Letters to the Thessalonians

This devotional is written by Sarah Harris. Sarah Harris, journalist, small person, worrier, dad joker, pub frequenter, terrible cook, enthusiastic eater. 

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

Living to Please God

4 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
3 It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.[b] The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God's family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Reflection

Paul's letter to the Thessalonians is absolutely brimming with love for them and it's clear how much he misses and them and wishes he could be with them (Paul got kicked out of Thessalonica and hadn't be able to return). His colleague Timothy had been to visit and on the whole was really pleased with how they were getting on, but he'd filled Paul in on a few things that they needed to sort out. So Paul is writing to them to both to encourage them for how well they were already doing, but also to correct a few misunderstandings and remind them how to stay strong in the face of persecution.

Understanding that this was written in love, not as a stern reprimand, this section (especially the part about sexual immorality) shouldn't be read as something damning and angry, as I'm sure many people may have heard it before. Remember, Paul is telling the Thessalonians how much he loves them and is proud of them. He wants them to stay strong no matter what gets thrown at them, and part of that is staying close to God. He's reminding them that sexual immorality distances them from God. Giving in to every impulse we have (and that can apply to all sorts of temptations, not just things to do with sex) just simply isn't good for us. It's especially destructive when we hurt other people too (v6).

God will always be there but we can choose to draw close to him or distance ourselves. He will never, ever leave but it's up to us what our relationship with him can be like. The things Paul suggests the Thessalonians needs to work on in this passage - not giving in to lust, loving others even when they aren't Christians, and minding their own business '  aren't exactly big, exciting commissions. But they are things that will help them draw nearer to God, become stronger in their faith and help them stand up to the challenges they had to face.

Whether it's in relationships, your working life or dealing with the wider world, what effect are your behaviours having on your relationship with God? He wants to be involved in every area and wants to build you up.

Thank you Lord that you love me no matter what. Help me to understand how my behaviour impacts my relationship with you. Draw me closer and give me the wisdom to understand if there are things in my life that I need to change. I put my trust in you. Amen.

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