Devotionals on the Letters to the Thessalonians
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The devotionals are written by Carmelites and will be uploaded week by week. Check back for the next set!
Introduction to 1 and 2 Thessalonians
Thessalonica was an important communication and sea trade centre. Paul’s ministry here began during his second missionary journey and was abruptly truncated. This context is available to us in Acts 17.
The key themes in these books are:
- Persecution is a way of life for Christians and we are to persevere
- Paul cares for the Church in Thessalonica
- Doctrinal clarity is important and the Second Coming features prominently in these letters
- Continue to work hard while we are on earth.
As churches grapple with the changes ushered in by the pandemic, how do these broad themes translate to our situation?
Firstly, unexpected trouble has always been a part of the fabric of church life. We should take the current significant disruptions with appropriate seriousness, but also not act like or think that the Church is meeting unprecedented challenges. Can’t sing in church? Many churches in the world cannot sing out loud due to persecution. While we may miss the congregational singing, let us remain prayerful and attentive to God. Churches who are surrendered to God will be able to grow during abrupt times.
Secondly, intentional living out of our faith is critically important. Paul cared for the people and the Christians at Thessalonica were imitators of him, despite the severe challenges. A hostile operating environment should simply drive us to our knees to seek God and invite us to a greater degree of intentionality. Perhaps COVID has revealed how we have not been intentionally living out our faith for a long while. This is a good time to make the appropriate U-turns by the grace of God. It is a good time to learn how to minister to others. In tough times, more than ever, all hands need to be on the deck. It is really not hard to call someone else to see how they are doing. The Church in Thessalonica had limited resources but they dug deep and emerged high. Don’t just grow old; let’s grow up.
Thirdly, it is important to maintain the status of Truth in the Church. The temptation to focus only on social issues will be high. Truth needs to be steadily taught, internalised in our beings and lived out. This should continue whether there is disruption or not. Our social response needs to be informed by Truth, and empowered by the Spirit. The urgency and reality of the Second Coming of Christ needs to be emphasised especially during this trying season where people will be tempted to focus only on earthly concerns. For those who were waiting for a disruption so that you can earn even more, do live in the light of the Second Coming of Christ. This is a season where the rich can get even richer. A good question to ask is “am I truly rich?”
Lastly, it is important to work hard and share our resources. Paul explicitly warns Christians against idleness. There are some of us who have long standing difficulties with work issues and working relationships. The pandemic has resulted in a very short supply of jobs. This will be a good time to reflect on our work ethic. There is a big range of work issues. Some of us worship our work, some of us while away our time at work and some of us will do only what is needed. Let us come before the Lord and invite Him to reign in our working lives and may we keep in step with the Spirit. The issue in the Thessalonian church was that some were convinced that Jesus was coming back and so they saw no need to work. What is our issue? Let’s allow God to challenge us.
Ps Ng Liang Wei