" 11 Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you." There is a personal aspect of salvation that is most delightful to consider. For several years I personally suffered from the effects of an impersonal religion. I did not think of myself as individually related to the Lord, or deriving benefits directly from Him. God be praised that this darkness was scattered by the bright light of Divine utterance!
THE FATHER HIMSELF. It is quite true that there is "one Mediator between God and man" (1 Tim 2:5). It is also true that we have access to the Father "by the Spirit" (Eph 2:18). It is also true that we are "clean through the Word" (John 15:3), and receive needed benefits by "the Scriptures" (Rom 15:4). We must never allow ourselves to reason as though these were not essential, or apart from a firm reliance on them. However, this does not mean we have no personal affiliation with the Father. We have a very real fellowship "with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). This is the relationship to which Paul is alluding.
Such personal involvement is seen in God's dealings with Israel. When considering their enemies, Moses declared "God Himself fights for you" NKJV (Deut 3:22). When preparing to go into Canaan, he told the people, "The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you" NKJV (Deut 31:3). Abijah reminded Jeroboam, "God Himself is with us for our captain" (2 Chron 13:12). The promise held out to the saints is, "God Himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Rev 21:3). In his second letter to the Thessalonians Paul referred to this intensely personal aspect of salvation. "Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father . . . comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work" (2 Thess 2:16-17). Again he wrote, "Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means" (2 Thess 3:16).
This is not, then, strange language. Eventually, our religion has to get to this point, where we consciously have to do with God Himself, for it is He "with whom we have to do" (Heb 4:13)!
AND OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. The Father and the Son work together, not independently. Frequently this is accented in Apostolic writings. Grace and peace come from both the Father and the Son (Rom 1:7). Peace, love, and faith come from Them both (Eph 6:23), as well as grace, mercy, and peace (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4). Since our Lord's exaltation to the right hand of God, He has joined the Father in the care and sustenance of His people. God has given all things into the hands of the Son, but has not withdrawn Himself from the great work of salvation. This is not a mere technicality, but is intended to convince our hearts that salvation is "of the Lord," and that He is wholly devoted to it. Once this is grasped by faith, we learn to reason and to pray with both focus and confidence.
DIVINE DIRECTION. Paul's eagerness to be with the Thessalonians face to face is not to be accomplished in human wisdom. Even in this most practical matter, he depended upon the Lord. "Now may our God and Father Himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you." NIV Flesh cannot think in this manner. Thus those who tended to make plans without God in the forefront of their thinking were reminded, "If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (James 4:13-14). If one is tempted to think all of this is inconsequential, James included the impudence of planning without God with "boasting" and "evil" (4:15).
From a fleshly standpoint, there appeared to be no justification for thinking Paul could get to the Thessalonians. Yet, he prayed God Himself would make a way for it to happen. Our Lord is fully capable of doing this! He that can make streams in the desert (Isa 35:6), can clear a way for us to do His will! If He can "make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert," can He not "direct thy paths" (Prov 3:6)? Did He not promise concerning the person raised up by Him, "I will direct all his ways" (Isa 45:13).
The Lord Jesus Christ declares, "These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth" (Rev 3:7). He can set an "open door" before His children that no man can shut (Rev 3:8). It can be "a great and effective door" NKJV in spite of "many adversaries" (1 Cor 16:9).
What noble work is there that you desire to do for the Lord? What godly people are there whom you long to see? Direct your prayer to God! The Father Himself and the Lord Jesus Christ are able to clear the way for you-to cause your desires to come to pass! Godly associations that are formed can be sustained to the mutual advantage of all.
Here is an aspect of spiritual life in which much blessing can be realized. To think in this manner assists us to hold up during the difficulties of life. The prospect of being with those of like precious faith brings joy and encouragement to the heart. Make it your aim to bring faith to bear upon this facet of life in Christ-being with those who strengthen you.
A Series of lessons by Given O. Blakely
A Series of lessons by Given O. Blakely
The closest of all fleshly relationships is that of husband and wife: they become "one flesh" (Eph 5:31). The closest of all spiritual relationships is that of the believer with the Lord: "one spirit" (1 Cor 6:17). The closest of all group relationships is that of believers with one another: "one body" (Rom 12:5). Their unity with the Lord is the sole reason for their unity with one another. It is the sanctifying, as well as the unifying, element. Few sections of Scripture reveal the personal aspects of this unity as effectively as the first three chapters of First Thessalonians. Although doctrine is presented, it is not impersonal, like the formal statement of a position. Here there is heart as well as mind, and spirit as well as doctrinal form. The relationship created by faith exists as long as there is faith. That is why Paul has such an intense interest in the growth and stability of the Thessalonians. This is particularly true because they were being subjected to affliction, which tends to deplete spiritual resources. Only faith can increase our hold upon the truth as well as the quantity of spiritual graces we enjoy. Thus Paul constantly thinks of the faith of the Thessalonians. He desires that no part of it be lacking, and that they might gain the advantages of an ever-increasing faith.
" 9 For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God." This Epistle opened with a word of thanks for the Thessalonians: "We give thanks to God always for you all" (1:2). Again, in the second chapter, Paul gave thanks because they received the Word of God as from God, not men: "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God" (2:13). Now, for the third time, thanksgiving for the Thessalonians is again mentioned.
THANKS RENDERED. Most versions use the word "render." Some read "return"NIV,NRSV,NIB and "recompense."YLT The idea is that the thanksgiving is given to God in return for something received from Him. It is the response of faith for something that has brought personal spiritual benefit-in this case, the Thessalonians saints themselves: i.e., "for you." They had brought advantages to Paul. That is why he gave thanks for them.
This joy was prompted by the report of Timothy (3:6). Their faith and love had not only continued, but had grown under the stress of tribulation. This was the work of God, and therefore prompted thanksgiving to Him. It is not common in our day for thanksgiving to be "rendered," or given to God in response for the faithfulness of fellow believers. However, if men were able to see behind the scenes, they would behold what a great work it is for the children of God to maintain both faith and love when they are buffeted by severe trials and oppositions. God and Jesus were active in the giving of faith and love (Eph 6:23). The Holy Spirit enabled them to abound in hope through their faith (Rom 15:13). Angelic hosts were prominent in their protection and succor (Heb 1:13-14). It is no mere coincidence that saints survive trials! The understanding of this circumstance is what produces thanksgiving. That thanksgiving is a return to God for benefits received.
REJOICING WITH JOY. The benefit for which thanks is "rendered" is joy: i.e., "for all the joy . . . " The report of the faith and love of the Thessalonians brought joy to the Apostle WHEN he himself was in trial (2:2,14-16). Here we behold the remarkable grace that had been given to the Apostle to the Gentiles. He did not rejoice because of relief brought to him in his affliction, but because of the stability of the Thessalonians in THEIR tribulation! The work of God in others remains a source of joy to suffering believers. The report of other saints holding on their way sends a beam of joyful hope into the heart of believers who hear it. The degree to which this joy is experienced reveals the degree of spiritual growth and insight that has been realized by the individual.
This is not carnal joy, but the "joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess 1:6). It is the joy "given by the Spirit." NIV As well, it is the joy with which the Spirit Himself rejoices. Rejoicing is a Divine attribute: "The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy" (Zeph 3:17). He is said to have "delight" in His people (Num 14:8), and "rejoice" over them (Deut 30:9). He "takes pleasure" in those who fear Him (Psa 147:11), and "joys" in His people (Isa 65:19).
To "rejoice with joy" is to partake of the Lord's own joy. It is to have His joyful perspective of growing and surviving saints. This is nothing less than a form of "fellowship" with the Son (1 Cor 1:9), as well as the Father Himself (1 John 1:3). In my judgment, this is a dimension of spiritual life in which considerable growth remains to be realized.
REJOICING FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS. The rejoicing was "for your sake," or "because of you." NIV What a sweet and comforting sound that must have been for the suffering Thessalonians! The world had rejected them, even their own countrymen (2:14). Yet, their stability had caused rejoicing to Paul. Once God "had mercy" on Paul by healing Epaphroditus, lest he should have "sorrow upon sorrow" (Phil 2:27). Now, while being opposed in another place, the Thessalonian's faith and love caused joy to erupt in the heart of this man of God. It is good to ask ourselves what kind of experience our conduct produces in others. How does the mentioning of our progress influence those who hear it?
REJOICING BEFORE GOD. No aspect of spiritual life is experienced apart from it's Author. All benefits are from God, and faith gives thanks and rejoices in them "before God." At least two things are involved here. First, Paul recognizes that the Thessalonians have been sustained by God Himself. Therefore, he gives thanks for the joy they brought to him. Secondly, he rejoiced in the presence of the Lord, with an acute awareness of His Person. It was a form of fellowship in which the Lord became more prominent and circumstances and personal hardships were diminished. This is nothing less than the "joy of faith" (Phil 1:25). It is certainly in order to seek much of this glorious benefit!
" 10 . . . night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?" It is possible to live so close to the Lord that you long for His people even as He does. Once God said of straying Israel, "I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD" (Jer 31:20). What are His feelings toward those who have embraced His Son and received His great salvation? Are not such individuals "beloved of God" (Rom 1:9), and "precious" in His sight (Isa 43:4). Jesus is presently "expecting," looking forward to being joined with His people-His "joint heirs." He has promised, "I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3). It is not strange, therefore, that those in fellowship with Him have an intense longing to see those who are "joined to the Lord."
PRAYING EXCEEDINGLY. The fervency of these prayers is arresting: "night and day praying exceedingly." Another version reads, "we night and day keep praying most earnestly." NASB The idea is that the prayers increase in intensity as time progresses. Rather than diminishing in frequency and fervency, they are growing. There is no question that many of our prayers remain unanswered because they lack this quality. They are neither frequent nor fervent, and thus cannot be answered. Our Lord taught us, "men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Lk 18:1). It is not so much that this is the law of the Kingdom as that it is its MANNER. The Lord works within the framework of incessant prayer. That is the environment in which answers are received, whether the removal of thorns is sought or the fellowship of brethren.
SEE YOUR FACE. The subjects of Paul's prayers are instructive. When he prayed for others, he sought their stability, enlightenment, and growth (Eph 1:18-20; 3:15-20; Col 1:9-11). When he prayed for himself, he often asked that he be granted to be with certain of God's people (Rom 1:10; 15:32; Phile 22). He has already told the Thessalonians he "endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire" (2:17). The fact that he mentions this again reveals what an advantage these brethren were to him. Their faith and love had endeared them to him, and He longed to be with them. I have mentioned before that this was not true of everyone to whom Paul ministered. However, those who extended themselves for Christ, availing themselves of the benefits proclaimed in the Gospel, gained a deeper respect and longing in the heart of the Apostle. This is in perfect keeping with the nature of the Lord Himself, who gives the greater benefits to those who press close to Him. As it is written, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" NKJV (James 4:8).
This is an aspect of spiritual life that is hardly known in our generation. We have been inundated with a theology that leaves people imagining that all professed believers are treated the same by the Lord. Those who are zealous for the Lord are thought to have access to no more than the lukewarm and indifferent. But this is not true, and must be zealously resisted. It is not possible to measure the benefits that are forfeited by walking at a distance from the Lord. In my judgment, many a congregation suffers under the weight of weak and thoughtless ministers and leaders because they have never developed an appetite for anything else. Their faith and love are too weak, and they appear unconcerned about the matter. That very spirit perpetuates spiritual mediocrity, lack of growth, and spiritual deterioration.
PERFECTING WHAT IS LACKING. Paul's desire to be with the Thessalonians was not prompted by the flesh. It was not mere friendship and camaraderie that he sought. He wanted to bring them further advantages: "supply what is lacking in your faith." NIV It may appear on the surface that this is contradictory. First he congratulates them for their faith, giving thanks for it, then he desires to supply what it is lacking. He is not saying they have neglected their faith, denied it, or stunted its growth with carnality. Rather, this is an acknowledgment that as long as we are in this world, our faith needs strengthening and growth. We do not live in a vacuum, but in an intensely active war zone. The pressures of this present evil world demand that faith grow and increase, for Satan is increasing his assault of the saints, knowing the time is short (Rev 12:12).
Our faith is not yet complete, or fully grown. Nor, indeed, will it be as long as we are in this world. As long as there is a danger of being beguiled (2 Cor 11:3), drawn away (James 1:14), or losing our first love (Rev 2:4), faith must grow. Supplying what is lacking in faith is the same as being established (Rom 1:11). It is receiving "a second benefit," or increased blessing (2 Cor 1:15). It is being made able to "progress" in the faith (Phil 1:25) and fulfilling "the work of faith with power" (2 Thess 1:11). The very nature of salvation demands growth, maturity, and fruitfulness. Paul fervently sought to contribute to that marvelous process. That is something of what is involved in laboring with God (1 Cor 3:9).
HoMeScHoOlInG qUeStIoNs 1 Thess 3:9-11
HoMeScHoOlInG qUeStIoNs 1 Thess 3:4-5