1 Thes.1:6,7 – You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word during great affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
The Bible has a way of putting things together that we would never associate with each other. Phrases like “the lion and the lamb”, “my strength perfected in weakness”, and this one- “persecution with joy”. Joy and persecution seem about as distant from one another as the east is from the west. Paul was comforted by the church in Thessalonica when they were enduring persecution with joy. I am sure this church had heard all about that when Paul planted this church. Paul started the church in Thessalonica immediately after his stint in Philippi. Are you beginning to get the picture? Remember Paul had been beaten, put in stocks, and placed in prison for preaching in Philippi. What was Paul’s response? He responded by singing and rejoicing in the prison. The events that unfolded in that prison were instrumental in starting the great church in Philippi. Paul undoubtedly told the Thessalonicans this story, and now they too were being persecuted and experiencing that supernatural joy that went with it. Here is how Lenski describes this passage.
“These two, affliction and joy, go together, for they rejoiced to be like the Lord in affliction. Note that the Holy Spirit (again no article) again mentions this person who was mentioned in v. 5 and thus continues the thought of experiencing his power and the resulting great assurance. The important matter that Paul says about the Thessalonians is the fact that from the very start, when they first came to faith in the Word, they were beset with “much affliction” and that they endured it with divinely wrought joy. Although they were so young and untried in the faith, they bore persecution with joy.”
Persecution and pushback against Christ seems to be in the air again. The time for casual Christianity that seems to imitate the culture of the world is far past. The spirit of antichrist is working in our education system, the judicial system, the government, and especially in the media. Sin is no longer tolerated in our society; it is celebrated. Christians are no longer ignored; they are being targeted and cancelled. Whatever they had in the church in Thessalonica we need today. It’s time we had some Holy Ghost wine that fills us with joy so we don’t care about the noise the world is making. We must preach Christ with boldness and joy; anything else is a waste of time.