“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;” ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:3
The Christian walk is sometimes made overly complex. Believers are often distracted by the many “shiny objects” beside our path. In the epistle to the Thessalonians, God praises them for two characteristics that are almost boring and often diminished among Christians of today.
Specifically, God (speaking through Paul) commends the Believers of Thessalonica for
- their growing faith (“faith that groweth exceedingly”) and
- their Godly love for each other (“the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth”).
The simple lesson for each Believer is this: If we want God’s praise/approval, if we want to excel in what God values, then we must trust Him more and we must love each other more. We don’t earn God’s praise by the songs we sing, or by how often we go to church, or by how many committees we sit on, or by the image we project.
Faith in God
What God wants to see is, first, our faith: “Will we trust Him when our very lives are falling apart?”, “Will we trust Him when our child dies?”, “Will we trust Him when our finances are wiped out?”
Horatio Spafford, the writer of the great hymn “It is Well with My Soul” wrote it AFTER two great tragedies in his life that would have broken someone with less faith. First, the great Chicago Fire and the ensuing economic downturn destroyed him financially (he had invested in property). Secondly, his four daughters died when the ship carrying collided with another ship and sunk. In the midst of crushing grief, he held on to God in faith. The opening lines of that hymn say:
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, though hast taught me to say
It is well, It is well with my soul
Can you lose your children without losing your faith? Yes, faith that is real is faith that endures.
When I think of the challenges in my own life sometimes I don’t want to go on. But God has sustained me so far and I trust that He will continue to be with me through the fires and through the floods.
God wants us to trust Him. Will we continue trusting Him when our lives are in turmoil, through no ‘fault’ of our own? If we want to enjoy the praise that the Thessalonians had, we must. We, every one of us, must allow God to grow our faith in Him exceedingly, no matter the cost.
Love of Others
It is easy to talk about love, but do we even know the other members/visitors of our churches? Do we even spend time to get to know those outside of our ‘circle’. How can we “love” people we don’t even know? How can I help someone in need, when I have not spent the time to get to know them and their needs? Too often we hear of the church brother/sister who was sick for weeks and no one even realized they were missing from church.
Godly love takes effort; Godly love requires that I reach beyond my “comfort zone” to be available to serve both the least and the least popular. It may not be easy, but it is necessary.
I remember when I was younger, I had little compassion for drug addicts, and because of the culture I grew up in, I despised homosexuals; and I was just as intolerant with racists. Later in life, I started attending a small church that I soon found had a few recovering alcoholics, a couple recovering drug addicts, a recovering homosexual and a brother (a truly wonderful man) who had quaint but quite racist views on intermarriage.
By the grace of God, I have enjoyed great relationships with all of these Brothers in Christ. But sometimes it was a challenge. However, the challenge diminished greatly as I looked ever more closely in the mirror of God’s word and saw my own flaws: my own addictions, my own lusts, and my own prejudices.
The God that loves everyone in the world lives in us and wants to share that love through us. Will we let Him? If we want to enjoy the praise that the Thessalonians had, we must. We, every one of us, must make the effort to connect with each other so that God can share His wonderful love through us.