Paul had established the church in Thessalonica a couple of years earlier and wrote this letter to be delivered by Timothy in order to provide hope in the midst of persecution and to provide clarity concerning the Second Coming of Christ. A question was arising – what happens to Christians who die before Christ’s return?
Key Verses: (NIV)
9: “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?” – Paul, successful in establishing this church, thanks God for the joy he feels because of the work God is doing through the Thessalonians.
10: “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.” – Paul had not spent much time with the Thessalonians when he had first established the church. He prayed fervently that God would allow him the opportunity to reconnect with these people and provide them the additional training they needed for being Christians.
12: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” – Paul is teaching and modeling the importance of love within a Christian community.
13: “May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.” – Referring to the process of sanctification, Paul stresses the importance of focusing on God and the preparation of holiness within our lives while waiting for Christ’s return.
Points to Contemplate:
Are you satisfied with how God is using you? Do you grow impatient?
Paul sensed an uneasiness and impatience in the Thessalonian church that things were not happening as quickly as they had hoped. Do you recognize the joy that others experience because of your faithfulness? Do you rejoice in the little victories and the moments of holiness? Or do you allow the trials, tribulations, frustrations and feelings of impatience dominate? Can you accept that the things God is asking you to do in your life mesh beautifully into His overall plan? That His plan is good and that you are playing an important role? Can you rejoice in this?
Do you pray fervently “night and day?” When you read the letters from Paul, do you catch these little phrases that are designed to model, for you, a pathway to holiness? When an issue is troubling you, do you go to God in prayer unceasingly? Do you awake in the morning with a prayer on your heart? Do you give pause in the middle of your busy day to give Him your love? Is His presence always foremost in your mind? Do you read the Bible, Christian literature, and magazine articles that could provide you with inspiration and answers? Do you journalize your prayer needs, keeping track of how God is answering your prayers? Do you kiss Him good night and thank Him for all His blessings as you lay down to the rest He has prepared for you each night?
Does your “love increase and overflow?” In First Corinthians, Paul has written that love is the greatest characteristic of a Christian. Jesus taught us the Great Commandments: to love God and to love one another. Is your love growing? Is learning to love one another a pathway towards holiness? Or do we grow to love because we have become more holy? Can love be used as a measuring stick for your faith development? Do you pray fervently that God will help you to love more fully? That He will erase the darkness in your heart that keeps you from loving others?
Are you filled with worry and anxiety about the future? Do you wonder if Christ will return? Do you fret about God and if His kingdom will ever come? Paul advised against such worry and, instead, suggested that you should pray for God to “strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy.” Do you ask God to fill you with hope? Do you have faith in the future that He has in mind? Can this faith and hope that He instills in your heart strengthen you for the difficult times you face in your life? Can you release your worry into His hands and receive His Peace in exchange? Promises of the Gospel:
Doris Day advised us in the 1950s that we should not worry about the future: “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.” In general, however, as a society, we have grown hardened to such idealistic thinking. We laugh about the simplistic the-sun-will-come-out-tomorrow view of the world. Or, we chastise the concept as being naïve and immature. We are more sophisticated than that now. We have broader intellectual capabilities. We can fix things. We can make things happen. Paul doesn’t argue against action but he does suggest that our hope for a brighter tomorrow lies in our ability to love. When the storm clouds of life gather, if any hope is to be found, it will be found in the promises that God is eternally faithful and the future He has in store is bright.
For this first week in Advent, we light the Candle of Promise.