1 Thessalonians 3:7-13: Faith
July 14, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
What are we to be grateful for and what are we to pray for? At one level, the answer to those questions seems simple. I’m to be grateful when anything good happens, and I should pray for things that are good to keep on happening. But actually it is more complicated than that because what is “good,” how do we define it, and in what ways we are to be grateful for it and to pray for it? Philosophers over the centuries have tried to define the “Summum Bonum” (the highest good). What is it that Paul gives thanks for, and what is it that he prays for, and how can we learn from his example?
First, he gives thanks for the Thessalonians’ faith. That is what he is most encouraged by. He is in distress. He is in difficulty. There is emotional pressure and opposition and internal turmoil. There is a lot going on that makes Paul feel bad. And, what is more, he is also being persecuted. There are actual physical dangers that he faces. So: what do you give thanks for in that kind of intense situation? That you are still alive? That things could be worse? That you are still surviving?
What Paul is grateful for is the faith of other Christians. That is what he gives thanks for; that is what encourages him. Why? Because if other Christians have faith, then they are going to stand firm in the Lord. And if they are standing firm in the Lord, then he has great joy in the presence of God. This is his goal, his objective, his ambition: that people would come to faith in Jesus, stand firm in that faith, and if they do, he has great joy in the presence of God. Think of it; focus upon it. The faith through which we can receive the blessings of God. And when you see other Christians standing firm by faith, rejoice! God is at work. You may be in distress. You may be facing persecution and difficulties. But there is someone who you have helped and given the gospel to and they are standing firm by faith. What a matter about which to rejoice! Savor that in the midst of your trials: the way God has used you to cause other Christians to have faith and to stand firm by faith!
Second, then Paul prays that he may provide what is still lacking in their faith. Yes, they have faith. That is good. It is a matter of rejoicing! But they still lack much. And so “night and day” he prays that he may be able to see them again and provide what is still lacking in their faith. There are things they do not understand. There are parts of the message of the Bible they do not grasp. They still need to be trained more about what it means to trust God. And so Paul prays that he might see them again so that he can provide them what is lacking in their faith. So he prays that God would clear the way for him to be able to come to them again. And then he prays for those parts of their faith that, presumably, still need strengthening. He prays that their love would grow and increase. He prays that their hearts would be strengthened, so that they will be blameless when Jesus returns. He wants them to grow in love and in holiness, with an eye to the coming return of Jesus. All in all, he wants to supply what is still lacking in their faith, that is increasing love and increasing holiness.
Would you take a moment now to give thanks for the faith of other Christians? Perhaps Christians who are being persecuted around the world. Most particularly, people that you have helped come to faith in the first place. And would you also pray for those people to grow in their faith, in love and in holiness. In short, give thanks for faith and pray for faith to abound.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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