Saturday

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. (v. 5)

2 Thessalonians 3: 1-17 Saturday 12 December 2020

Psalm 46

Background

I’m sure I’ve never come across a ‘busybody’ in any of my churches. (And if I had, I wouldn’t be naming them here!) Certainly not the type of busybody Paul was referring to in verses 6-12 of this final chapter of his letter to the Thessalonians.

Paul established churches to be like families, where money was shared so that no one was in poverty and meals were shared times of fellowship. In some churches, it seems, there were a few who were not pulling their weight. We might call them ‘freeloaders’ – people who are perfectly able to work but choose not to and instead rely on charity from the community. Paul calls them ‘mere busybodies’ presumably because they were appearing to be busy with other things.

If someone could not work due to disability or age, then the community would rightly want to meet their needs. The problem with ‘busybodies’ is that they took money that should go to help share the love of Christ with others. Paul urges the Thessalonians to take a firm line with these people.

Paul seems quite frustrated as he writes these final words to this church. He longs for the gospel to “spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere”(verse 1). In modern terminology, he wants it to ‘go viral’ (although we might hesitate to use that particular phrase at the moment) and the key to this is prayer. After spending much of the last two letters telling the Thessalonians what he is praying for them, now he asks them to pray for him and his team. He knows that even though God is always faithful, prayer somehow seems to free things up or release fresh energy into a work or ministry.

It never ceases to amaze me how much easier a difficult pastoral situation becomes, or how much more effective a sermon is when I feel people are actually praying for me. I join my prayers to theirs, and the intercession of Christ, and even on very hard ground there is a sense of God at work.

The call to prayer centres on verse 5: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” How easy it is to get bogged down with the demands of the day, but if we keep praying together and for one another our hearts will be pointed back to the love of God which created this world and to the steadfastness of Christ – who, after all, was not raised from the dead and exalted in heaven for all this to fizzle out! Christ’s steadfastness means that the world has a purpose and a future that is rooted in love.

Finally, the letter ends with words of grace and peace. Peace is greatly needed in this time of pandemic, where there is so much uncertainty and anxiety, so much poverty and stress. At the very least these letters should remind us that God’s people have always gone through difficult experiences, and the God of love and grace has been with them even when it didn’t feel like it, and they, like we received “a peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

To Ponder:

  • Are you praying regularly for your ministers or colleagues in the gospel? Are you praying that God will remove obstacles and allow the message to run freely?
  • When you lose heart in the Christian life, where do you turn? Do you have a close friend or mentor who can encourage you?
  • Paul’s ministry was fundamentally a written ministry of encouragement. Who could you write to today to encourage? There are plenty who need it.

 

 

 

 

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