In II Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica who were enduring a cauldron of persecution and affliction. Instead of yielding to the intense suffering and retreating into a hardened, loveless protectionism, the Thessalonians gave up their hearts and souls to the Lord and were a fragrant, redemptive blessing to all the churches around them.
The Apostle Paul provided the Thessalonians with encouragement to persevere in the midst of their suffering. Several practical lessons can be learned from his encouraging words. First, believers who suffer possess the ability to offer others thankful compassion (II Thess. 2:13). Second, suffering believers can reassure others of God’s promises (vss. 13-14). Last, suffering believers can exhort others to “stand fast” (vs. 15) in Christ. The purpose of this blog entry is to apply these lessons to people who are called by the Lord to the ministry of missions. First, the missions of those who are called by the Lord to the ministry of missions should be driven by strong compassion for a suffering world. The heart of the missionary must be the heart of Jesus Christ, who personified compassion. Missionary compassion must be the fundamental and urgent spiritual response to people who are suffering and in need. It is no coincidence that many missionary agencies have the term “compassion” in their titles. This is absolutely appropriate, for these agencies see the suffering world through the eyes of Jesus Christ. It is this focus that motivates these agencies to maintain their commitment to reach the suffering world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Second, missionaries experience spiritual suffering so they can reassure others of God’s promises. Missionaries often accomplish this task through teaching the Word of God.
Finally, missionaries experience suffering for the purpose of exhorting others to stand firm in their commitment to Jesus Christ. The fulfillment often comes when a missionary is on furlough. During this time at home promoting their ministry in supporting churches, missionaries serve as models to many believers of people who persevere in the midst of suffering. Their authentic, powerful testimonies exhort believers to “stand fast” (II Thess. 2:15). Although sharing God’s Word is always a priority, God often uses missionaries who experience suffering to help others find a light in their times of darkness. They remind us not only of where our suffering leads but also of the tender hand of the God who leads us.