NOTE: This is our last posted devotion for 2017. We will pick our devotions back up, with the book of John, on January 8th, 2018. Enjoy the Christmas season, and we will see you in the New Year!
Passage: 2 Thessalonians 3:14-18
Prayer: Father, remind us that without authority and discipline, we would all live in a world of disorder and cruelty. Without these values, we would navigate in the murky waters of bullies and bad tempers. Indeed, just as a home enjoys peace when rules are set and maintained, so does the body of Christ. And just as a home imposes some kind of sanction on a child who breaks those rules, because they are loved so much, so too, does the church. Help Your people, dear Jesus, to never react to the exercise of discipline, simply because of their fear of the abuse of power. For too long, we have been raised in a culture free of moral restraint so that we recoil at the very idea of sending somebody to the spiritual woodshed. So give Your people and Your pastors the strength and grace to receive and administer Your love, even when it calls for a firm hand. May your shepherds have the authority, not to lord it over the flock of God, but to lovingly lead them, allowing the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to permeate all of our actions and attitudes. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
Ponder: Have you allowed yourself to receive correction from spiritual leaders? How can you prepare your heart to accept loving discipline from others within the body of Christ?
Passage: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Point: Paul returns once again to the discussion of family and caring for one another. But he gets a little harsher with the church this time—don’t step out of line, do your own work, and earn your own living! Most of us do not live in a community like the early believers, but there are principles from this passage that can be applied to biological families, groups of friends, and church communities. I think the main point Paul is getting at is that we all need to always support each other in love. Love must not be taken for granted. Love doesn’t mean trading on the goodwill of others—or allowing others to trade on yours. To receive love, as well as to give it, one must not step out of line.
When we are all working together as one body, it is a beautiful sight for God to see and a perfect reflection of His love on earth. We all have a part to play, and we must play it. We all need to contribute to the “family” we are in. Paul may sound a little harsh when he says that “those who won’t work shouldn’t eat!” But notice that he says, “those who won’t work” and not “those who can’t work.” There will be times in life when we may not always be able to work due to age, illness, or circumstance, but Paul is talking about those who are unwilling to work and are perfectly content to live off of the hard work of others. Be careful not to take for granted – or abuse – the love of others in your community. And, as Paul says, “don’t get tired of doing what is right!” No matter the treatment you get in return, always do what is right and treat others right.
Ponder: Do you have a hard time treating others right and giving love when faced with people who take your love for granted or abuse it? It can be frustrating and we can grow tired of it. I challenge you today to look at those people who may be hard to love and to find new ways to be extra kind in return.
Passage: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
Point: “God helps those who help themselves.” We tend to bristle against such human-centered sayings about God. After all, God helps those who call upon His name. We don’t like the idea of a God who needs help from humans. Right? But then we read Bible verses like 2 Thessalonians 3:1 – “Pray that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes” (NLT). I don’t know about you, but I tend to think that the effectiveness of God’s word is His responsibility. And I certainly don’t entertain the notion that its success is in doubt. It is powerful like a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12); it goes out from God’s mouth and does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). But Paul calls both of those assertions into question by asking for his readers – HUMANS! – to take action to make sure that God’s word succeeds. Um… that doesn’t seem biblical, Paul. Nonetheless, he says it. God wants our help for His word to succeed. And what does that help look like? Prayer. Somehow, coming before the Throne of Grace, with specific requests for unbelievers to open their hearts to the Gospel, has an effect on whether or not it happens. The Thessalonians – and you and me – have a job to do in helping God’s word spread throughout the earth. God is looking for a few good men and women to join His mission. On your knees, recruits! God Wants You!
Ponder: Make a list of individuals you know who have not accepted the word of the Lord into their hearts and minds, and begin praying for them. Start with one name. Pray.
Passage: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17
Point: Father, in this small little prayer for the Thessalonian believers, we see the way and war of salvation. The way of salvation is seen in your choosing of us, your calling of us, and your securing of us in glory. The war of salvation is seen in our standing firm and holding on tight to the truth we find in the teachings of the apostles. Never let us forget these twin truths of what it means to be “saved.” Teach us that we fight “from” victory not “for” victory. But, nevertheless, we fight! Indeed, we may be on the winning side, but we are still in the battle zone of life. We still have truths to hold on to and traditions to secure. We still have a world to win and a devil to shun. We still have an enemy to defeat and bondage to break. But in this battle, this darkness, this struggle, and this pain, the bright light of victory still burns radiant before our eyes! Indeed, the “eternal comfort and good hope” that beam forth from the empty tomb of Jesus is our bright light. Truly, this grace that shines on our present engagement gives us the strength to press on—to live to fight another day, to stand strong with the armor of God! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Passage: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Prayer: Lord, so many throughout our history have tried to take your place. They have seen themselves as divinity. Even in my generation, there are men who have died and are still alive who claim to be the son of God. However, you have endured their mortality and schemes. You are God alone! We question this passage many times, Lord. Has the lawless one come? If so, when? We can easily be bogged down, Father, with the answers to these questions. One thing remains true that we know. One day you are going to show yourself strong and in plain sight to the Earth. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! We do not know the hour of your arrival! We don’t know who this lawless one was, is, or will be! I confess now Lord that I cannot let my faith and life pass me by while trying to figure it out! There is a world that you came to save and a church you are coming back for. Grant us the diligence to wait in purity and power for your return with the name of Jesus daily on our lips. Your plan is to save and set the world to rights…a plan you are faithful to complete. Amen.
Ponder: Have you lost sight of the big picture of your faith? If so, what topics of scripture are keeping you from moving forward?
Passage: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-12
Prayer: Father, so often when we read about your “vengeance” we think too much as humans and not enough like you. We think revenge. You think retribution. We think too often with the cold dish of a nursed grievance or the frozen smugness of successful retaliation. You think of the sure steady justice of righting all wrongs while redeeming all the wrongdoers who will listen to you. Yes, indeed, you are the God who restores the severed ear of Malchus even while he is carting you off to the house of injustice, leaving Peter dumbfounded as he holds his dripping sword. Show us the way of restorative justice, dear Father. A justice that seeks the good of all, even if, too often than not, too many turn away from that goodness; a justice that longs to bring peace, when too many prepare for war; one that longs for righteousness to prevail and evil to be vanquished; for judgment to fall with deliverance and salvation following in its wake. Jesus, show us that the chariot you will ride upon the clouds, one day, is constructed with the wooden beams of your redemptive cross. That your patient-kindness is designed to lead us to repentance even while your terrible swift sword is strapped to your side. Will not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? Yes he will! Yes you will! In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
Ponder: Why is it so very, very important to keep the Cross of Jesus, in the middle of history, in our minds, as we contemplate the Judgment Day at the end of human history? How would it help us to love our enemies more?
Passage: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-7a
Point: At the beginning of this letter, we see a very thankful Paul expressing his gratitude for the Thessalonians. He is grateful not only because of the growing faith, love, and community, but also because of their suffering. Paul, very simply but very clearly, tells us that this suffering is making them worthy of the Kingdom of God and that, in the end, they will find respite. Suffering is never easy or fun. Finding a way to be thankful and joyful in the midst of suffering, however, is even harder.
Thankfulness, according to Paul in this passage, comes out of both joy and pain. The pain is a sign that we are being made worthy of the kingdom. In other words, we are being refined, sharpened, and even sanctified. Even though Thanksgiving was over a week ago, it is the beginning of the Christmas season, the season we celebrate the birth of Jesus, whose life is marked by many great and joyful things. His life is also marked by great suffering and pain. During this season, we should give thanks for the WHOLE life of Jesus. The good and the bad. The miracles and the death. Don’t let your thankfulness end on November 23rd.
Ponder: What things do you have to be thankful for this Christmas season? What especially painful things can you be thankful for? Pray and ask God to help you see the ways suffering is making, refining, and sanctifying you.