In 2 Thessalonians 1:4, Paul commended the church for their patience and endurance. They refused to surrender or give up in the face of trials. The church was continually being persecuted, and they faced trial after trial, yet they still stood tall.
Thank God for Christians who have had to endure tribulations, yet are still standing strong. God’s people experienced the fear of uncertainty, the pain of division, the sting of death, economic downturns, swings in membership and transitions in leadership. We have been troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed. Through it all, the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, we are still faithful to Christ and His church. And for that we say, “Thank you Lord.”
Paul tells the church in Thessalonica that he can boast about them to others because of their faith, love, and endurance. Churches can be known for a lot of things and do a lot of good works. But what we do is not as important as who we are. People will visit the church because of the history. They will attend because of the leadership. They will participate in activities because of the ministries. They may place their membership because of the preaching. But they will remain connected because we are a people of faith, a people of love and a people of perseverance. They will stay because we are a church of which God is proud.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul commends that church for their love. He emphasizes both the individual and congregational dimensions of love. The love that every individual member of the entire congregation had for each other was increasing. And as a church, they had more and more love for each other.
How beautiful it is to be a people known for the love that each one of us has for each and every one of us. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (NASB). The thing that lets the world know that we belong to Christ is our love. When people come among us, they should experience the love of Christ.
People know that we love each other by the care we show for one another. When people outside of the church hear us encouraging one another and lifting up each other instead of gossiping and back-biting, they will know we love one another. Our love will lead others to speak well of Christ and His church.
So how does a church grow in love for one another? It starts with each member loving God above all else. We love others out of our love for God. The love that we have for God empowers us to love others.
We also grow in love as we get to know one another. Our knowledge of others brings us closer to them and allows us to dispel any myths or preconceived notions that we have.
Fellowship guards against us looking at the cover thinking that we can accurately determine whether or not we like the book.
We grow in love by experiencing life together. There are some people that we love because we have been through some things together, both good and bad. As a church we weep together and we rejoice together. When we are there for one another through sickness, death of loved ones, operations, births, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, and everyday life, we grow in love.
But none of this happens unless we are willing to grow in love by taking the risk of being hurt. In order to love others, we have to allow ourselves to be open to the possibility of being hurt. When we share life together we are arming one another with the tools to hurt each other, but trusting each other not to use those tools against one another. We praise God for people who love us enough to have our back and not stab us in the back. I’m glad to be a part of a church that is increasing in love.
So often in life and in the church, we focus on what’s wrong. It is easy to find fault and knit-pick. It is easy to talk about what a person is not, what a job is not, what a church is not. Sad is the man or woman whose time and energy is consumed with what isn’t because they never get to enjoy what is. Nor do they come to the realization of what something or someone has the potential to become.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, Paul starts off this letter commending the saints for being a church to be proud of. He mentioned three characteristics of the church at Thessalonica that made them a special people. I believe that these are three characteristics that are evident in the church and are likely evident in your life.
First of all Paul commends the Thessalonian saints for their faith. In 1 Thessalonians Paul is concerned about the faith of the saints. In 2 Thessalonians, the saints had made some progress in their faith. They were growing in their faith by leaps and bounds.
After another year of living and receiving the Word through preaching and teaching, your faith is at a better place and deeper level place now than it was in January 2016. It’s not that you have finished growing. But rather it is that your faith has grown and is continuing to grow. This change on the inside is noticeable from the outside.
Worries and fears that used to keep you up at night don’t keep you awake anymore because you have given God the night watch since He is going to be up anyway. As a result your health improved.
Your growth in faith may be evident by your giving. You started giving more to the Lord last year. You gave to God first and He proved time and time again that He will supply your needs according to His riches!
Maybe you made the commitment that you are going to stop living life your way. Your way was getting you nothing but pain, trouble and guilt. Since you have been living God’s way, you are happier and blessed.
When people see our faith, it encourages them to keep on striving. Your co-workers and family members notice it and ask you to pray for them. People begin to ask how you can be so strong. That is your opportunity to share your testimony about Jesus. Thank God that our faith continually grows abundantly.
Next week we will share how we have grown in the Lord through our love.
Life is unpredictable. No matter how many 5 year plans you come up with. No matter how many New Year’s resolutions you make. No matter how many vision boards you do, life typically doesn’t turn out how you thought it would. Although life is unpredictable, your life goes according to plan. It’s just not your plan. Proverbs 19:21 states: Many plans are in a man's heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand (NASB).
We have to be comfortable knowing that life won’t always go according to our plan, but even so, it is going according to God’s plan. “Many plans” suggests that there is a restlessness in our hearts. We get idea ADHD. There are a lot of options and paths. There are a lot of things that we can do or want to do. We want to dibble in this and dabble in that. It’s like a kid who has a new profession every week.
In the midst of all of our plans, we must seek the Lord’s purpose. The planning that we do can help position us in the right neighborhood. But God puts you on the right street and at the right house. God has a destination in mind for you. God will get you there, the question is, “How many detours and dead ends will you have to encounter to get to the place where God wants you?”
Prov. 15:22 states, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated.” When we make plans frustration can happen at least three ways. Our plan don’t turn out the way we wanted them to. Our plan comes to pass, but we don’t feel the fulfillment you expected. An undesired, unexpected event occurs that is in conflict with what we wanted or planned. If you want to avoid frustration, check with God before you try to implement your plan. Isaiah 14:27 reveals that no one can frustrate the plans of God. So if you have a plan and God has a plan, if those plans are different, then frustration is waiting on you. But when your plan is God’s plan, then your path will be established and what has been planned will come to pass!
Minister Ross' creativity, wisdom, and insight have inspired community, church and corporate audiences throughout the United States.