This past Sunday we completed our study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians — and it’s amazing to consider that when we began it months ago, we also commenced life with the rest of the world in dealing with the coronavirus and were unable for the first time to meet together as a body of believers.
Fittingly, however, 1 Thessalonians has provided us with many insights on how to deal with challenges — and is that not what we’ve all faced for the last several months, in one way or another?
On that note, here are the last two verses we’ll examine in detail from the very first book of the Bible the Apostle Paul ever wrote (chapter 5, verses 23 and 24): “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
Would you believe that God actually wants to give us rest and not more work or yet another list of things to do? That’s part of what the Lord means when Paul prays that God will sanctify us completely. In a way our heavenly Father wants us to take a kind of vacation so he can peel off — spiritually speaking — all the things that entangle us in this life.
So … how are you doing today? If you’re tired due to what our world has handed you lately, you’re not alone. There is weariness everywhere. But God really does want to give us rest — but he doesn’t mean the absence of conflict or challenges; rather the Lord means peace and strength and energy in the midst of difficulties.
Now here are a few other important points: Who do you imagine is doing the sanctifying in you? Well, of course God is behind it. The “God of peace,” in fact. And our passage says the Lord “will surely do it.” What a promise that is — one we can count on! But at the same time, it’s crucial to keep in mind that we also need to come to God in this process — not just be passive about it.
And the Scriptures also say that God will do the sanctifying in us “completely.” It’s fair to say that such a word means not just in our spirits and souls, but also in our bodies, minds, and emotions — through and through, truly rested holistically. But it’s no surprise that we would need such a reminder, as we tend to divide ourselves up into separate compartments: If we’re feeling physically ill, we see a doctor; if our minds or emotions are bothering us, we may see a counselor; and if we’re feeling spiritually out of sorts, we may visit a pastor for advice.
But God wants to be all of those things to us!
The Weary Test
As we came to the end of our study of 1 Thessalonians, we also took some extended time to examine chapter 5, verses 12 through 22 — a look at various characteristics that Christians share. Of course we’ve been through these points recently, so they already may be fresh in your mind; but here’s something to do right now: Read through this list, and ask yourself if you need work in any of these areas … and then ask God to guide you the rest of the way so you can actively move toward him. Let’s get started:
- Are you gaining as much as you can from the authorities in your life? (1 Thessalonians 5:12) Would you believe that in addition to what we owe to authorities, they in turn can give a lot to us? It’s true … so take advantage of that!
- Are you able to practice peace on a daily basis? (5:13) Remember that Jesus said to come to him, and he will give us rest. (Did you catch that? Getting rest from Jesus is an active process — we come to him; he doesn’t necessarily just toss rest upon us if we don’t ask for it!)
- Do you feel confident to help other people deal with their issues? (5:14) Relationships can be tiresome! But God wants us to do something to address those challenges — and perhaps that means when we give our patience to others, we will get it in return. Consider this another instrument to add to your relational toolbox.
- Are you pursuing goodness? (5:15) If we continue to harbor a justice mentality — or worse, repay evil for evil — we’re never going to be at peace in our lives. So, the next time you’re in traffic and someone cuts you off, why not give that driver the benefit of the doubt? In so doing, you can do away with anxiety and tension so you can be freed up to focus on doing good in Jesus’ name.
- Is your joy level high? (5:16) It’s important for us as believers to be able to see God’s joy — and it’s not close to the same thing as happiness. Joy can come to us in all situations; even during hardships. Ask the Lord to help you sense his joy; it’s one of the many things he’s waiting to give to you!
- Are you accessing God’s grace each day? (5:17) The Bible says we must pray without ceasing, and that God knows the answers to our prayers even before we ask him. But again, we have a part in it: To access God’s grace means we must reach out for it; in fact, that’s part of the Lord’s amazing love relationship with us — he’s thrilled when we come to him! And he’s just waiting for us to access all the riches at his disposal and ask him to help us; and remember … we must ask BIG!
- Are you experiencing a lot of gratitude? (5:18) We must give thanks in all circumstances; as we’ve learned, the act of gratitude is recognized by medical professionals the world over as a vital component of excellent mental health — clearly God was on to something here!
- Are you unleashing the power of the Holy Spirit in your life? (5:19) “Do not quench the Holy Spirit,” the Scriptures say. So often we’re so busy doing other things that we regularly push away the promptings of the Holy Spirit; but even if that has defined us to date, that doesn’t mean we’re destined to continue like that. So, let’s get busy and start responding to what the Spirit is telling us every day. And again, all of us have the power to unleash (or quench) the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives: it’s all up to us.
- Are you hearing God speak? (5:20) The Bible says that we should not despise prophecies but test everything we observe and hear. That takes practice! And if we’re out of practice, all we need to do — and boy is this becoming a theme — is ask God to help us do so. Seriously, why wouldn’t our Lord — who longs to spend time with us — give us the power to hear him speak to you and me?
- Can you tell the difference between what’s good — and what looks good but is really bad? Why would we look at two similar plates of food but decide to eat the dish containing maggots? It’s our sin nature, unfortunately, along with our world’s system that deftly sells such meals to us. But it’s our job to hold on to what is good — and determine the difference between good and bad.
And now as we conclude 1 Thessalonians, let’s look at Paul’s final words that come after verses 23 and 24: “Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
We know what Paul means by a “holy kiss.” It’s a sign of being connected with each other in the spirit of Christ; something we long for today as our separation continues. Next, Paul wanting this letter read to all those in the Thessalonian church reflects a confidence and hope in their spiritual progress — which we can apply to our own lives as he and all the saints cheer us on.
And of course, we all need the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” to be with us — every day. It’s what will give us vitality instead of weariness in a world that battles against that minute by minute. Surely, we need the Lord every day — but we must do our part and reach out to him!
Therefore, let us all take hold of what Jesus so desperately wants to give each of us. And without delay.