Fast forward into the future, Paul is writing another letter to the young congregation in Thessalonica. Or is it Paul? Apparently, there is some controversy as to the authorship of this second letter, despite the fact Paul’s name is used. As I’ve said before, I don’t want my reflections to get so caught up in those kinds of details, but I did want to make you aware of something I had learned in case you notice a difference in style or intent between the two letters.
Similar to 1 Thessalonians, we do see a lot of thanksgiving going on. I love the picture these words paint for me as Paul says, “your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.” Don’t we all want this type of observation to be made about us? What a compliment!
Paul is now closing this first letter to this young congregation in Thessalonica. They are doing so many things right; it seems Paul is afraid they are going to drop the ball. He wants them to stay holy. That is, stay connected to God. Only God is holy. And Paul says that God will “make you holy.” When we live a holy life, we are set apart, dedicated to Jesus and his purposes in the world.
We know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He’s the only way to the Father. It’s the good news we shouldn’t be keeping to ourselves. If we live a holy life, we are setting a good example for those who don’t know Jesus. It’s always my prayer that my own life will reflect Jesus in a way that draws people to him. I think that’s what Paul is talking about here.
Sometimes we forget we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. It’s such a perk to being followers of Jesus. Yet, we seem to have this ego or something that wants the recognition. We want to do things our own way and receive approval. Paul would have known this better than most. For years he was a strong Jewish leader. People feared him until his life was transformed by the Holy Spirit.
Now Paul wants to make sure that we, as well as his original readers, don’t ignore the power we have at our disposal. He says, “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.” Why would we want to smother, restrain, or suppress the power that raised Jesus from the dead? That’s a very good question we should all ask ourselves. Regularly. We have all been gifted our own way of unleashing that power. What, then, is your super power?
We have probably all wondered a time or two during our lives (or maybe even on a daily basis) if we’re living in God’s will for us. Certainly, he has the greatest vision of all. He can see our whole life and knows our potential. Living inside us, giving us power beyond our comprehension, he has great plans for each of us. It’s only when we get in the way that his plans take a nose dive.
So how do we know what God’s will is for us? That is the best question of all time. It certainly should be one that we are asking on a regular basis. Today, Paul’s counsel to the Thessalonians gives them insight into what that can mean. It’s not the whole story, but we can be certain of this. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
What is your first reaction when someone brings harm to you or someone you know? Is it getting even? What should we think when we read in the Bible where it says “an eye for an eye”? What’s that all about?
Paul is clear here in this verse. We should not repay evil with evil. I remember being picked on as a child. Hurtful words are certainly evil in my book. It was so tempting to lash back with more of the same, but I didn’t have the courage. Looking back, it seems my fear actually kept me from sinning in return.