“For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”
1 Thessalonians 3:10-13
Post by the Husband
Paul states that he is praying “most earnestly night and day” for his fellow Christians, so that he can see them face to face to supply what is lacking in their faith.
Now that’s some serious love.
Firstly, this is an example of how we should pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and this prayer should be earnest and constant.
As our family have been facing a health issue for one of our children, I can identify perhaps for the first time, this sense of earnest prayer that is constant. It feels like the moment I have a second to think by myself, my thoughts move towards the health of my precious child and I’m calling out to the Lord “please heal her Lord, please have mercy”.
Even in the middle of the night – for about 3 nights – I simply could not sleep properly and was waking up every 1 hour or so, with my mind so full of concern, and directing my prayer to God: “Please Lord, have mercy, bring healing I pray”. I wish I could tell you that I had more bold prayers, but I was exhausted, and all I could mumble in my half-asleep state was “Lord, please heal her”.
Maybe this is what earnestly night and day means, but the prayer in this case was that Paul could meet them face to face.
During this COVID-19 crises, I think most people in the world have felt the pain of not being able to meet face to face with people. God created humans as social creatures – we crave face to face contact – and indeed we need it.
Paul wasn’t just praying that he could meet them face to face though, he was praying for more than that – that when he met them, he could “supply what is lacking” in their faith. There was spiritual encouragement he had to pass onto the church that could only be done face to face. It was so vital that they meet face to face that he prayed night and day and very earnestly. Writing a letter was somehow insufficient. This spiritual encouragement could only be met through a face to face meeting.
“Oh God – how lax have we been in our attitude towards meeting with other Christian brothers and sisters. Have mercy on us Lord. There are certain things that can ONLY happen in face to face meetings. Encouragement that can only be shared when we are together. There is corporate worship that can only be brought to you when we are together. Oh Lord – please allow Christians around the world to meet face to face so that they can build each other up for your name’s sake. Let people meet so that evangelism and the building up of your church can occur.”
The next verse is interesting in that it links this increasing and abounding love for one another to having a blameless and holy heart before God when Jesus eventually comes back “with all his saints”. So to be blameless before God, there must be love in our hearts that is directed towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. To put it in the negative – we will be blamed one day – if we did not increase and abound in love for one another. It is a commandment from God – that we love one another.
Yet in this individualistic society we are programmed to “look after yourself”. We are taught to “self-care”, and as much as it is important to ensure one is caring for oneself – God’s commandment to us is to “love your neighbour as yourself”.
Perhaps because loving oneself is a natural thing to do.
Even people who say that they “hate” themselves, do in fact care about themselves. They preserve themselves and want themselves to be well. Even people who may wish to end their lives are ultimately doing it because in a sense they do care about themselves and do not want themselves to be in pain.
So loving one-self is instinctual and built-in, whereas loving others requires the love of God to move in us. Which is why the verse says “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love”. This is not a natural thing – for us to increase and abound in love for others.
We need the move of the Spirit to be loving. We need Him to move in our hardened hearts – to love our brothers and sisters.
Ultimately we will be judged one day – at the coming of our Lord and “all the saints”. Jesus Himself has identified with the Church. As imperfect as she is, we are called to love her, and to pray for her earnestly and to help her to grow in love, faith and purity.
Practically, this passage challenges me to be more vigilant in praying for our local church and the universal church as well, to be able to meet face to face. There is power in meeting together. I am also challenged to ask the Lord to move in my heart to increase it with love for others – without his move, I remain a self-loving selfish person.
Finally, I am challenged by the fact that Jesus will be looking at our hearts one day – to judge the living and the dead, and one of the main things he will be looking at is: did my people love my bride as much as I do?