In His Letters to the Thessalonians (continued)
Mutuality and Maturity
The next thing we notice about them, after their realism in reception, was their mutuality and maturity - two things which always go together. In both these letters, that which the Apostle speaks about perhaps more than anything else is the wonderful love between these believers. "The love of each one of you all toward one another aboundeth" 2 Thess. 1:3). He is speaking all the way through about their mutual love. And going alongside of that was their spiritual growth. You see, love always builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). This kind of love, mutual love, always means spiritual increase. We can see how true that is if we view it from the opposite standpoint. Little, personal, petty, selfish, separated, individual Christians, or companies or bodies of Christians who are exclusive and closed, and have not a wide open heart of love to all saints - how small they are, how cramped they are. It is true. And it is in this mutual love one for another, and growing and increasing love one for another, that spiritual growth takes place. Do not forget that. If you are concerned about the spiritual growth of your own heart, your own life, and that of others, it will be along the line of love, mutual love, and you are the one to begin it. Mutuality and maturity always go together.
Suffering and Service
And then, in the third place, you will find that they were characterized by suffering and service, and this is a wonderful Divine combination. It is something that is not natural. The Apostle had much to say about it, as you will see if you underline the word "suffering" in these letters, and note his references to their sufferings and their afflictions. They "received the word in much affliction" (1 Thess. 1:6). He speaks about their sufferings, and he describes those sufferings. They in Thessalonica were suffering along the same lines and for the same causes as their brethren in Judaea, he said (2:14).
Now, in Judaea, that is, in the country of the Jews, you know how the Christians suffered. Christ Himself suffered at the hands of the Jews; Stephen was martyred at the hands of the Jews; the Church met its first persecutions in Judaea, In Jerusalem, and they were scattered abroad by the persecutions that arose there over Stephen;and Paul says, 'Now you are suffering in that way'. Evidently there was in Thessalonica much persecution, much opposition; threats and all sorts of difficulties - the kind of thing, perhaps, where it was very difficult for them to do business and get jobs, all because the business was in the hands of those who had no room for this Christianity and for these Christians.
But with all that severe suffering, and with all their "much affliction", they did not become introspective. That is the peril of suffering. If you are suffering frustration, opposition, persecution, or if the best jobs are given to someone else, and so on, the natural thing is to turn upon yourself, to be very sorry for yourself, to begin to nurse your trouble and be wholly occupied with yourself. But here, suffering led to service.
(continued with # 41)