Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
– 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 [ESV]
I’ve been thinking lately about the approach of unchurched people which nearly begs people to come to worship. It’s as though they’re doing us (and God???) a favor by joining us in praising God, hearing his word, calling on him in prayer, and encouraging each other in the faith. Admittedly, when someone new attends a worship service I am happy for it. I love to see new people join the church. I’m delighted when someone from outside the church checks out what’s going on inside the church.
But they’re doing God no favor by attending worship. We don’t get any extra credit for welcoming someone into our fellowship. In fact, we may be taking on a whole new set of challenges and burdens in dealing with yet another sinner in our fellowship. For the church – hospital for sinners that it is – is full of sinners who are also saints. And sometimes even saints let the sinners get the better of us.
So when Paul writes, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,” he is lifting the curtain on a need we all have for humility toward God and one another. We are not in and of ourselves worthy of any of God’s favor and grace. Jesus taught this when he told his disciples, “When you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Luke 17:10).
We’re not doing God a favor by signing up for Jesus’ reign and rule. We are doing exactly what we ought to be doing. God makes us worthy by providing opportunities to sing his praise, call on him in prayer, and serve our neighbor.
Sometimes I can fall into the trap of thinking that because I am a servant of Christ, I should never be dismissed, ridiculed, ignored, or put out. On the one hand one might think that if he or she lived a perfect life. But I don’t live a perfect life. And the only One who has was treated more shamefully than anyone I know. Because I am a servant of Christ, I have the privilege of using his name in prayer, experiencing his grace in repentance, and living under Christ in his kingdom. That’s the privilege of being a son or daughter of the covenant.
Then comes the responsibility of being his representative of his reign and rule. We do that when we do the good works God provides for us. We do that when we forgive others who have harmed us. We do that when we take the high road of kindness, integrity, mercy, and justice. We do that when we pray for someone to be healed. We do that when we point to God who alone is worthy of praise and who does us the favor of calling us into his kingdom.
All this, “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Wow! What a privilege!