At this point in our study of 1 Thessalonians, we know Paul has been alone for a long time. He only got to spend about three weeks with the church he established in Thessalonica — so he sent Timothy back to find out how his brothers and sisters were doing in their faith. And when Timothy brought back an encouraging report — that the Thessalonian church was strong and vibrant — Paul was very excited.
That’s what’s on Paul’s mind and heart in verse 6 of chapter 3 when he shares how much he longs to be with them in person. And isn’t that something all of us at Calvary Chapel Living Hope can relate to? The coronavirus has socially distanced and separated us physically — and indeed we all long to be together again.
And why is that? Well, Paul answers that in verse 7: “for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.” For Paul — and for us, too — it’s not merely that we miss an emotional connection in friendship after not being together in person for so long; even more it’s being able to experience each other’s faith up close and personal because that actually comforts us! Learning more about each other’s faith stories inspires and spurs us on to greater heights of our own faith.
In verse 8, Paul writes, “For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.” To live — that’s our vitality and empowerment. Knowing that someone else is growing in their faith or that someone has come to know Jesus — how exciting! Knowing that God is at work in others’ lives inspires us and helps us to flourish in our own faith
Can you tell Paul is pretty much overflowing with joy right about here in his letter? So much so that in verse 9 he asks his Thessalonian church what thanksgiving he and his companions can return to God for having the privilege of witnessing the faith they’ve grown in! But that’s not all — he also reveals an important truth, revealing to his readers that part of their being together also will include Paul and his companions supplying what is lacking in the Thessalonians’ faith. (Can you imagine being visited by Paul and him supplying what is lacking in your faith? How amazing is that prospect?)
But of course, it’s a mutual thing. And Paul already acknowledges that the Thessalonians — so very young in their faith — have nevertheless helped him grown in his faith! (Can you imagine Paul confessing to you that your growing faith has inspired his own faith? Can you see a pattern here?) Indeed, that principle applies to us at Calvary Chapel Living Hope, too.
As we come to verse 11 Paul prays, “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you.” I think we can apply such a prayer to our own situation — that when it’s time for us to resume gathering together in person as a body of believers, it will be through the power of the Lord that it comes to pass. And not through the power of earthly authorities. In fact, if perhaps we’re doubting that elected officials will never change their way of thinking — just watch and wait: God has more than enough power to change the minds of mayors, governors, and presidents!
Verse 12 reveals the idea of being in the state of “abounding in love.” Now if you were to picture what that might look like, consider a “love tank” that’s so full it begins overflowing. Can you imagine? Love pouring out everywhere like a flood. And you know what happens during a flood: Water invades every space we can think of, and even nooks and crannies we forgot existed — or never knew existed! On earth such a force of nature is a disaster for sure — but spiritually speaking, an overflowing tank of love filled by God is a cause for celebration!
That’s what Paul is talking about in verse 13: “so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”
When we’ve experienced this kind of love from God, it develops and increases our holiness. And what do we mean by that? No, holiness isn’t about following a list of rules. It’s about living our lives demonstrating the love God has given us. And how do we do that?
Well, in the second-ever book Paul composed — his letter to the Galatians — he talks about that. Holiness, in fact, leads to more of nine awesome things. Namely, to more love, more joy, more peace, more patience, more kindness, more goodness, more faithfulness, more gentleness, and more self-control. When we’re in that state, we’re in a very exciting place of being finely in tune with the Holy Spirit, letting him guide and direct us — even if that means just sitting in God’s presence and letting him fill us.
May we all strive to this point in our spiritual lives. Because that will unlock the door on the path toward even greater things happening in our walks with the Lord.