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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, November 8, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Thessalonians 1:1–4, 11–12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (NRSV)

Reading the words to the Thessalonian church, it is easy to set your mind immediately toward the effusive praise of the community’s witness. They are growing abundantly, their love ever increasing; they are steadfast and faithful.

But there is a more troubling backdrop only hinted at here: the persecutions and afflictions they have endured. In fact, if the Thessalonian community is a mirror of Paul’s famous trilogy of faith, hope, and love, the only virtue that appears to go unmentioned in this passage is hope. Where is this community’s hope? Perhaps it’s an indication of a community doing all the right things but, with suffering, not seeing the outcome they had wished for.

Have you felt as though you were doing all the right things—making wise choices, practicing selfless love, maintaining self-integrity—and yet your desired outcome felt ever more elusive? In those moments perhaps our gut tells us that this is a time that calls for a sacrificial faith. Any hope of joy must step aside. We let go of the deep dreams of our hearts. Indeed, there are times like this.

However, before we rush to such a conclusion, Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians reminds us that while it is God’s glory and honor we seek to reflect, God also glorifies those who witness to that same glory. As we strive for God, God strives to do a work of beauty in us. There is a divine interest in our flourishing, not just our sacrifice. Perhaps this is what the Thessalonian community needed most. A fresh reminder that the life of faith is not all toil and tribulation but that moments of celebration and triumph are not only to be hoped for but, with God’s help, can be realized. As people of faith so determined to pursue the right and the just, we must not forget our hope.

As we strive and press on to demonstrate your care and practice your love, help us, O God, to not grow weary in doing good. Invest us with the hope of your promises. Help us see the new and marvelous thing you are doing in and among us. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism

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