“For what thanksgiving can we return to God, for all the joy we feel for your sake before our God.” (I Thessalonians 3:9)
“For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you…” (I Thessalonians 1:8). Wouldn’t this be a grand declaration, that God’s Word was the distinctive sound others heard when they came in contact with us. Imagine if this was our hallmark, our passion, and our appeal through our speech, our everyday interactions, and the occasions when we were called on to share something of ourselves. Suppose his Word merged with our conversations so others caught the sound of his truth and felt the power of his presence as we communicated with them throughout our day. What impact would that make in our world?
“But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts” (I Thessalonians 2:4). He has handed us the sacred trust of the gospel, the life-giving, death-conquering, faith-filled gospel. Similarly, he asks us to be unconcerned with the cumbersome task of pleasing people, to disengage from the relentless pursuit of measuring ourselves by others’ applause. Instead, the Lord desires that we be focused on pleasing him, finding ways to bring him delight, and living with the view that he is our primary audience. When he examines our hearts, what will he find there?
“For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed – God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others…”(I Thessalonians 2:5-6). To walk the way God desires, we must rid ourselves of the junk and nonsense that pollutes the rivers running through our souls. Foul flattery muddies the waters with its insincere praise meant to gain some measure for ourselves rather than benefit the listener. Greed with its monstrous jaws swallows the other person whole and carelessly spits them out again. Instead, let us shine the light on the Lord, not on ourselves. Let our words be sincere and true, marked by generosity and graciousness so the Lord is heard, seen, and felt through us.
“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (I Thessalonians 2:8). A part of pleasing the Lord is generosity in our spirits, a desire to give away ourselves, to love deeply and sincerely, to care, to back up our speech with compassion and kindness. What if we took time to invest our lives in others, to put aside our agendas and plans and cultivated friendships deep and rich that would eventually open the door to the gospel?
“For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (I Thessalonians 2:11-12). God is the standard, he does the calling, the kingdom belongs to him. He does not arbitrarily set up rules to trip us up or to make it impossible to please him.
“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father…” (I Thessalonians 3:13). Father, like Paul, we echo this cry. May our love for each other grow deeper and be evident in significant ways. May you continue your good work of purifying our hearts before you.
Elizabeth Karram Mitchell