Studies in I Thessalonians
Last time we learned that praying like Paul meant we must express complete dependence on God’s providence not miracles (I Thess. 3:11)
Next, to pray like Paul, we must focus on love. “… and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you” (v.12).
Paul prays their love would grow and overflow the container in all directions. He wants their love to go beyond their close friends and inner circle to everyone, friend and foe alike.
This love should be regardless of looks, age, gender, lifestyle or personality. It should go beyond bad breath, body odor or sin choices. This love should be regardless of whether they love you back and especially for those who don’t!
To pray like Paul is to pray to Jesus to become like Jesus, welling up and over flowing with love for every single person on the planet.
Fellow believer, let us not kid ourselves. If we don’t love people, we are far from Christ-like. Faith is glorious and hope in the return of Christ is life-giving. But love is the greatest of these.
Love is of God and from God, for God is love. Love is the Spirit of God in action, the first fruit of His life in us. Without love, you and I are annoying gongs and clanging cymbals that give people a headache. Without love, you and I are nothing. Without love you lose all eternal reward, even if you give your body to be burned at the stake.
Being cold, withholding good, lacking forgiveness, shunning others, and our trained self-righteous disgust is from the flesh and the devil, not God.
Christians abounding in love are able to love their spouses, children, parents, pastors, elders and one another. Christians can truly love all human beings as yourself as we are empowered by God’s Spirit.
We can love our enemies and do good to those who hate us and bless those who persecute us. We are to be overflowing springs of love that drench everyone without discrimination!
You don’t have to love all foods, all dogs, all music or every style of clothing. Thank God! But in Jesus, we get to love all people!
Our Bible thumping, stand-offish judgmental attitudes toward people who don’t look and act and believe and worship and vote as we do is not from God, it is from the flesh. Trust me, I’ve been there.
We are to love sinners, befriend sinners, do good to sinners and pray for them without loving their sin. And we are to love all Christians.
Finally, to pray like Paul we must keep the Awards Banquet in view: “… so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (v.13).
Paul prays with a long term, long range outlook that this flock is ready for the Day of Final Exam and Awards Banquet.
This verse teaches us that love is an integral part of holiness. In v.12 he prayed their love would abound so that in v.13 their hearts are established in holiness. The one leads to the other.
Overflowing love then is the path to holiness. Why is this? Because if love is the greatest command, the lack of love must be a great sin and stain on our holiness. Maybe the greatest horizontal sin of all.
If I love another person, I will only do them good and never sin against them. To never sin against someone is holiness in action!
It is this love to holiness that prepares us for the Bema seat judgment of Christ at His return for His church. At that time, our love and holiness will be evaluated, not as to our salvation, but as to our rewards.
So here’s the picture in Paul’s mind. Christ appears in the sky and His holy ones meet Him in the air. They then come before God the Father and Jesus at the Bema seat judgement. Jesus brings them there. He comes “before our God and Father” … “with all His saints.”
After meeting Him in the air, we will not come with Him back to earth but rather back to heaven, to His Father’s presence, to this Day of great evaluation, with rewards or lack of rewards.
And this Day colors and flavors our prayers for each other now.
How do we pray like Paul? By praying with total dependence on the providence of God, focused on love leading to holiness, with our judgement day in mind.
This is how to touch the heart of God in prayer. I close with a prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, cause our love for each other and all people to increase more and more so that You may fix our hearts in holiness for that great day when we are snatched away and come with You before the Father to be evaluated and rewarded.
Help us all to always live in light of that divine appointment.
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight