We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first-fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts, and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
As for other matters brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. (NIV)
As with most sections of Holy Scripture, if we merely focus on this singular passage from the Bible and seek daily to live into its message, it is likely we would live a consistently rich and full spiritual life. As the Apostle Paul said to the Thessalonians, and indeed to us, standing firm and holding a solid grip on apostolic teaching will mean a daily life of loving words and actions.
Notice the many elements of this Scripture for us to spotlight for our spiritual lives: gratitude; salvation; sanctification; truth; spiritual calling; sharing in God’s glory; love; grace; hope; encouragement; prayer; faithfulness; perseverance; and, deliverance. We could even highlight just one of these words and, if seeking to do a deep dive with it, could spend unending days learning and living into its multi-faceted dimensions.
I want to pause here and do a bit of a check-in with you. How we approach this passage of Scripture, as well as any other verses which encourage us to hold onto sound teaching and living, will likely determine our level of joy, satisfaction, confidence, and success. It all begins with our view of self. If we come at the Christian life and Holy Scripture with a view of self as a mere tool or object for God’s use – then we are truly objectifying ourselves.
The key point of awareness to realizing whether we have such an objectifying view is if we continually “should” ourselves. The word “should,” brings self-hatred. We primarily see only shortcomings and original sin – and are blind to the majesty of being in God’s image. In such a view there is typically boat loads of shame for not living up to the ideal form of a devoted Christian. Belittling ourselves inwardly only transfers outwardly to looking down on others for their failures. Any exhortation from me or anybody else would be seen in this view as a demanding duty.
Instead, we can come to Scripture’s admonitions, encouragements, and exhortations with the glasses of grace. After all, our text for today says that God loved us and by his grace gave us this teaching. The dense amount of Christian living in such a few verses, when viewed through the lenses of grace, are merciful words communicating support. God wants to strengthen us with grace just because he loves us. God does not objectify us by seeing us as pawns in some twisted divine game for his own cosmic pleasure. Rather, God is looking to direct our hearts toward a delight in his love. Because it is only with love and grace that we can really persevere throughout our Christian lives.
Not everyone has faith, and that saddens the heart of God. It also puts us, at times, in awkward situations. Again, the love of God does not leave us alone. Divine love will strengthen and protect us. The Apostle Paul never wags his finger and levels the “should” on us like some uptight legalist. Paul expresses confidence, knowing that we most certainly have the capacity to live the will of God. The Scriptures are given to engender strengthening of faith and spiritual growth rather than self-hatred, which has a nasty tendency to come out sideways in a lack of compassion and grace toward others.
This letter was written by Paul to the church because they were finding it difficult to endure their hard circumstances. The Thessalonian Christians began longing for heaven to such a degree that they were losing their grip on living presently in the moment of now. This is part of the reason why Paul encouraged them to pray for him and his colleagues. The people needed to put some focus on the now of spreading the message of God’s grace.
To be rather frank, truth be told, the chief reason I write these daily reflections on Scripture is because I need God’s Word. Yes, I do write for the reader. I want to contribute to people’s growth in grace and I have a deep desire to make the message known. Yet, honestly, I write more for myself. This is a way for me to remind myself of God’s love and grace and utilize it every day.
When I hear Paul talking in biblical texts like these, I detect some of the same reason – Paul himself wants to continue growing in grace, and when writing to and for others he is very much writing to himself. The reading of the Bible and the dedication to living its message is meant to be life-giving, or rather, eternally life-giving.
So, today, I leave with this blessing:
May you take refuge in the wondrous grace of God, and all the little miracles of mercy which he bestows each day.
May you always be inclined to rush into God’s Holy Word and discover its life working within you.
May you imitate the flower as it opens to the day’s sunshine in receiving all that God has for you this day.
May you be in solidarity with brother stone, who sits in silence, calm and secure, and be excessively gentle with yourself.
May you wisely steer clear of those vexed in spirit with only God knows what; and, when in that space of others walking all over your boundaries, may your confidence surge and God’s protection deliver you.
May you return to the glory that is yourself, learning a new respect for your heart, and the joy that has always been there, given graciously to you by a God who has invited you to share in Jesus Christ.