There is no doubt the last couple years have been in disarray. Mainly because of the Coronavirus. One of, if not the fastest, spreading viruses that has existed in the modern era. Since its unveiling, the world has shut down, economies have crashed, people have died and overall the world has changed. All because of one rapidly spreading disease.
I realized something today as I read the passage for today, 2 Thessalonians 3, if something so negative could change the world so much, why couldn’t something good change it even more. The first verse of 2 Thessalonians 3 reads, “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;”
Now you may see where I am going with this illustration. If a disease can be so impactful why would the Gospel not be even more impactful? Since Jesus was revealed to us by God as the Messiah, the world has changed but for the better, and people are finding more life than ever with his message. We have an opportunity to spread the Gospel, and I know that it is way more beneficial to the world than some dumb virus. With the power of God I hope that you will remember to spread the word just as fast if not even faster than any disease that exists. It is ultimately the Gospel that wins in the end.
Even the great evangelistic missionary Paul asked for prayers in spreading the gospel. Who will you ask to be praying for your efforts to spread the gospel? Who will you be praying for?
What value do you put on the gospel message?
What other instructions did Paul leave with the Thessalonians in this chapter?What were they to do with believers who did not follow these directions?
This chapter comes with some very big warnings. From the very beginning of the chapter to the very end, it is full of warnings not to be deceived. If this was such a big problem 2000 years ago, how much bigger is it now? We need to heed all of these warnings because just like the Thessalonians, we also have others trying to deceive us in every step of our lives.
To be able to keep from being deceived, we must first know the truth. In John 8:31-32, Jesus says, ‘“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”’ According to these verses, the very first thing we need to do to keep ourselves from being deceived is to hold to Jesus’ teaching. To do this, we need to first know what Jesus taught and to obey it. When we hold to the teachings of Jesus, we are really his disciples. Then, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul writes that the Thessalonians were “saved… through belief in the truth.” The Thessalonians not only knew the truth, they also believed it. For this reason, they were saved. We also can be saved when we know the truth and choose to believe in it. But, if you choose not to believe in the truth, there are serious consequences.
In verse 13, Paul writes, “[S]o that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” It is a matter of life or death, whether or not you believe in the truth. If you believe in the truth, you can be saved and have eternal life in the kingdom. If you do not believe in the truth, however, you will be condemned and will perish.
Verse 15 says, “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.” Paul has told us what our choices are. The choice to believe in the truth or to not believe in it. He urges us, then, to stand firm and hold fast to the teachings. When we hold fast to the teachings, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. It’s not a trivial decision! It is life or death, so choose the truth!
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
How can you be sure you are not being deceived?
How are you following Jesus’ teachings, not the pastor or creeds or traditions, but following Jesus’ teachings?
In a small school, the teachers seem to know who most people are, whether it is because of their achievements or their families. At the beginning of each new school year, they try to figure out if they know you. However, for them to know who you are, somebody else has had to tell them about you, and whatever they’ve been told is the reputation that you start with, in that class. It’s great if they had positive things to say about you, but for those who didn’t have great things said about them, it can hurt.
Verse 4 of 2 Thessalonians 1 says, “Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” Paul is telling the Thessalonians that he tells all the other believers about their great faith. It is one thing for Paul to go tell the Thessalonians that they are doing really well as they stand firm in their faith, but it is a whole other thing when he goes to tell everyone else about it.
Is your faith so evident that people talk about it with others? The Thessalonians had faith like that and we should too. The Thessalonians’ faith was strong enough that the other believers were talking about it among themselves, but what’s even more important is that those who aren’t believers notice our faith. We need to work to be that light in other people’s lives that they might talk about and wonder about it.
Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” We need to make sure that when we do try to make our faith evident, it isn’t so that we are praised for it. We need to make sure that God is the one who is getting all the glory for our faith while we try to be a light to others. When we do this, we will have a reputation that goes before us, just like many students do in a small school, that will bring glory to God.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
Who do you know who is known for a growing faith and love and perseverance in the midst of trials and persecution? Thank God for them. And, like Paul, you can also tell them that you thank God for them.
What do you think your fellow employees or classmates or teachers at church or school would say about you? What do you think your neighbors would say about you? What do you think the cashier would say about you? Are they right? How did you get this reputation?
What is Paul’s main point in the rest of 2 Thessalonians (verses 5-12)?
Today in Isaiah 37 we see a glimpse of Hezekiah’s prayer life and the boldness he has when asking God for deliverance. This boldness is not in an outward appearance…when Hezekiah hears the King of Assyria’s threats he rips his clothes and wears sackcloth, both common practices for those who are mourning or in a vulnerable state. While he seems unsure, Hezekiah is still willing to ask God for deliverance from this threat, even though we do not hear much regarding his faithfulness or attitude towards God until this time. In my opinion, this makes his request even more bold because he seems to lack relationship with God! And yet, we see a prayer for his city to be saved for the purpose that they know God is LORD (v.20), and God delivers! God sends an angel to strike down the Assyrians and scares away the king (v. 36). While the appearance of Hezekiah almost seems cowardly to human eyes, God saw Hezekiah’s humility and his acknowledgement of the one true God and rewards him for that!
In chapter 38 we see Hezekiah again boldly ask for healing from God. This bold request for healing shows Hezekiah has confidence in God’s power and knows God can do amazing things. It’s easy to think, “If I had experienced an answered prayer like Hezekiah I would always pray boldly!”, however, we experience answered prayers daily, but I know I am constantly reminding myself to pray boldly with the concerns I have! Maybe it’s just me, but when I get caught up in the brokenness of the world it doesn’t always come as my first instinct to offer up a prayer. Sometimes I may first try to find a solution on my own, other times I may just ignore the problem, or maybe I just sit in the problem! Although it may seem unlikely, Hezekiah can be a great example of how to pray boldly and have complete trust in God’s power to answer those bold requests.
When we look at our passage in 2 Thessalonians, we see Paul’s encouragement to bold and consistent prayer. In this chapter, Paul is specifically requesting prayer from the church to guard against the evil one and for the gospel to be spread and honored (v. 1 – 3). Paul also asks and reminds the church to pray for them to have strength to carry on in good things such as spreading the gospel and working hard to provide for immediate needs. These requests may not seem as bold as asking God to destroy an army, but I do find them much more relevant to our lives today, and still just as difficult to remember to pray for! Spreading the gospel is an easy thing to say, but doing so truly does require great effort, dedication, and strength. Asking for help in this is certainly a bold task, mainly because if you ask God to help you spread the gospel, He is going to put you in places to practice that! Paul writes “Do not grow weary in doing good” (v. 13), which tells me to expect that doing good will be wearisome. In this letter we can see the benefit in not only praying bold requests for ourselves, but also praying boldly to encourage our brothers and sisters.
You may not know, but the Church of God has over 600 fellowships of believers outside of the United States. We have a LOT of brothers and sisters in Christ that can constantly use our prayers for strength, encouragement, and deliverance. If you are interested in knowing more about our fellow believers, I encourage you to go to https://lhicog.com/ to learn more about what bold prayers you can bring to God on their behalf!
One thought I had (and maybe you did too) during today’s reading was ‘What about when prayers aren’t answered?’ I prayed about this thought, and here is what I felt based on our reading for today: We must faithfully know that God’s purpose is greater than our own. I do not believe there are UNanswered prayers, but rather prayers that have an answer yet to come or an answer we do not want to hear. There are other stories in the Bible where bold prayers are not answered the way that people want or when they want… I think of David and Bathsheba’s son dying after David prayed and fasted, Hannah diligently praying for her future son to be born, or Jesus himself who prayed to not have to go through the horrible crucifixion process! We may not be able to comprehend the purpose God has, but we are always invited to pray with boldness and faith. We are also invited to pray for “peace in every way” (v. 16) for ourselves and our fellow believers when the prayers don’t result in what we want or when we want them. I look forward to a day when we will never have to bring another bold request to God because we will be living in a perfect Kingdom where all believers can constantly rejoice in God’s holy presence and perfection! Until that day, let’s continue to boldly pray and praise our amazing YHWH.
Hello again! Thanks for joining me for another day!
Isaiah 35 depicts a joyful return of the redeemed of the LORD. There is singing, gladness, no sorrow, and healing (v. 5-10). What an incredible celebration to be part of! I certainly am looking forward to our day of celebration with God. Unlike this celebration, ours will be one that lasts forever and ever, and never has the possibility for someone else to come and bring us back to a broken place. No one to come and scare the righteous and try to deceive them!
In Isaiah 36 the king of Assyria tries to overtake Judah and Jerusalem. Interestingly, the king here is not only using physical tactics to try and capture the cities, but he is also using some mind-game strategies to create doubt in the people and offer a false hope in his own strength. The king tries to convince the people that by surrendering to him they will have security and a new, prosperous land (v. 16-17). He uses the language the people are familiar with and attacks the character of their current leader who follows YHWH. He creates doubt in God’s promises that are not immediately present and begins to offer the easy way out of the situation with empty promises of independent success, security, and familiarity. We see these same types of empty promises coming from politicians, employers, and even our own friends or families at times today. While they may not be empty in what is being offered, they will never satisfy whatever our wants or needs are as they are not promises from God. I believe that Satan consistently tries to use different tactics to pull us away from God and His promises, and people surrounding us can be lead astray on empty promises of what will make them happy, secure, or comfortable.
Throughout the Bible we see a common theme is a warning not to fall for the deception of the current age, to not fall for empty and unsatisfying promises offered by man. This is because no matter what time period, the only promises that will ever fill someone up are those that come directly from God!
Our passage in 2 Thessalonians discusses deception from the ‘lawless one’ who is coming with false miracles, signs, and wonders set out to deceive all those who do not accept the truth (v. 9 – 10). Paul is writing to a church that seems to already be doing a good job of continuing to follow God’s promises despite attempts at deception. He is writing to encourage them to STAND FIRM in what they already know (v. 15). We can know that the promise that Paul writes about (the coming of Jesus) is not one that is empty because he does not write it with the purpose of his own gain, or the purpose of leading us astray from what Jesus himself preached! In general, this is a pretty good standard to judge promises made by others… does it match with what Jesus said? When we use this standard to gauge the reliability of promises we are guaranteed to experience less disappointment and confusion!
I pray over you today and this week that “Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope by grace, encourages your hearts and strengthens you in every good work and word” (v. 16 – 17). Life is hard, full of empty promises, deception, and brokenness. Praise God we have grace and an everlasting promise that is still coming!
1 Thessalonians 1:3 – We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Work Produced by Faith
Faith is defined as having a firm belief, complete trust and confidence in something. As a Believer, our faith is determined by the extent of which we believe that God is who He says He is and that His son, Jesus the Messiah, was born of a woman, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the redemption of your sins, was raised to life, is currently sitting on a throne next to his Father, waiting to return again to reign in the Kingdom. IF you and I believe all of that – then our day to day life will be a compilation of evidence of acts done in faith and by faith.
James makes the claim in the third chapter of his letter “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (James 1:1) that “in the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (3:17). And in verse 26 of the same chapter, James writes, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”.
The Thessalonians didn’t just accept the gospel message, they acted on it. Jesus was both their Savior and their Lord, meaning that they were obedient to the call on their lives. They were doing the work that God had prepared in advance for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). Likewise, when we accept the gospel message for ourselves, we have to respond. Jesus tells us in the book of Luke that we must take up our cross (do the work) and follow him (9:23).
Labor Prompted by Love
Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”. Have you ever wondered why these four domains are identified? Have you ever loved someone so much that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t do for them? You sacrifice all that you have in order to serve them, sacrifice for them, and labor for them. In the following verse, we’re told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Sacrificing ourselves for family members and close friends is one thing…serving and laboring for others beyond our closest relationships is quite another.
This is why we’re told to love with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength – because it’s not easy. Sometimes loving another is labor. It’s hard work. It’s humbling ourselves by putting our own desires off to the side in order to honor others. But it’s what we are called to do. And it is possible if we lean into the strength that is provided through our faith in Christ.
Endurance Inspired by Hope
One of my favorite types of exercise is a 20 minutes HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout. I like it because I don’t have to do it everyday, it’s quick, and efficient. And I get to rest for almost half of the time during the “down” intervals. If I were ever called upon to do something that took longer than 20 minutes, I would be gassed! I do not have the endurance for it. And I have no enthusiasm to train for it!
Walking out your faith knee deep in “works produced by faith” and “labor promoted by love” is not for the faint of heart! It’s not a one time deal. And unlike my HIIT workouts, it’s an all-day, everyday kind of commitment – for a lifetime! This requires an endurance that cannot be faked nor manufactured. The only source for the necessary fuel to keep this faith-centered life going is HOPE. A hope that has a foundation on the love God has for us. When we stay zeroed in to that – we are able to dig deep and and go the distance. As Paul says in his second letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. We can have a FULL life that gives us the endurance needed to do the good works.
The Christian life is not for the wimpy. In this single verse out of 1 Thessalonians, we are told that we must work, labor, and endure. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t seem very comfy. It’s not a life of luxury and indulgence. The ONLY way that we will be able to sustain this day to day living is doing so out of Faith, Love, and Hope. May these virtues fill your heart today.
Family Camp is now over. What a powerful week! Six people were baptized over four evenings at Camp. Many were baptized before camp and my grand niece and others will be baptized after camp. These campers are prepared to shine!
Application: In 2 Thessalonians 2, verse 3 & 4, the great man of sin rises. The world is becoming darker and more accepting of him when he comes. Let your bring light shine to overcome this darkness! Attend camp, FUEL, church and all things spiritual to be the light God has called you to be!
Christians are called to live a life glorifying to God. Sometimes, Christians assume that the Christian life is going to be easy. This idea is very incorrect because 2 Thessalonians chapter 1 clearly speaks of how Paul, Silvanus and Timothy endured hardships during their walk with God. They endured persecution for the cause of Christ.
Application: Don’t expect the Christian life to be easy, and painless. God will allow trials and hardships to occur to test our faith and dependence on God.
What does it mean to suffer? By Webster’s definition, it is, “To submit to or be forced to endure.” In chapter 1 verse 5 we find that Paul speaking about how the Thessalonians are suffering. They don’t appear to be suffering from hunger, thirst or illness but instead, Paul says they are suffering for The Kingdom of God. They are suffering persecution for their faith and because they have chosen to commit themselves to endure suffering they are commended for their great faith and perseverance.
Sadly until God’s Kingdom is established we, as Christians, will suffer persecution. Chapter 2 even discusses that the Kingdom will not come until after a period of suffering where a “man of lawlessness” will “display himself as being God” (vs.4). This will be a dark time for all Christians and whether or not we witness this event we must always encourage each other. If we spread love and encouragement to one another in our current sufferings it will continue to ripple through to generations in times to come.
Remember that no matter what comes, you were created and loved by the God who created the entire universe. It is He who can give you the peace, wisdom, and strength you need to endure the suffering you are faced with every day. The suffering is only temporary, the outcome is the eternal gift of God’s Kingdom where there will be no suffering ever again.