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Past Ponderings

Friday, June 2, 2023

What’s In This Benediction? (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13)

VIDEO

 What’s In This Benediction? (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13)

GIST: May the loving and sovereign God direct your steps and transform your hearts, so you might be firmly His and ready for His return.

This morning, we’re coming to our last foray into 1 Thessalonians before taking a break for our annual “Summer in Psalms”. Truthfully, I had initially anticipated finishing all of 1 Thessalonians before reaching this point, but I think the place we’re coming to as a “pausing point” of sorts is actually perfect. Not only is this a natural breaking point in the letter itself as Paul is about to launch into the instruction-driven part of his letter, but it is also a benediction. This is the second time we’ve seen Paul say, “Hey, I’ve been praying for you guys” followed by examples of the substance of those prayers. As a benediction, he is speaking the prayer to them, though it is also directed to God. Like Old Testament blessings like Numbers 6:24-26, “24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” This was a beautiful blessing spoken to the people, but it’s a prayer because the blessing comes from God. That’s what we have here today, as well. 

 

“11 Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 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.”


This morning, I just want to walk through this benediction together. The truths presented here are pretty straightforward, but they’re also beautiful and encouraging, so I hope we can apply this prayer to our lives, as well. Here’s our gist (which is really just a summary of the prayer ☺️): May the loving and sovereign God direct your steps and transform your hearts, so you might be firmly His and ready for His return. Let’s dive in→


I. May the Loving & Sovereign God

“11 Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus”

Paul chose deliberate words to describe two persons of the Trinity. God the Father and the Lord Jesus. 

It is really interesting, because there are so many attributes of God, but in this context, Paul chose to highlight Him as our Father. This draws our attention to His love—that the God of the universe in all His power and glory would want to call us His children and would want to pour out compassionate love on us as the best possible parent. It’s a reminder that this blessing and this prayer are being directed to the God who wants to hear and wants to draw you near to Him.

Then, Jesus, who we know is equally loving—so loving in fact that He took Hell in our place that we might have access to His gift of forgiveness and rescue—is called the Lord. What does this remind us? Not only is God willing to hear us, not only does He want us to draw near to Him, but He is also the one completely in control! What can stop Him? Nothing. Man, I need to remember this when I pray. God is loving and all-powerful. It is this God, who Pauls asks to→ 


II. Direct Your Steps and Transform Your Hearts 

“ direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you” 

Let’s break down what is being asked for here.

Direct Our Way. This phrase is only used like two other times in the New Testament (2 Thessalonians 3:5 and Luke 1:79), and it carries the connotation of overcoming obstacles. Paul knows where the Thessalonians are, so he doesn’t need directions. Right now, he can’t get to them because of hindrances outside of his control. However, like we talked about last week, he knows those hindrances are not outside of God’s control! So, he asks God to remove those barriers. Does He? Eventually, Paul returns to Thessalonica on his third missionary journey, but we’re talking about 5-years from the writing of this letter. Paul knew that God could take him there, but that didn’t mean He would right away, or ever. In the meantime, God also had a lot of other plans for Paul. We need to trust that God not only can direct our steps but that His directions are also so much better than even our best desires. 

So, Paul prays for God’s direction and that the Thessalonians would be→

Increasing and Abounding In Love. This is a cool request because these two letters to the Thessalonians make it pretty clear that they didn’t lack love. They were already living like that. Nonetheless, Paul asks that they overflow with what is already there. And there aren’t limitations to that love either. This is meant to be for anotherand all. Just like Paul had strove to demonstrate to them while with them, he asks that they exude love…which will then lead to the last part of this prayer→


III. So You Might Be Firmly His And Ready For His Return 

“13 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.”

This is the result of being transformed by His love. Our hearts will be established—firmly placed on the right foundation—as blameless in holiness before our God and Father— not made perfect in our own right, but covered in His righteousness and firmly striving to reflect His character which is at work within our hearts. The more we love God and love people, the more our lives will reflect Him. 

And, the more we’ll be ready for His return. I told you when we first started this study that every chapter ends with a reference to Jesus’ return. Here’s chapter 3’s. The more we love Him, the more our lives will be lived prepared for His return because we’ll be doing what He’s called us to do, and we’ll be looking forward to His coming back…which our hearts will be not only convinced of but excited about!

Ok, so shorter message this morning, but some beautiful truths to chew on. Let’s hit a couple quick→


TAKEAWAYS

  1. Remember God’s character. Truth and Love. Compassionate and Sovereign.

  2. Trust His guidance and timing. Even when they aren’t our own.

  3. Turn your heart constantly toward His example of love. Cut out whatever turns you away and watch as that changes everything else.

  4. Thank Him for His grace which covers you in His righteousness.

  5. And look forward to the reality of His return!

Now, let’s close by reading this again as our benediction:

“11 Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 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.”