Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Special thanks to Peggy Graff and her guests for providing this uplifting and inspiring addition to us in her Hymn-a-Day May series. I pray that these paired daily selections will uplift your spirits and feed your soul as much as it does mine.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Thessalonians’ Faith and Example
2 We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers and sisters[a] beloved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. 9 For the people of those regions[b] report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
In the scripture reading for today, Paul is writing to the church at Thessalonica—an important center of civilization in its day. Paul had risked quite a bit in founding the church there. Someone said that wherever Paul went he either started a church or a riot, and most of the time it was both. The book of Acts (17:1-10) says that Paul stayed there three weeks preaching and teaching. Many of the people of the city became followers of Jesus—people belonging to the Way.
According to the Book of Acts, the religious authorities brought Paul and Silas before the local magistrates and made this charge, shouting: “These people who have been disturbing the peace throughout the empire have also come here. What is more, Jason has welcomed them into his home. Every one of them does what is contrary to Caesar’s decrees by naming someone else as king: Jesus.” [Acts 17:6-7] Paul had to leave at night under the cover of darkness, to avoid being beaten or perhaps even killed. The NRSV says that the early Christians were “turning the world upside down.” They were “disturbing the peace.” They had the gall to name someone other than Caesar king: Jesus.
Paul was concerned about the church there. He wondered how that fledgling faith community was doing, so as soon as he could, he sent Timothy to check things out. He received good news and was overjoyed with it. The Church in Thessalonica had grown and remained faithful and that church was very special to Paul.
At least four times in this first epistle, Paul gives thanks for the church and the way it responded to his ministry.
So, what characteristics of this particular community of faith made it exemplary and such a joy to Paul’s heart? Here’s what Paul says: “We always thank God for all of you when we mention you constantly in our prayers. This is because we remember your work that comes from faith, your effort that comes from love, and your perseverance that comes from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.”
John Calvin, the 16th century reformer, said of this verse: “It is a brief definition of true Christianity.”
There it is in a nutshell: work that comes from faith, effort that comes from love, and perseverance that comes from hope. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says that these three are enduring. They last: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these, he proclaims, is love.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster