The first check I ever got from coaching basketball, I didn’t cash it. I kept it as a souvenir. But the second, third, and every other check went straight into my bank account.
That’s a nice story, but imagine if I told you that first check was for a million dollars. If you came to my house and saw a check like that in a frame hanging on the wall you’d think me a fool.
God’s promises are like uncashed checks. We can draw upon them or we can hang them on our walls and look at them. Here’s an example:
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7)
God will give relief to you who are troubled. Swell! When?
Some read these words and conclude that we will get relief when Jesus comes or when we die. “Life is hard but all will be well in the sweet by and by.” In other words, death is a savior and this is an uncashed check.
Others read these words and see a lesson from history. “The Thessalonians got trouble from religious Jews, but relief came when the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple in AD70.” So God brings relief by orchestrating the death of a million Jews? Hmm, what’s wrong with that picture?
God will give you relief
Paul is promising relief to the Thessalonians now, not 20 years later when Jerusalem burns or centuries later when Christ returns. But what will relief look like? If you got relief in your troubles, how would you know?
“That’s easy, my troubles would disappear.”
But that’s a promise the Bible never makes. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
“God will remove the troublemakers from my life.”
Again, this is contrary to scripture. Paul got a thorn in the flesh, a tormenting messenger from Satan, and God didn’t remove the thorn. Instead he gave him grace to deal with it.
Trouble is a fact of life. Trouble may come from religious Jews or godless Romans. It could come from a bullying boss or an untrustworthy employee. It might come from a coworker or rival, but in this life you will have trouble.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
God comforts us and gives us relief in our afflictions. He does this by revealing more of Jesus to us. “Our comfort abounds through Christ” (2 Cor 1:5). Your troubles may be big, but Jesus is bigger still. When you see him, you will have relief in your troubles.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, ESV)
If Christianity means anything, it means we can enjoy supernatural peace in times of trouble. We don’t need Romans to slaughter our oppressors. Nor do we need to suck it up until Judgment Day. We can have peace in our tribulation today. Jesus said so.
A case study
“God will give you relief.” The word for relief can be translated rest, as in the following verse:
For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. (2 Corinthians 7:5)
When Paul was in Macedonia he was severely beaten with rods in one city then hounded out of two others. How did God give Paul relief during this time of trouble?
But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more. (2 Corinthians 7:6-7)
“God comforted us” when Titus arrived with a good report. It is not hard to imagine Paul leaving Macedonia downcast and depressed. He was battered, bruised and down in the dumps. Then Titus showed up and Paul was comforted.
Something about Titus’ arrival released the grace of Jesus and the result was rest for Paul’s spirit, soul and body. Trouble was still out there, but Paul was no longer troubled. Indeed, he rejoiced.
Back to Thessalonica
The Christians in Thessalonica were experiencing trouble, but Paul promised that God would give them relief. That relief would not take the form of death or Romans killing their enemies. It would be real, practical relief. But what would that relief look like?
Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
It would be great if we never had to deal with “perverse and evil men”, but Paul is wise enough to know it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes those thorns remain. Doesn’t matter. Haters gonna hate, but “the Lord is faithful.” Trouble may come but he will strengthen and protect us in our troubles.
This is not a promise to hang uncashed on your wall. This is a promise you can take to the bank.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
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