How do you feel about your work? Do you feel fulfilled? Is it a struggle? Do you feel able to glorify God in what you do? Bring your gratitude and challenges before God in prayer.
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 in a way that is holy and honourable, 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. 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.
Paul’s love for the Thessalonians is founded in God’s love (see 1:4). So far in his letter to them this deep love has given rise to profound encouragement, and has overflowed into prayer (3:11). This passage shows us what a natural and practical expression of the increase of God’s love looks like (v 10). Living in a way that pleases God (v 1) means loving others practically and through our behaviour. We are taught by God to love each other (v 9). Paul makes it clear that this means honouring, respecting and serving each other in all of our relationships: sexual, familial, financial, and within the Christian community (vs 3–8,9,12).
What does this mean for our daily lives? Consider your daily routine and rhythms of life throughout the week in the light of Paul’s description of a ‘labour prompted by love’ (1:3). Do you have contentment in where God has placed you, in the context of your relationships, and in your financial status (v 11)? How can you be encouraged by Paul’s own example of making tents at the same time as encouraging and teaching the Thessalonians (see 2:9)?
‘If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us’ (1 John 4:12). Reflect on your daily life and work in relation to these verses.
Deeper Bible study
‘Live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.’1
Having prayed for the Thessalonian believers’ holiness2 Paul now spells out specific ways of living to please God. He opens with ‘by the authority of the Lord Jesus’ (v 2), showing just how seriously he wants them to take these matters. The first concerns sexual immorality. Remember that what the Jewish community and its Christian offspring would have regarded as immoral was generally considered quite acceptable among pagan Gentiles. They would probably have regarded Paul’s teaching as absurd: ‘Nowhere in known pagan literature is anyone concerned with holiness or holy living.’3 God, however, is concerned with holy living; so was Paul, and so should we be today, despite the peer pressure and even mockery that may oppose us.
The apostle urges holiness in three ways – abstinence, controlling lust and respecting sexual boundaries. He does more than simply outlaw certain actions as, like Jesus, he exposes the motives of the heart.4 God’s will is that we should be sanctified (v 3) – and that word means ‘set apart’. Paul wants the believers to look and behave like a new kind of community, following a different kind of king. No wonder some Thessalonians had said of Jason and Paul that they had ‘turned the world upside down’.5
Sanctification involves two other matters. The first is brotherly love, for which the Thessalonians already have a good reputation – but Paul wants them to do even better. Jesus tells us that love is the basis upon which outsiders will judge our message.6 The second is the issue of believers not being willing to work, because they felt the day of the Lord’s return was near. This was mistaken zeal at best and wanton idleness at worst, so Paul urges his followers to work with diligence as the best kind of readiness and witness for kingdom people to show.
Living to please God and not ourselves or even others is a great challenge in any age, but especially ours. Commit to making that your priority today.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Deuteronomy 10,11; Romans 1
Pray for Scripture Union
The Youth Evangelism Conference, that was due to take place this weekend in Manchester, has been postponed until the autumn. Please pray for all youth leaders, that they will be able to share their own faith and equip children and young people to share their faith with their friends.