Lord, Strengthen Us in Our Faith, Hope and Love!
The fact of the matter is that none of us is perfect. To realize this is a gift of humility. In this humility, we realize our absolute need for God and his faithful love toward us. Here, at the conclusion of his Second Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul requests their prayers, and reiterates his confidence in them. But, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he also admonishes them to beware of certain temptations, or problems that can threaten their faith.
The first five verses of chapter 3 counsel us about being ever more conscious of the problem of “wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith.” (verse 2) This is something for all of us to be wary of, is it not? Certainly, we should pray for the humility to recognize our own faults, first and foremost. We are to turn to God in repentance for our own sins before all else. But there are those who do not have faith, even those who despise the faith, or who are in active rebellion from it. And sometimes these types try to steer us away from the faith.
The problem of evil is that it is in competition with the good. Because of this, it has to wear “disguises” that make it “appear” to be good. This can sometimes become a real threat to us. The threats to our faith are rarely violent and recognizably evil. Though that, too, exists. Most of the time, they are much more subtle. Sometimes they even come in the guise of faith, using the language of faith. These are truly wicked and evil. But, ironically, because they are evil, they do not quite use the language correctly. They manipulate it; they make it “seem” like the language of faith. But if we look at their goals, and even better, at the consequences of their words and actions, they will always, in the end, reveal themselves as wicked or evil. They often reveal themselves because it eventually becomes clear that what they preach is all about them. They use God and the faith for their own purposes, rather than those of God. As believers, we must be able to discern the difference between what is true religion and what is not.
How do we do this? We must, first and foremost, pray. We must read and reflect on the Scriptures. We must seek the counsel of those who are spiritually strong and knowledgable. And we must observe the Sabbath in community with our believing brothers and sisters. We must pray for humility. In this we will come to understand what is meant by the proverb, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” (Proverbs 9:10) When we read the Scriptures we hear God’s voice speaking to us directly and personally. We are to contemplate these things in humility, recognizing their source. If we are humble and attentive enough, we will recognize those among us who are spiritually strong in the love of the Lord. We should seek them out and listen to their wise counsel. If God has called us to this kind of spiritual wisdom ourselves, we must be humble and generous to those who come to us seeking help in their faith journey. And we must always point them toward God, not us. When we attend Church, we are in the presence of Jesus, for he promised us that, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) If we do these things in faith, hope and love, we will come to know true happiness. We will be able to recognize the wicked and evil ones who wish to take us away from God, and we will do well, as Paul admonishes, to “Pray that we may be delivered” from them.
Lord, strengthen us in our faith, hope and love. Give us the gifts of wisdom and humility. We ask you to direct our hearts to always seek to be in your presence and to fill us with perseverance in Jesus Christ. We trust in your faithfulness, Lord. Deliver us from those who would do us harm. We pray in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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