"Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed — for our testimony to you was believed." (2nd Thessalonians 1:1-10)The early church was not universally loved but suffered persecution from many groups, including the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans. As they rejoiced in their knowledge of God and in His presence in their lives, they were also afflicted by those they lived among. It has been said that the expected end for most believers was not old age but martyrdom, yet even in their daily lives suffered persecution and tribulations in many ways.
Paul writes to the Thessalonians to cheer them in their struggle and to remind them of the judgment of God to come at the end of the age. In the end, Christ will return to judge the living and the dead; to sentence those who did not believe nor obeyed God to eternal torment and separation from the glory of God. Paul reminds the Thessalonians of the justness, or rightness, of God's coming judgment; the very tribulation they were experiencing testifying of God's righteousness judgment to come. That in that day they should receive comfort for their tribulation, and their opponents the penalty of the persecution they inflicted on the just. The believers suffered for the Kingdom's sake and from the Kingdom would reap rest, while the unbelievers waged war against the Kingdom and from the Kingdom would one day reap their just rewards: eternal punishment and separation from all that is good. Looking at what the righteous has suffered from the wicked down through out the ages, who can deny the righteousness of the judgment that awaits them at the end of the age!
Finally, it is instructive to note how the Thessalonians succeeded in not only enduring such persecution and tribulation but also growing through it to the glory of God. They grew through tribulation because they grew in faith and love; faith towards God and love towards one another. When we face difficult times,we often retreat, hide, or run away, but these are the very times we ought to draw close; close to God and close to each other. These are the times we need to remind ourselves, not only of the words of God, but also of their truth and reality in our lives. The promises of God are not only true when times are easy but even more so in times of difficulty. Similarly, times of our distress are the very times we need each other all the more. We need to love those who are suffering and to be loved in our sufferings. We need those who will encourage us, strengthen us, and at times tell us what we need to hear even more than what we want to hear. These relationships will serve to strengthen us in our times of need. When we let suffering strengthen our faith and love then we show ourselves worthy of the judgement to come; worthy of being judged fitting for the Kingdom of God.