Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
– 2 Thessalonians 3:1-12 [ESV]
I just finished recording a program for Evangelical Life Ministries. It will air on November 27, Thanksgiving weekend. In that program I listed five things for which I am thankful. In reverse order of importance they are:
- Things I can taste, touch, smell, see, or hear
- The freedom I have as a citizen of the United States (so germaine this day after election day)
- The family of God, my brothers and sisters in Christ
- My family: wife, children, their spouses, our grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins
- The goodness and grace of God fully shown in Jesus Christ
In regard to the most important one, I quoted Psalm 107:1, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” I so appreciate the word, steadfast. Unmoving. Absolutely reliable. Unwavering. Always there. Neither flighty nor fickle. So when Paul speaks of directing our hearts toward the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ, I especially take notice.
It might be that we are being urged to express the love of God to one another, and reflect Christ’s steadfast commitment to God in all we do. Jesus commands us to love one another as he has loved us. And to be steadfast in faith is not an unfamiliar calling. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). This calling is connected with Jesus’ resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” I believe this is certainly true to Paul’s intent here.
But there is yet another way to think of this, and as such it becomes a very encouraging call to living a steadfastly-faithful life. Jesus was perfectly steadfast toward doing the will of the Father. He was steadfast in seeking and saving the lost. He was steadfast in speaking and embodying the truth in every situation. He was steadfast in uplifting the humble and bringing down the arrogant. He was steadfast in teaching his disciples and giving them the co-mission of making disciples. He never wavered. Having our hearts directed to Christ’s steadfastness is a call to far-reaching faith. If our hearts are directed to Jesus, certainly we will reflect his character to others around us.
The same can be said of God’s love. It is unwavering. Absolutely reliable. Completely certain. Positively present. Reliably available. As our hearts are directed toward God’s steadfast love, we will be secure enough to risk loving others. Paul, here, is speaking about our hearts which will determine our actions. If our hearts are directed toward God’s love and the steadfastness of Jesus, we will not merely give a nod of acknowledgment to these things. We will embrace and reflect them toward others.
You cannot reflect what you do not see. You cannot give God’s love if you’ve not received it. You cannot be steadfast if you’re not convinced of Jesus’ steadfastness. And even when we’ve received God’s love, and been convinced of Jesus’ steadfastness, we need constantly to turn our hearts toward Jesus for his never-ending supply of love and grace. Thankfully it is never-ending. Steadfast. Reliable. Perpetually present. May our hearts be drawn toward that and our faith embrace them and give us courage and the will to express them to others. We’ll be blessed by it, and bless others in the process.