When I remember and pray

 

 

[1 Thessalonians 1:1-3]

 

 

What do you think is the best thing that you can do for a person you love?  I think it is prayer.  I think prayer is the best thing we can do for our loved ones.  As I am trying to pray to God for the people I love, there is one thing that I have learned about prayer through the Paul's letter in the New Testament.  It is to remember and pray for the loved one.  For example, in Philippians 1:3, Paul wrote to the Philippian church saints whom he loved with the affection of Christ “… every time I remember you”.  He also wrote to the Ephesians church saints “remembering you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:16).  So I began to say to my brothers and sisters in Christ around me, "I'm praying for you" as I try to have a habit of remembering them in my prayers.  Then, on November 13, 2012, when I was meditating on the Word of God before the Morning Prayer, I saw my writing on my personal blog: ‘I am remembering you and praying.  In doing so, God impresses you in my heart.  Jesus is praying in remembrance of me.  The reason is because I am imprinted in Jesus' heart.’

 

In 1 Thessalonians 1:2, Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church saints: “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers.”  Paul always gave thanks to God because of the Philippian church saints (Phil. 1:3).  How could he always thank God?  How can we always thank God when we pray for our loved ones?  Paul always thanked God for the Philippian church saints whom he loved with the affection of Jesus Christ (v. 8) because he saw with his spiritual eyes what God had been doing in their lives (v. 6).  When we pray for the ones we love with the affection of Jesus Christ, we must always thank God because we see what God has been doing is their lives with our spiritual eyes instead of seeing their transgression with our physical eyes (Prov. 17:9).  When Paul remembered the Thessalonians church saints and prayed for them, he gave thanks to God always (1 Thess. 1:2).  Why did Paul always give thanks to God whenever he prayed to God for them?  The reason was because Paul constantly remembered something before Father God.  It was the Thessalonians church saints’ work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 3).  In other words, Paul gave thanks to God always whenever he remembered the Thessalonians church saints because of their work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope.  So I would like to receive the grace that God gives us as we meditated on the three reasons why Paul gave thanks to God whenever he remembered the Thessalonian church saints and prayed for them under the heading "When I remember and pray".

 

                First, the reason why Paul gave thanks to God always whenever he remembered the Thessalonians church saints was because of their work of faith.

               

                Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:3 – “constantly bearing in mind your work of faith ….”  What was the work of faith of the Thessalonians church saints, whom Paul constantly remembered and gave thanks to God in his prayers?  We can summarize their work of faith in three ways:

 

(1)     The Thessalonians church saints’ work of faith was that the gospel didn’t come to them in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:5 – “for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction;  ….”  God's amazing work of faith in the Thessalonian church saints was that when they heard the gospel of Jesus Christ through Paul, the gospel didnt come to them in word only but also in power, in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.  As result, they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (v. 9).  It is the God’s amazing work of faith that the Thessalonians church saints were saved by hearing the gospel through Paul and had assurance of salvation so that they turned to God from idols and served Him.  Are we witnessing this work of faith?

 

(2)     The Thessalonians church saints’ work of faith was that they received God's word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:6 – “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.”  The God’s amazing work of faith that was manifested in the Thessalonians church saints was that they received the word of God in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit since they believed in Jesus.  What a wonderful work of faith?  If they didnt believe in Jesus, they didn’t have to go through the much tribulation.  But they did believe in Jesus and received His word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.  And when they received His word that they heard through Paul and his co-workers, they “accepted it not as the word of men but for what it really is, the word of God” 2:13).  And the word of God was at work in them who believed (v. 13).  Are we witnessing this work of faith?

 

(3)   The Thessalonians church saints’ work of faith was that their faith had become known everywhere.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:8 – “The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it.”  The God’s amazing work of faith that was manifested in the Thessalonians church saints was that their faith in God has become known everywhere.  What a beautiful image of the believers it is.  What amazing word of their faith it was to see that the work of faith didn’t only appeared among them but also known to everywhere through them.  The work of their faith in turning to God from idols in repentance and serving the living and true God was known everywhere.  Dare we witnessing this work of faith in our lives?

 

Apostle Paul, who witnessed this work of faith in the lives of the Thessalonians church saints, always, thanked God as he remembered them in his prayers (1:2-3).  He thanked God continually (2:13).  I hope and pray that this kind of thanksgiving be with us.

 

Second, the reason why Paul gave thanks to God always whenever he remembered the Thessalonians church saints was because of their labor prompted by love.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:3: "... your labor prompted by love …."  What was the labor of love of the Thessalonians church saints, whom Paul always remembered and prayed for them in his prayers? We can sum up their labor of love in five ways:

 

(1)     The Thessalonians church saints’ labor of love was that they became imitators of Paul, his co-workers, and the Lord.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:6 – “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”  The Thessalonians church saints’ amazing labor of love was their labor and hardship in preaching the gospel of God like Paul and his co-workers (2:9).  Also, like Paul and his co-workers who suffered in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Thessalonians church saints also suffered from their own countrymen (v. 14).  They suffered by the Jews who were hostile to all men (v. 15).  In short, the Thessalonians Church saints’ labor of love was participation in the suffering of Paul and his co-workers in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They also suffered for the gospel.  Are we witnessing this labor of love in our lives?

 

(2)   The Thessalonians church saints’ labor of love was that they loved one another.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:9 – “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”  The labor of love that was manifested among the Thessalonians church saints was that like Paul and his co-workers who loved them (3:12) they loved one another as they were taught by God (4:9).  Especially, they appreciated and esteemed those who diligently labored among them, those who had charged over them in the Lord and gave them instruction (5:12-13).  And as Paul urged them to do, the Thessalonians church saints admonished the unruly, encouraged the fainthearted, helped the weak and were patient with everyone (v. 14).  They didn’t repay another with evil for evil but always sought after that which was good for one another and for all people (v. 15).  Paul, who remembered this labor of love by the Thessalonians church saints and thanked God continually, prayed for them that their love to increase and to overflow for each other and for everyone else (3:12).  Are we witnessing this kind of labor of love in our lives?

 

Why do you think the Thessalonians church saints did this labor of love?  I think the reason is because the Thessalonians church saints received the love of God.  Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:4 – “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.”  The Thessalonians church saints were those who received God's chosen love.  The God’s amazing labor of love that was demonstrated in them was God chose them because God loved them.  How do we know this?  We know this because Paul and his co-workers’ gospel came to them not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction (v. 5).  In a word, the wonderful work of God's love of the Thessalonians church saints can be seen in their work of faith.  They, who received this amazing love of God, lived as God's elected people.  This is their labor of love.  As the God's elected people, it was their labor of love that the Thessalonians church saints to live a life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Are we witnessing this labor of love in our lives?

 

(3)   The Thessalonians church saints’ labor of love was to comfort one another.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:18 – “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”  Our God is “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3).  He comforts us in all our affliction (v. 4).  He does so so that we can endure the suffering patiently (v. 6).  Also, God comforts us so that we can comfort those in any trouble (v. 4).  That is, we receive comfort so that we can comfort others (v. 6).  Therefore, we should be comforted Christians.  And we should comfort our neighbors just as God comforts us.  Especially, we should comfort our neighbors who are suffering in many ways, those who lost their loved ones.  This is what the Bible 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.”  Paul didn’t want the Thessalonians church saints to grieve about those who are dead as they were hopeless.  The reason was because there is a certain hope for those who believe in Jesus.  What is that certain hope?  It is the resurrection of the dead.  Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:14 – “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”  

 

We, Christians, believe that Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sins according to the Scriptures.  We also believe that Jesus rose from the grave on the third day, according to Scripture (1 Cor. 15:3-4).  Therefore, we believe that the Lord will bring back the dead saints to life when Jesus returns to this world, and that He will brings them with Him (1 Thess. 4:14-16).  And the Lord will lead us all into heaven.  And we will be with the Lord forever (v.17).  The Bible says “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (v. 18).  We must comfort our brothers and sisters in Christ who are sad because of the death of their loved ones. We should comfort them with the hope of this second coming of Jesus, the hope of the resurrection of the dead, and the hope of living with Him forever in heaven (5:14).

 

(4)   The Thessalonians church saints’ labor of love was to build each other up.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  The Lord is building His church (Mt. 16:18).  As we hold onto this promised of Jesus and pray to God, we must humbly join the Lord’s work in building His church.  In other words, we should use the Lord’s given gifts to build up His church (1 Cor. 14:3-5, 12, 26) as we make every effort to build each other up (1 Thess 5:11).  How can we build each other up?  This is what Paul said to the saints of the church in Ephesus: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29).  We can build each other up by speaking what is helpful for building others up such as encouraging and comforting words that can benefit those who listen.  We can also build each other up by loving one another with the sacrificial love of Jesus (2 Cor. 12:15).  Especially, we should love those who are weak by helping the weak (1 Thess. 5:14).  We must hold on to those who are weak in faith by encouraging them with the Word of God so that they may stand firm in their faith.

 

(5)   The Thessalonians church saints’ labor of love was to live in peace with each other.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:13 – “Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.”  We Christians must live in peace with people.  We must live in peace with everyone, not only with our family members, but also all members of the church, friends and co-workers and so on.  This is what Proverbs 17:1 says, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.”  This means that it is better to live in peace in poor family rather than a rich family with strife.  Then how can we live in peace with each other?  I thought of it in five ways: (a) We must be patient with everyone (1 Thess. 5:14).  (b) We must sacrifice ourselves (Mk. 9:50).  (c) We must deny ourselves (8:34).  (d) We must be humble (9:34-37).  (e) We must serve (9:41).

 

We must work hard for the glory of God.  Especially we must to do the labor of love.  Although we already love each other with the teachings of God like the Thessalonians church saints (1 Thess. 4:9), God wants us to love each other more and more.  This was Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians church saints.  I pray that this prayer will be our prayer as well: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”  Apostle Paul, who witnessed this labor of love in the lives of the Thessalonians church saints, always thanked God as he remembered them and prayed to God (1:2-3).  He continually thanked God (2:13).  I hope and pray that we also have this thanksgiving in our hearts.

 

Third and last, the reason why Paul gave thanks to God always whenever he remembered the Thessalonians church saints was because of their steadfastness of hope.

 

                Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:3 – “…  and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.”  What was the steadfastness of hope of the Thessalonians church saints that Paul was continually thanked God for whenever he remembered and prayed for them?  We can summarize it two ways:

 

(1)   The Thessalonians church saints’ steadfastness of hope was to wait for Jesus’ from heaven.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:10 – “and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead--Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”  Before the gospel came to the Thessalonians “not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction” (v. 5) (before they believe in Jesus), they were idolaters (v. 9).   And God loved and chose such idolaters (v. 4) that he called them into His kingdom and glory (2:12).  Therefore, they were Paul’s hope, glory and joy in the presence of Lord Jesus when He comes (vv. 19-20).

 

Do we have anyone who will become our hope, glory and joy in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes?  Our hope is the second coming of Jesus.  And our steadfastness of hope is to pray, expect and wait for His second coming.  Are we waiting for His second coming?  Those saints who wait for His second coming don’t grieve like the non-believers when when their fellow saints die (4:13).  The reason is because they believe that Jesus died and rose again (v. 14).  Also it is because they believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him (v. 14).  In short, the saints who are waiting for the second coming of Jesus are joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer (Rom. 12:12).  Do we have this joy and patient?

 

(2)     The Thessalonians church saints’ steadfastness of hope was to live a holy life.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 3:13 – “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”  For Paul’s hope, joy and glory, the Thessalonians church saints, he prayed that they might be blameless and holy in the presence of God and Father when Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.  A similar prayer is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 – “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Why did Paul pray like this?  The reason was their sanctification was the will of God (4:3).  Because God had not called them for the purpose of impurity but in sanctification (v. 7), Paul urged the Thessalonians church saints to abstain form sexual immorality and to know how to possess their own wives in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who didn’t know God (vv. 3-5).  That's right. The life of the saints who are waiting the Lord's return is a holy life.  If we are praying, expecting, and waiting for Jesus' return, we must be holy according to God's will.  Are we living the holy life now?

 

Paul continually remembered the Thessalonians church saints and thanked God because they showed steadfastness of hope by living the holy life as they waited for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:2-3).  I hope and pray that we too have this kind of thanksgiving.

 

Apostle Paul always remembered and thanked God for the Thessalonians church saints.  The reason was that he constantly remembered their work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope in Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of God and Father.  I hope and pray that we too have this work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father so that whenever we remember and pray for each other we can give thanks to God.