1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
I really love this benediction, particularly because it’s been set to music delightfully in Japanese. (I have translated it into English so we can sing it bilingually here.) The famous brief instructions in the previous several verses are so absolute that the average believer might despair of ever living up to them. However, these two verses remind us that it is God who does the “heavy lifting.” Especially verse 24 here puts the focus where it should be, on God Himself. It’s not that we are perfectly faithful, or even that we have to strive to be for fear of being totally rejected, but that He is faithful, and He’s got it all in hand. There’s a beautiful little chorus that says, “God’s got it all in control.” Here Paul is saying exactly that, and that we aren’t to be anxious about any of it. A common reaction to the Bible is, “I could never live up to that, so why try?” Paul is pointing out that whatever God asks of us, He enables us to do; all He asks of us is the decision, the commitment. That’s a truth I tell people frequently, but they have trouble accepting it. That’s why God had Paul write it down in a letter that would become part of the Bible!
As often as I tell other people about this principle, I’ve got to remember and walk in it myself. It does me no good if I fail to practice what I preach! I also need to remember this passage when I get anxious about those under my ministry. Some have seemed to stray, but I can’t force them onto the “straight and narrow,” no matter how hard I try. The only result that is guaranteed is resentment! I’m not to hold back from speaking the truth in love to them, but what they do with that truth is their responsibility, so I am to pray for them, before and after I speak, that they would accept God’s truth and allow it to set them free. (John 8:32) As I do that, I need to remember that my prayers don’t force God to do anything, but He often uses my prayers to accomplish His perfect will, often in ways I couldn’t have imagined. The better I remember the faithfulness of God, the less stress I will have!
Father, thank You for this reminder, particularly when stress is quite a topic of conversation and concern. I frequently remember that You told me to rest, relax, and rejoice, but I’m still learning to do it! Thank You indeed for Your faithfulness. Help me truly believe and trust that faithfulness, to the degree that I indeed give thanks in all circumstances, like it says in verse 18. Thank You. Praise God!