As he’s been writing and teaching the believers in Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 1.1-12, it seems that Paul is moved to prayer. It seems that he is moved to pray for the Thessalonians and that they might live lives that were consistent with their calling:
And in this regard (because you know God and obey the gospel of Jesus (v.8)
and have believed our words (v.10))
we pray for you always, that our God will make you worthy of his calling and fulfill by his power your every desire for goodness and every work of faith, 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.
(vv.11-12, NET, comments added)
Paul’s hope then is that they are not discouraged by what it going on around them (v.5), and his prayer is that their lives still reflect their faith (v.12). He wants them to still have a desire for goodness and works in and of faith (v.11) despite what is going on around them, and prays that God will fulfill this in and through them by His power.
Notice with me where the enabling comes from to live this life, and therefore where the real responsibility lies:
God will make you worthy of his calling and fulfill by his power…according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The burden was not on them, and it’s not on you. It’s not down to your own strength and power to live like this and to be able to keep going when things are tough.Our perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions does not need to come from our own power (v.4).
Paul has urged the Thessalonians to look back and remember what has already happened in their lives and to take great hope and encouragement for the future from this (v.3, 10b).
They did believe [his] testimony.
They believed, and committed, and were doing their best to live a life worthy of the call of God and to obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, all empowered by His HS.
They had their every desire for goodness and every work of faith fulfilled by His power, not their own.
This is so hard to remember when things are difficult, isn’t it. When we are facing trials, tribulations, problems, persecutions, disappointments, let-downs, and uncertainty we feel like we need to take control and make some decisions and regain hold of what is going on. That’s such a natural feeling. I’ve had it so much this past twelve months. One of the hardest things is wanting to make positive decisions and put plans into action but not knowing when or how. When things get tough we naturally want to take over and put things right, don’t we. But, we’re fallible and we’re fallen and we’re fickle and we will most likely do a really, really bad job. Instead, Paul wanted the Thessalonians to have, and we need to have now, some uncommon sense in this situation.
The uncommon sense in times of trouble that Paul wanted them to have was to keep going regardless of what was going on around them. If that is not a lesson for us now from this passage, I don’t know what is! He wanted them to keep going in faith, and hope, and love for one another, regardless of what was happening for them, or to them. No matter what current conditions were, keep going forward in faith, and hope, and in love for one another.
The uncommon sense was to choose to be known for their faith in a place where faith wasn’t fashionable (v.3).
The uncommon sense was to choose to be known for their love for one another (v.3).
The uncommon sense he wanted them to have was that when things are difficult and you feel hopeless, look back and draw strength for tomorrow.
He’s saying look, I know what is going on, I know what you’re going through, but you need to keep going because what is ahead is far, far better than what is happening right now and is far better than anything behind us. C.S. Lewis said as much in a letter to a friend, there are far better things ahead than anything that we leave behind.
Paul is urging the Thessalonians, and I am urging you, to keep going and to keep moving forward no matter what is happening, because what is coming is far, far better than anything we’ve left behind. Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe said this:
“Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
You do not move ahead by constantly looking in a rear view mirror. The past is a rudder to guide you, not an anchor to drag you.
We must learn from the past but not live in the past.”
But how do we know better things are coming? What can we look to for some kind of guarantee?
As new covenant believers, just like the Thessalonians, we are so so fortunate that we can look back to the cross as the ultimate historical touch-point for our future. That is where we look back to in order to take hope for the future. When we need some reassurance that the future will be better, we look back.
We look back to the cross and the empty tomb and take hope for the future.
We see that we have a living Saviour who has overcome death and who promises the same for us.
We look back and see that God’s plan for His creation is in the final phase and it’s in motion.
Just like the Thessalonians, we are so lucky to live in a time when we can look back and see, wow, it happened. The biggest ‘look back to move forward’ point in the history of the world is there for us to see. Paul is saying yes, things are difficult now, but when they are, don’t forget to look back and then move forward.