Choosing a song for our mother/son dance should have been an easy task. Michael left it up to me, so I did what any good mother would do, I hit Pinterest for ideas! Some of the songs were really cheesy, others had kinda weird lyrics for a mom to dance with her son to. Some were fast, some slow. I felt like Goldilocks in the bears home! Finally, I found one that was just right! Carol King's "Child of Mine". I love the lyrics and the tempo was good. The chorus goes like this:
"O, yes sweet darling
So glad you are a child of mine
Child of mine
Child of mine
Oh, yes sweet darling
So glad you are a child of mine"
Being the mama of five children presented many challenges over the years. One of those was making sure each child felt loved, seen, and heard. I chose this song so Michael would know how glad I am that he is one of my children and I told him so as we danced.
God has many children, far more than five! Yet He loves each one the same. He sees each one of us. He hears us when we cry out to Him. He teaches us and He disciplines us. God is a good, good Father.
In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul addresses an issue that needed discipline. He wanted the Thessalonian believers to understand, as God's children there is a standard of behavior we must uphold. The world is watching and we must be a picture of God's love for them. When we have confident faith in our Father the world sees His strength through us. When we lovingly pray for one another the world sees His compassion. When we actively share the Gospel message the world sees His lavish love. When we lovingly discipline fellow Christians if they go astray the world sees His grace in action. We are a picture of God to the world.
Paul begins 2 Thessalonians 3 with a prayer request. But his request isn't for himself, rather it is for God's word to spread rapidly as he preaches and teaches to others. The believers in Thessalonica had heard Paul teach God's truth about Jesus. When Paul came to them with Silas and Timothy, these people were quick to listen and believe. The Word of God took root and grew within their hearts. They heard the Truth, accepted the Truth, stood firm in the Truth, and practiced the Truth. Now Paul prays for the Truth to have the same effect in other's lives.
Yet Paul knows: It's God's Word that does the work. God tells us through Isaiah:
"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11
All that is necessary for God's Word to spread rapidly and accomplish His purpose of salvation is for someone to share it with others. Jesus gave us the command to "go make disciples of all nations...teaching them to obey everything (He) commanded." When we take serious this call and share God's Word with others, His Spirit does the work of opening hearts to receive the Truth, believe "on the name of Jesus and be saved."
Paul shared the Truth with the Thessalonians and God's Spirit opened their hearts. The Truth spread like wildfire, not only in the lives of those in Thessalonica but also throughout all the region simply because a trio of men shared it with others. Likewise, we should prayerfully share the Truth of the Gospel with those God brings into our lives.
Paul's prayer for the Thessalonian believers continues with a second request. This time he asks them to pray God's protection for himself and his fellow missionaries. Paul encountered persecution everywhere he preached the Gospel. In Acts 14:2 we see the reaction of some of the Jews he preached to:
"But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers."
Later in that chapter, we see unbelieving Jews stirring up the crowds in Lystra so much so they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city leaving him there for dead. (Acts 14:19) In Philippi, he was jailed for commanding an evil spirit to come out of a slave girl. (Acts 16:16-24) And in Thessalonica, the unbelieving Jews caused a riot forcing Paul and Silas to flee the city. (Acts 17:5-9)
Paul knew persecution, as did the Thessalonian believers, yet he had confidence in God to strengthen and protect them and to enable them to continue in the good work they were doing spreading the Gospel message. Indeed, our confidence should be in and come from our Lord.
Confidence for God to strengthen us:
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
"I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength to do them." Philippians 4:13
Confidence in God to protect us:
"'Because he loves Me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.'" Psalm 91:14
"I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as we are one." John 17:11
Confidence in God to enable us to do good works:
"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58
"For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10
Our confident faith in God is what allows His Spirit to guide us and work through us.
Paul moves from requesting prayer to bestowing blessing in verse 5 of chapter 3. I love the way The Message paraphrases this verse:
"May the Master take you by the hand and lead you along the path of God's love and Christ's endurance."
In his letters, Paul has written to the believers commending them for their strong faith despite persecution, their love for one another and all people, and to clear up some confusion concerning the Day of the Lord. With this blessing, he prays for them to be led by God Himself into a deeper love, that they would learn to love as God loves. And that God would bestow on them the ability to endure hardship as Christ endured.
God loves lavishly.
Christ endured unto death.
As God's children, we are called to do the same.
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!... This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God's child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother or sister. For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another...This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. We ought also to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters...Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."
1 John 3, select verses
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 is:
God's children pray for and bless others with confidence that God will hear and act.
Who will you share God's Word with this week? How? Where does your confidence lie? What can you do to become more confident in God? Who needs a blessing spoken over their lives this week? How will you bless them? How do you speak blessings to others?
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul had urged them to "work with your own hands." (1 Thessalonians 4:11) Evidently some in the congregation did not heed his instruction. Now he strongly advises the believers to stay away from those within the church who were "idle and disruptive."
To be idle means not working or avoiding work, making a habit of doing nothing.
To be disruptive is to cause disorder, or to interrupt the normal flow of things.
By using these words together Paul is saying: Idleness leads to disruptive behavior.
We've all heard the saying: Too much time on my hands. When a child is left with too much unstructured time boredom gets the best of them and they find a way to pass the time, often in ways that are disruptive and disorderly.
The same is true of church members. Quite often the members who complain the most are those who are idle in their church work. Jesus told His disciples:
"My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent Me, and from finishing His work. You know the saying, 'Four months between planting and harvest.' But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, 'One plants and another harvests.' And it's true. I sent you to harvest where you didn't plant; others had already done the work, and now you will gather the harvest." John 4:34-38
God has given each of us work to do for His kingdom. Our idleness disrupts the flow of His work. Using the gifts He has given us within the church body enables the church to function as it should.
"Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ...Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of the body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love." Ephesians 4:12-16
Paul was a preacher. He was a teacher. He was also a tentmaker. He worked to provide for himself even though, as God's worker he could have insisted that the churches he planted provide for his needs. He didn't want God's gospel to suffer in any way. Many preachers during that time preached only for personal gain, not to further the Gospel. Paul was different. His sole desire was to tell others about God, Jesus, salvation, and the Holy Spirit. In order to this, he worked to support himself.
A true leader will get his hands dirty.
A true leader will do, not just say.
A true leader leads by example.
A true leader leads without seeking personal gain.
A true leader leads with integrity and pure motives.
Paul was a true leader and he expected the people he was leading to work, not only within the church but also to support themselves. He did not want any free-loaders. In verse 10 he said:
"Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: 'Anyone unwilling to work will not get to eat.'"
There is a difference between someone unable to work and someone unwilling to work. Being unable suggests a physical impediment hindering one from working. To be unwilling is an attitude of the heart and must be dealt with. God ordained work in the Garden and proclaimed it good. Paul told Timothy being unwilling to work is worse than not believing.
"But those who won't care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers." 1 Timothy 5:8
Clearly, work is very important to God.
In verse 11 Paul speaks of these idle and disruptive people, saying they are not busy but busybodies. There is a difference between being busy and being a busybody.
Gossip. Snoop. Tattetale. Trouble maker. Meddler. Evesdropper. Butt-in.
These are all synonyms for the word busybody.
Often an idle person becomes a busybody, worming their way into other people's affairs because they are bored. God has much to say about being lazy, being a busybody, a gossip, or a meddler.
"Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks."
About the young widows Paul told Timothy:
"Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to say." 1 Timothy 5:13
"A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends." Proverbs 16:28
And Peter grouped a meddler with murderers and thieves:
"If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or a thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler." 1 Peter 4:15
Perhaps this is why Paul so forcefully preached against idleness.
But busyness breeds diligence, productivity, effectiveness. When we are busy with the Lord's work we have no time to meddle in other people's affairs. Paul goes as far as to say we should not even associate with idle people.
"Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy but warn them as you would a fellow believer." 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15
Paul is warning against becoming "church police" in these verses. Have you ever heard this term? When my children were growing up there was a woman in our church who took it upon herself to discipline any child she saw misbehaving on church grounds. She was known as the "church police" and most of the children avoided her at all costs. While she meant well, her tactics were not always the best. She often belittled the children. She disciplined to get the children to behave the way she felt they should. Her firm hand did not always achieve the purpose she was looking for.
In these verses, Paul gives three ways to deal with idle members.
Exhort them to "settle down and earn the food they eat." (verse 12)
Withdraw from them. (verse 14)
Warn them. (verse 15)
He then says not to treat them as enemies.
God calls us to lovingly discipline, not to be church police forcefully enforcing His ways. The goal of our discipline shouldn't be a desired behavior. The goal of our discipline should be to bring a person back into right relationship with God. Changes in behavior come as right relationship with God is restored.
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 is:
God's children lovingly discipline those who are idle.
In your church home, are you idle and disruptive, or active and disciplined? Are you a complainer or a worker? Are you a busybody or a busy worker? What work has God given you to do? How are you obeying His calling? How do you discipline a fellow Christian? What is your attitude as you discipline? When you discipline are you trying to enforce a behavior or are you hoping to draw the person closer to God?
Paul's letter to the Thessalonians closes with a three-part blessing.
To me, there is nothing more peaceful than a sleeping baby. I used to sneak in and watch my babies sleep. However, one of my children required my presence in order to be able to sleep. Many nights I sat on the floor of her room singing to her. This took lots of patience and grace on my part. There were so many other things I felt I should be doing. But my child needed my presence so I was there for her.
Just as I knew peaceful sleep would eventually come to my child, Paul knew with peace in their hearts, the church at Thessalonica would continue to thrive no matter what. But true peace only comes in the presence of God, and a person can't be in God's presence without first accepting His grace.
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:1-2
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 3:16-18 is:
God's children find true peace through His grace.
Where does your peace lie? How can you find peace in God's presence? What can you do to remain in God's peaceful presence?
Gathered manna for 2 Thessalonians 3 is:
God's children are called to work until Christ returns.
May we experience all three as we endeavor to live this Christian life with each other! As we keep busy sharing God’s grace with others, may His peaceful presence surround us.
Until next time keep gathering manna, growing deeper, and gaining intimacy.
God bless and keep you,
1) Read 2 Thessalonians 3. Mark any keywords or phrases.
2) Prayerfully answer the questions in this lesson.
3) Study some prayers found in Scripture. What things can you implement in your own prayers? How can prayer keep you from becoming idle and disruptive?
(Some prayers to consider: Judges 6:13-22; 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Habakkuk 3:2-19; Acts 4:24-30; Colossians 1:9-12)