We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. (verses 3-4)
Canadian Thanksgiving was yesterday. It was a smaller gathering for us, with many family members currently out of town. But that didn’t slow the enjoyment of turkey, stuffing, gravy, et al! Amid mouthfuls of dinner, we took time to share items from our own “thankful lists” – family, relationships, personal blessings of all kinds, plus new life in Christ, and the Lord’s provisions in so very many ways.
It serves to remind me of the goodness of gratitude, indeed the necessity.
Paul says, “we ought always to thank God,” using a word that literally means “to owe a debt.” Thanksgiving is not just a feel-good moment, but actually a weighty debt that needs to be paid, continually. So, he pays it up, having the Thessalonians in mind. He’s not praising the Thessalonians themselves, firstly, but rather giving thanks to God. As “every good and perfect gift” comes from him, Paul acknowledges that the life and vitality he sees in the Thessalonians is a direct result of the Lord’s hand involved in their lives.
All of our own thanksgiving is directed firstly to him, too.
There are four pegs on which Paul hangs his thanksgiving, one of them repeated twice:
faith, love, perseverance, faith.
First, Paul gives thanks for the Thessalonians’ “faith.” He’s not thinking simply of a transaction in history past, but of an ongoing present reality. This faith is not stagnant, not standing still. Instead, it’s pulsing with life, “growing more and more,”which is the translation of a single word that means “to increase beyond measure, to grow exceedingly.” Certainly, the Thessalonians are actively engaging faith, but behind it is the empowering, nurturing presence of the Lord Almighty.
Oh, may we, too, lean into his presence, walking step by step in active trust.
Second, Paul gives thanks for their “love” which “superabounds.” The thing that stands out in this thanksgiving is the specific indication that “each one” is actively engaging in this present-tense love for one another. It’s not just a few. The whole church is pressing forward in love, just as Jesus loved.
Oh, may we, too, so engage.
Third, Paul gives thanks for their “perseverance,” a word equally meaning “patience, endurance, constancy,” which they have maintained amid the persecutions and trials they have experienced ever since the early days of receiving the gospel. They have not been swayed by such hardship. They have stayed true to their course.
Oh, may we, too, maintain such unswerving loyalty to Christ.
Finally, Paul gives thanks again for “faith,” alive and active, which has joined hands with “perseverance,” pressing in with ongoing trust in the Lord who sustains.
May we continue in these ways. May we actively engage in faith, love and perseverance. In it all, may we continually give thanks to the Lord, the One who faithfully works out his purposes in our lives.
O Father, praise you for your sustaining grace in our lives. Strengthen me by your Spirit to walk in faith, love and perseverance. To your glory. With deep thanksgiving. Amen.
Reflect: Looking back over your journey in the Lord, where have you seen faith grow, love increase, and perseverance persevere? Give thanks to the Lord who has provided. Where do you presently see gaps? Put them in the Lord’s hands for his ongoing work.
Photo by Mahdi Bafande on Unsplash