When I come to this time of the year, the thanksgiving holiday, I’m reminded of Paul’s thanksgiving sections within his letters. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul highlights their faith and endurance under extreme difficulty. He does not hesitate to boast to other churches that God is working in and through them. These prayers are a great example of how we as believers can also pray.
In 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12, he begins by stating his obligation to pray for the Thessalonians. He saw his opportunity to pray as a personal responsibility before God on their behalf; a sense of proud boasting, if you will. Paul prayed for them because of the further development of their faith in God (cf. 1 Thess 1:3), the faith in God that produces action. He says that their faith grew abundantly and their love increased (2 Thess 1:3). As a result of this growth, Paul took the opportunity to boast to other churches. In fact, Paul’s motivation for boasting was the Thessalonians’ steadfastness and faith (v. 4), again, even amidst severe hostility. Mike Stallard in his commentary on the Thessalonian letters states,
Paul had noted this quality of the Thessalonians in his first epistle when he mentioned their ‘steadfastness of hope’ in Jesus (1 Thess 1:3). In the last chapter of the second epistle, the apostle prays that the Lord may direct their hearts into the ‘steadfastness‘ of Christ (3:5). This again shows the apostle’s constant teaching that there was always room for growth in the qualities that he acknowledged in the Thessalonians” (pp. 137-38).
I think the question that comes to my mind is, would Paul boast about my growth? I could also ask myself, what plan do I have in place this week for continued growth to occur?
Paul does not stop there. He continues in verses 5-10 to expand on the persecutions & afflictions. These terrible times were evidence of the righteous judgment of God (v. 5); that is, their suffering is a demonstration of the genuineness of their faith (their identity – cf. 1:1). They endured this suffering to be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. And, because God’s judgment is “just,” it’s “right;” it is right of him to repay those who trouble the Thessalonians. He will also give relief to the those who are being afflicted (vv. 6-7). One could say that a picture of this relief is the ‘slackening of a string on a bow.’ The relief He gives is when His Son is revealed and gives/hands-out vengeance to those who do not know God & who do not obey the gospel. It is a punishment that is eternal; it lasts forever (vv. 7-9).
Another question, knowing that one day Jesus will punish those who do not have a relationship with Him – does this motivate me to love others and share the gospel? What am I doing with the truth?
Paul concludes with a short prayer (cf. 1:11-12). His prayer is that God will help them to continue to display their true standing; their calling. It is an evaluation of their conduct in light of His calling; but all the time realizing that God enables them to do what is good and right. God’s calling is the foundation/basis for their conduct . . . now display it. However, they were not left to do it themselves. Paul states that this work of faith comes by the means of His power (v. 11). Ultimately for the purpose of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be glorified, and we, as believers, be glorified in Him. To be glorified in Christ is possible only because the most exalted God and Lord is the one who stands as the true source of all things (v. 12).
The focus of Paul’s prayer is living in the present while having knowledge of the hope of a future. Rest, relief, and honor is coming to the believer; whereas judgment, destruction, and separation from God awaits the unbeliever. This provides the reality for us to live day by day as we do the work of faith; and can only be carried out by God’s enabling grace. The suffering of one’s present life is to be one day replaced with glorification. This is Paul’s incentive for the believer to live a life worthy of his status, for the Spirit indwells him. Those who bear Christ’s name must also glorify God in that name. This is dependent upon the supply of grace that is sourced in the Spirit of God.
Click the link for the diagram of 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12.