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Faith And Love Grow Through Perseverance

2 Thessalonians 1:3-5
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. (NIVUK)

Often, trouble brings tension between people. But Paul heard reports of the Thessalonian church being under pressure from persecution, but binding together instead of tearing each other apart – so different from the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:20), from where Paul was writing. Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit's activity within God's people, and it is a sign of being a disciple of Jesus Christ (John 13:35).

Paul thanked God for His work among the Thessalonians. More than that, he knew that he must praise God for answering the prayers of the missionary team and the other churches; and specially to honour the Lord who had spoken through His Word in Thessalonica, creating a church full of love for each other. In the New Testament, love is always intentional and practical (God so loved … that He gave … John 3:16). Love will usually also bring emotional affirmation but, in essence, love is sacrificial giving. Its source is God, who is love; His loving sacrifice is the template for all church relationships (1 John 4:10).

Their love increased despite persecution (Romans 8:35-39). God's work in their lives was ongoing and enduring. The believers trusted the Lord and trusted each other … and they kept on trusting even though their problems increased. All that was evidence that God had included them in His family, having made them righteous through the blood of Christ (Hebrews 13:20-21). He loved them and they had received His love, enabling them to reach out to others, prayerfully providing for their needs. They were an authentic church who could be confident that the Lord Jesus would receive them at His Second Coming or if He called them through death (Jude 1:21).

Nobody wants trouble or stress-inducing circumstances, but these problems have a special role as God works in our lives (James 1:2-4). As someone has said, God allows problems so that we will get better at loving and trusting (Romans 5:3-4). If we fail the test we will become bitter and hateful. The Thessalonians had passed with flying colours. What about you? Grumbling against our brothers and sisters reveals that we are not living in the love of God. God uses life's pressures to bind His children together so that they will grow in love as they persist in trusting Him. Perseverance is important: not just because it keeps us heading into the waves, but because it reveals that we have received the Lord's love and are trusting Him more and more (James 1:12).

Prayer 
God of love. Thank You for loving me, far more than I will ever fully know. Forgive me when I am anxious, bitter and grumbling; showing that I am not living in Your love and so not able to love others sacrificially. Please help me to realise how much the Lord Jesus has sacrificed for me because You have loved me, and help me to practise loving my brothers and sisters in Christ – thanking You for those godly examples of persevering love I see around me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams

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