This week, I am meditating on Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonian church. I believe this is most appropriate in light of our current 2020 struggles, for in this letter, Paul writes to Christians wrestling with questions like:
- What about all the wars, natural disasters, and viruses?
- What about all sin, strife, violence, injustice, and persecution?
- Are we in the end times?
- What are we to make of the “prophets” and their “words of knowledge?”
- Is the antichrist already walking about?
- Has the Lord already come; have we missed him and been left behind?
- Who’s really winning, and what’s going on?
This week my plan is to work through the first two chapters of 2 Thessalonians. Then, I am praying on Sunday, the Holy Spirit might allow me to greatly encourage you with the mid-letter benediction of Paul found in 2:16-17. Here is the planned track:
- Monday, September 21, (2 Thessalonians 1:1-4)
- Tuesday, September 22, (2 Thessalonians 1:5-12)
- Wednesday, September 23, (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2)
- Thursday, September 24, (2 Thessalonians 2:3-7)
- Friday, September, 25, (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12)
- Saturday, September 26, (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15)
- Sunday, September 27, (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)
So, for today, allow me to introduce encourage you with the truth found in Paul’s greeting and opening words of thanksgiving. (1:1-4)
Paul preached in Thessalonica. There, the hand of the Lord could not be stopped. People came to know the Savior, and they began the process of growing in knowledge, affection, character, and conduct. Paul did not stay in Thessalonica long; he was called by the Spirit to travel on and share Christ elsewhere. Therefore, he left Timothy and Silas behind to shepherd this new flock. Some time later, Paul was visited by Timothy and Silas (Silvanus). At that meeting, the Apostle was thrilled by the report they gave; the Lord had done and was doing great things. Therefore, Paul put pen to paper and wrote encouraging words to his Christian brothers and sisters:
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4 Paul, 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 our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
Paul rejoiced over God’s working in their life. Specifically, he gave thanks for five characteristics:
- They were recipients of God’s grace.
- They were recipients of God’s peace.
- God was gracing them with growing faith.
- God was gracing them with increasing love.
- God was gracing them with steadfast endurance despite persecutions and afflictions.
Then, Paul boasted of God’s grace to them and with them.
- To God, Paul made much of God’s gracious work.
- To other believers, Paul made much of God’s gracious work
- To the Thessalonians, Paul made much of God’s gracious work.
Friends, today, have we given thanks to God for all his benefits? Have we slowed down and taken the time to “count our many blessings and name them one by one?” Paul will help us.
God has given us amazing grace. He has written down all our transgressions in his book of justice. He has declared us guilty of idolatry and blasphemy. He has pronounced our sentence – immediate excommunication and future hell. Then he has taken our sentence, and placed it on Christ. He has damned his beloved Son for our transgressions. Then he burned the book, threw the ashes into the Sea of Forgetfulness, and refused to remember our sins ever again. In addition, he gave us the righteous credit of his obedient Son. This is our state today, not because of our good works. No, this is our state today because of Christ’s good works placed on our account. All we get is grace. All we will ever get is grace. For us, everything is grace. Have we given thanks or “said grace” today?
Because we are reconciled by grace, we get to enjoy peace. Though he hates and damns sin, he never hates and damns us. Every day is a sabbath for us. Shalom is one of his gracious rewards. We are not at enmity with God, and he certainly is not with us. And today, as we spend time in prayer with him, we can find ourselves freed from our addiction to anxiety. He promises to keep our minds in perfect peace as they are rightly fixed on him. In addition, there is also a special bond of peace to be enjoyed by brothers and sisters in Christ. However, this earthly peace, it is by no means as good as it gets; there is a greater peace over the horizon. A renewed planet will be ours, and we who dwell in that heavenly existence will “pass the peace” to one another each and every day. Friends, have we spoken to the Prince of Peace today and thanked him for his peace that “passes all understanding?”
Have we proclaimed our gratitude for our growing faith? Our faith is not our own doing, it is the gift of God. You see, it is very easy for mankind to disbelieve God. In our natural condition, we continually receive God’s revelation, suppress it, substitute it with intellectual rubbish we prefer, and suffer the consequences. We read God’s Word; we hear God’s Word; we understand some of what it says; we disbelieve; and we are dull. However, our merciful and gracious God has chosen to not leave us be. He grants to us repentance and faith. His Holy Spirit does his work in our hearts, and we find ourselves freshly struck by his Law, impacted by his Gospel, and eagerly willing to bow the knee, kiss the Son, proclaim our faith, and mine his Word for timeless wisdom. Friends, why do we believe? Why are we convinced of the truth of God’s Law, God’s hell, God’s Son, God’s atonement, God’s free offer, and God’s beauty? Why have we responded when so many others have laughed? It is because we have been given the gift of faith. And following our conversion, the Spirit grooms and matures our childlike faith. Today, though we still struggle with doubt and disbelief, God continues to fertilize our faith and watch it grow. Yes, friends, let us rejoice in our measure of faith, and let us rejoice that it is still maturing.
Let us thank our God for the gift of ever-increasing love. It is natural for us to love ourselves most and harm anyone who gets in the way of our own self-exaltation. This hardly needs to be proven. However, God has shown his love for us, and he continues to show his love for us by helping us love him and others more. He is pouring love into our hearts. He is fruiting us with his agape affection and action. This is totally against our fallen DNA; it is evidence of our new birth and his Spirit’s presence. O Christian, let us thank the Father, Son, and Spirit for divine love expressed:
- To us … In eternity past
- To us … At Calvary
- In us … In our conversion
- In us … In our growing worship and affection for him
- Through us … Towards our family of faith
- Through us … Towards our neighbors and enemies
Yes, the Spirit is allowing us to practice what we have received. The image of the Son is showing itself from the inside out. This love is the gift of God; let’s give thanks!
Then, let us give thanks for the grace of steadfast endurance. Friends this is the steadfastness of Jesus towards us. He perseveres in his love for us and preserves the relationship. Consequently, we find ourselves persevering with him and preserving the relationship as well. Because he loves us; he will not let us go. Because he loves us; he causes us to not want to go permanently; he causes us to always come home. Wayward believers, it is so good to know Jesus has died for all our sins, including those of fear, timidity, cowardice, rebellion, and lack of perseverance. It is fantastic to see him like Hosea calling us back into his loving embrace and house of gladness. Friends, consider our blessed condition. Though we have been unfaithful prodigals, he has been faithful. He has been steadfast in his commitment to us, and he keeps us steadfast in our commitment to him. Because he preserves, we persevere. This too is a gift of God, and in response we must give thanks.
Now beloved of God, let us go and spend some time meditating upon these truths. Let’s be grateful worshipers giving thanks to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And then, let us talk, write, or text some other brothers and sisters in Christ. Like Paul, let’s boast of God’s grace in a way that encourages fellow worshipers in their walk. Let’s help one another see the good work of the Spirit in our lives. Let’s give God all the glory, but do it in a way that excites the affection of sinful saints who need to be reminded of God’s glorious and sanctifying grace towards them.