2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.
I forget how many years ago it was that someone pointed out to me that this verse records the direct answer to a prayer that Paul recorded in his previous letter to these people: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12) It is certainly encouraging to be able to record answers to prayer like that! A second thing to note is that the prayer and its answer are a highly desirable goal for any group of believers. Particularly in America we tend to be very individualistic, wrapped up in our own little worlds, when God is interested both in each individual and in the group as a whole. Many parts of God’s plan are achieved only as we interact with one another, (John 13:34-35) and Jesus specified our interactions with one another in what He called the Second Commandment as well. (Mark 12:31) It’s easy to feel pious about loving God, but loving the person in front of us can be a different matter. Frankly, it’s something we have to work at, right along with working on our obedience to God to demonstrate our love for Him. (John 14:15) Paul demonstrates that it’s entirely appropriate to pray for an increase of love, and that God delights to answer such prayers. I think we need to start first with praying for genuine love among believers, and then branch out to include others as well. Actually, agape love is only manifested in a faith context, so this is intimately connected with evangelism. If we want people to be more loving, we need to introduce them to Jesus!
We had a practicum in this very recently, when someone with whom we’ve had a contentious relationship showed up on their own, and we had a good time of prayer together. Everyone is in need of prayer, and everyone has room to grow in the areas of faith and love. Prayers like 1 Thessalonians 3:12 are pretty safe territory! As a pastor I am constantly admonishing people to love God more and love their neighbor more, but I must never forget myself in that prayer, never think that I have “arrived” in either of those areas. Agape isn’t something I can generate on my own, but I’ve got to be active in receiving it from God and allowing it to flow through me, both back to Him and to those around me. Faith is exactly the same way. It is a gift of God, (Ephesians 2:8-9) but I am to exercise it so that it will grow. If I will do that, God’s love in me will grow right along with it, and God Himself will be manifested more and more in and through me, because He is love. (1 John 4:8)
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for all You are bringing us through to grow both our faith and our love. Thank You for the door You seem to be opening for me to hold marriage seminars, because of the love people see in Cathy and me for each other. I pray that I would be fully useful in encouraging faith and love in all those around me, so that many may repent and believe, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!