a full and complete requital of what is due. This means the verse could be paraphrased, “Being just and fair is the way it is with God! Making sure people get exactly what they deserve is His behavior, habit, and way of doing things….”
God doesn’t have to actually get involved in this “divine payback system” because it works like a law. The law states, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall be also reap” (Galatians 6:7). This means if you do good for others, this spiritual law will make sure that others do good for you. If you wrong others, this spiritual law will see to it that others wrong you. Whatever you do is precisely what will come back to you. (For more in-depth study on the law of sowing and reaping, see Sparkling Gems 1, August 2).
How others have treated you is what they will experience from others. Likewise, how you have treated others is the way you will be treated by others. This is a spiritual law that cannot be broken or violated.
Now, that’s not to say that if you’ve ever been mistreated, it necessarily means you have mistreated someone else in the same way. But when it comes to what you dole out in negative attitudes or negative treatment toward others, without repentance from your heart, that harvest will most certainly find its way back to you.
On the other hand, if you have been a source of blessing to someone else, this spiritual law will see to it that a blessing comes back to you. And if a person has deliberately done wrong or intentionally tried to hurt you, this spiritual law will see to it that they are paid back for what they did to you.
This is a fixed spiritual law that always works, so we must be careful in our treatment of others, for what we do to others is precisely what will be done to us. Only repentance has the power to eradicate bad seed from the ground and thereby stop it from producing fruit.
Paul said that God will recompense “tribulation” to them that trouble you. So what does the word “tribulation” mean? It is the Greek word thlipsis, a word so strong that it leaves no room for misunderstanding. It conveys the idea of a heavy-pressure situation. In his epistles, Paul often used this word to describe grueling, crushing situations that are unbearable, intolerable, and impossible to survive. The word thlipsis is often translated as the word “affliction,” which means the verse could be translated, “God will give a full measure of affliction to those who have afflicted you.”
By using this word, Paul was telling us that when God recompenses people for the evil they have done, it is a full requital. Those who deliberately trouble us will receive a full measure of what they dished out.
The law of sowing and reaping is activated even in this sphere of life, and the way a person does or does not treat others is part of the process that determines the type of justice he receives from the Lord. God’s payback system is just, fair, and equitable.
An interpretive translation of Second Thessalonians 1:6 could read:
“It’s God’s habitual practice and normal behavior to be just and fair, so you can be sure people who have wronged you will get exactly what they deserve. He will see to it that they are reimbursed and that they receive a full settlement of trouble for the traumatic circumstances they have put you through. Those who have afflicted you will receive a full measure of affliction in return.”
I can personally think of no better illustration for the way God’s payback system works than the man I told you about at the beginning of today’s Sparkling Gem. He had an opportunity to repent and get his heart right with God and with me. Instead, he rejected this divinely granted opportunity. I’m so sorry to say that today he is a totally discredited individual. His loss of reputation had nothing to do with our response to his misdeeds, for Denise and I made the decision that we would never tell what he had done. We left it silently in the hands of God, but over time we watched the truth of Second Thessalonians 1:6 come to pass in this man’s life. What he did to others is exactly what was done to him.
In light of this, I encourage you to keep your heart free of bitterness when someone has wronged you, abused you, or falsely accused you. Vengeance is God’s business, and you must not enter this realm that belongs only to Him. Make it your aim to forgive those who have wronged you, and leave the rest in God’s hands. And if you have done wrong to others, I strongly advise you to repent and make that relationship right today. The law of sowing and reaping is actively working, so if you’re wise, you’ll do everything you can to stay on the good side of the law!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, after reading today’s Sparkling Gem, I want to make sure that my own heart is right with You and others. I know I haven’t always done right, so if there is anyone to whom I need to go and make it right, please bring it to my memory so I can take care of it today. I want to stay on the good side of the law of sowing and reaping. If I’ve ever sown bad seed, I want to rip it up through the act of repentance. And when I am tempted to be upset with others who have done wrong to me, please help me remember that my focus must be to keep my heart free, and it is Your responsibility to give people what is due them. Help me, Lord, to stay out of the vengeance business and to focus on keeping my own heart pure and clean!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I keep my heart free of judgment and I do not venture into the realm of revenge. God sees what is happening to me, and I can silently trust that He will be faithful to take care of me and to deal with those who have tried to harm or hinder me. That is His business, not mine, and I refuse to allow my emotions or anyone else to drag me into the ring to fight it out. I will focus on my own heart to make sure that I am inwardly clean. As the Holy Spirit reveals people I’ve hurt or wronged in the past, I will quickly go to them to ask forgiveness because I want to stay on the good side of the law of sowing and reaping!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- As you read the story of the man who robbed our ministry many years ago, did you think of people who wronged you, your family, or your business in the past? Who was the person who wronged you? Have you really forgiven that person for what he or she did?
- When you look at what happened to that person’s life since the time he or she wronged you, what do you see has happened? Has the law of sowing and reaping produced its results in that individual’s life?
- Is there anyone you’ve wronged in the past with whom you have yet to make it right? Now that you understand you need to communicate with that person and ask for forgiveness, what steps do you need to take? Is it possible that some of the trouble you’ve experienced in life is a result of the law of sowing and reaping bringing a negative harvest back to you because of what you did to someone else?