By J.A. Medders
Honor counts. When it comes to representing Christ, our actions aren’t irrelevant, but the good news is we aren’t left to navigate it all on our own. In today’s reading, the Thessalonian Christians are under severe persecution from the surrounding culture. The pressure to faithfully live as disciples of the crucified and risen God-Man are heating up around them. And yet, instead of retreating or dividing from one another, their love is increasing in all directions. Paul tells them, “We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing” (2Thessalonians 1:3).
Their devotion is so heart-warming that it even causes Paul to brag about them to other Christians. “Therefore, we ourselves boast about you among God’s churches—about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and afflictions that you are enduring” (v.4). When the apostle Paul is bragging on you, it’s got to be hard to stay humble—that is, unless you know, like Paul, where the strength to persevere originates.
Paul doesn’t pray that the Thessalonians would muster their collective energies and elbow grease to be worthy disciples of Christ. Nor does he give them ten hot tips to be worthy of Christ’s call to discipleship, sanctification, and glorification. Rather, Paul guides the heart of the Thessalonians to where their focus—and ours—must reside.
He prays that God, not they themselves, will make them worthy of His calling. Paul remembers what we often forget: God will get us to the other side. God will strengthen us. God makes us fit for the call of discipleship. God gives us what we need to endure till the end. He is the fuel in our good works, the holy umph in our lives.
We can’t make ourselves worthy; the gospel is bad news for self-actualization. But the gospel is good news for sinners who realize they need a mighty Savior. Jesus alone makes us worthy. Paul wants the Thessalonian church to really take this in as they face persecution with hope. Their testimony of faithfulness brings glory to God, but even their faith is sourced from their faithful God.
“In view of this,” Paul tells them, “we always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (vv.11–12).
Whatever challenges are ahead, they are not ahead of God or His work in making you fit for His calling. He is surely with you, just as He was with the Thessalonians.