(Posted on June 30, 2012. Three months of blogging, and I still hadn’t figured out about publicizing! Nor, obviously, had I learned to use illustrations. Slow learner? I don’t really remember clearly, except that I was still in learning mode and the whole process was confusing to me at times. I’ve just finished reading through this post of nine years ago, and I chose to emphasize the sentence you will see in both bold and italics. I remember this first major study I did as being a great blessing and encouragement to me, personally, as we were going through a most difficult time in our lives. I hope you will be encouraged to read the whole series.)
I Thess. 1:2-4. “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;(3) Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; (4)Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.”
The first three chapters of this book are very personal in nature, as Paul writes of his feelings and relationships to the believers. The final two chapters are practical and doctrinal, concerning end times and behaviors in the fellowship. This first chapter is almost entirely one of Paul’s love for and joy in the believers in Thessalonica. The Book of Galatians is the only letter Paul wrote in which he did not follow this practice of opening with praise and thanksgiving–and that’s a study for another time.
Because Paul makes such a point to preface every prayer with thanksgiving, we need to take a look at his practice. First, he uses the plural pronoun we. This is not an editorial we, but a reference to Silas and Timothy who joined him in his thanksgiving for the believers in Thessalonica. They all had a very important part in establishing the community of believers there, and all maintained an interest in the work.
The thanksgiving is directed to God, Who is the author of salvation. In the Greek language, Paul made it clear that he was not referring to just any god in an idolatrous culture; he used The God to make it clear that he was referring to the one true God. Every word is important. And by directing his praise to God, he was making it clear that he and the other missionaries took no credit to themselves. Every work for God must be of God, or it will not succeed.
This emphasis seems to be such a small thing, and yet it is foundational to our understanding of Who God is. When we assume that we, in our own strength, are going to do God a favor and establish some mighty work in His Name, we are doomed to failure. If He, on the other hand, chooses to use us to build what He has already decided to do, then we are the favored ones! It is our privilege to work for Him under His direction to do what He has willed for us to do. We do God no favors when we see ourselves as the moving force in doing His work. He does us a huge favor when He allows us to participate in His work. We really need to get our thinking straight on this matter. I believe it is one of the reasons there has been such persecution committed in God’s Name down through the centuries; it is because man has decided what he will do for God, and anyone who doesn’t acknowledge the rightness of it will suffer. How can God be honored when people are destroyed under the guise of righteousness?