Philippians chapter 2

“Do nothing from selfishness of empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Vs 3-4

Maybe it’s an ego problem, but I keep wanting to read Paul’s letters as if they were written to me alone. Like he was my best friend writing to encourage me while I was away at camp. So I tend to read them from a self-centered perspective and forget the fact that he was writing to a group of people who were probably hearing his letter read out loud to them as they met together for fellowship. If I read chapter two with that group context in mind, it changes the message for me. It reminds me of Paul’s obsession with living out the power of the gospel in the context of community.

In verse 2 he tells them to make his joy complete by “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Listen to that same verse from the New Living Translation: “Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose.” Paul’s joy was focused on the believers in Philippi having a unity of heart and purpose motivated by a genuine love for one another. Paul wasn’t interested in raising up individual believers with their own personal agendas and spiritual growth plans. He wanted to see a local body of believers who were living out their faith in loving community. It is as if Paul was saying, “You want to make me happy? Then get along!” It’s the same thing I say to my kids whenever they ask me what I want for Christmas or my birthday. I always say the same thing. “I just want me kids to love one another.” They always roll their eyes and say, “Come on Dad, be serious. What do you really want?” But what they don’t understand is that is exactly what I want. Their love for one another is my greatest desire. Paul felt the same way. And he knew what was the greatest roadblock to this kind of community. He names it in verses 3-4.

“Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.”

Selfishness. Self-centeredness. Individualism. Pride. Wanting things your own way. Having your own personal agenda and demanding that everyone else follow it. Thinking of yourself as more important than anyone else around you. Paul knew all it would take is one person with this kind of attitude to destroy any sense of community in the body of believers at Philippi. There was no room for selfishness or self-centeredness. No one had the right to consider himself or herself better or more important than anyone else. In fact, they weren’t to consider themselves at all. Instead, they were to have an attitude of humility. Some say that humility is thinking less of yourself. No, humility is not thinking of yourself at all. It is not a belittling of yourself or lowering your estimation of your own self worth. To do those things you would have to spend precious time thinking about yourself. Paul seems to be saying, stop thinking about yourself so much and start thinking about others. The truth is, we think way too much about ourselves and of ourselves. It’s a “the-world-revolves-around-me” mentality that is a cancer that will destroy and sense of community, whether in a family, a small group, a Bible study, or a local body of believers.

So Paul says, “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” In other words, he is saying they should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had. And so should we. An attitude of humility, selflessness, sacrifice, servanthood, and love that puts self so far in the background that it is willing to see self die in order to put the needs of others first.

Paul goes on to say, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Vs 12-13). Paul is talking to the “beloved” – the body. He seems to be addressing the group, not the individual. God is at work among them. He wants them to individually and corporately to be extra careful to put into action God’s saving work in their lives. Why? So that they will be “blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach” (Vs 15). Their unity and love will make them stand out like bright shining lights in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation.”

Isn’t that what our world is dying to see? Our lives shining like a bright light in the darkness? But they won’t see it if we are all living for ourselves, selfishly focusing on our own individual needs and concerns. When we live like that, we are no different than the world. God has called us to imitate His Son. To live lives of humility and self-sacrifice. To love others more than we love ourselves. To be willing to give rather than get. To serve rather than be served. To die to self and live for the sake of others. To be willing to be “poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service” of one another’s faith (Vs 17). What a difference that kind of attitude would make in our churches, our homes, and in our community.

Father, you have called us to live in a way that is so foreign to our natural inclinations. My flesh doesn’t want to die. I want to be the center of my own little world. But You are calling me to die daily. I know I don’t have the power to do that in and of myself, but with the help of Your Holy Spirit, I can put that selfish, self-centered part of me to death and live for the sake of others. Show me how to do that even today. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Philippians chapter 1

“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” – Vs 27

I don’t think I ever really noticed how many of Paul’s admonitions in his leterse were not for the individual believers, but for the body – the community of believers. Somehow, in Western Christianity, we have turned all of this into a solo-sport. It is all about my walk, my relationship with Christ, my quiet time, my sanctification. And while there is not doubt that there is an individualized aspect to spiritual growth, God intended it to take place in the context of community. I cannot and should not to grow alone or in isolation. I should not attempt to live my life in Christ alone.

In fact, my disconnectedness and individualism can actually harm or prevent the kind of community God intended and Paul encourages. Listen to what Paul says. “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This is a team endeavor. It is our living out our lives together, in community, that truly reveals the power of the gospel among us and the to the world around us. The fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fruitfulness, gentleness, and self control. Every one of these is meant to be lived out in community. How else will we know if we have them? I can’t exhibit love if there is no one to love. I can’t show kindness without having someone to receive it. I can’t practice self-control if there is no one to put it to the test. All of these fruits are for the benefit of others, not me.

Paul is concerned about their mutual or shared conduct. It is the body of Christ for which he is concerned. He wants them to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel. He knows that our ability to love one another in the power of the Spirit is what will attract a lost and dying world to the gospel. It is the unity we exhibit, in spite of all our differences and flaws, that marks us as Children of God. “Spirit formation is a very public, corporate exercise. Unlike diet or and exercise program, God’s program for getting us into spiritual shape requires our working out alongside others” (Darrell Bock, New Testament Community and Spiritual Formation). Community. It’s an over-used, misunderstood word today. I live in a “community,” but I barely know my neighbors. I can join a “community” group, (small group) and never really get to know the other members beyond a shallow, surface lever. I can become part of a “community” of believers and live out my life in isolation and hiddenness, refusing to open up, reach out, join in, lift up, and grow up together. Instead, we tend to cover up, and attempt to live out our faith refusing to let anyone really get to know the real us. But that’s NOT biblical community. What Paul describes is so much more and so much more fulfilling. It is doing life together with other believers – sharing, caring, failing, falling, loving, lifting, rejoicing, crying, and growing more like Christ together.

Father, may I really learn to love true, blblical community. Forgive me for my stubborn isolation and independence. For wanting to live my Christian life on my own and for me alone. Thank You for the body – Your body. May I learn to love it and see myself as an integral part of it. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Thessalonians chapter 3

“May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” – Vs 5

Once again, we get a glimpse into Paul’s heart through his prayers. This verse could be viewed as little more than a blessing, but based on what we know of Paul’s prayer life, there can be little doubt that he not only expressed this desire to the Thessalonians in words, he lifted it up to God in the form of an ongoing request on their behalf.

What was he asking? That God would continue to open their eyes to His unmerited, unlimited, unfailing love for them, so that it could become the motivating force in their lives – the impetus behind all that they did. This is the love of God that “has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was give to us” (Romans 5:5). It is “the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” from which nothing “will be able to separate us” – including our own actions (Romans 8:39). It is “His great love with which He has loved us” (Ephesians 2:4). Paul is asking God to keep their hearts focused on, centered around, and motivated by God’s love for them. Think about it. God loves you! The all-powerful, all-knowing, creator and sustainer of the universe loves you. And He loves me! Ann Lamott wrote, “The secret is that God loves us exactly the way we are and that He loves us too much to let us stay like this, and I’m just trying to trust that.”

Julian of Norwich hits a nerve when she writes, “Some of us believe that God is almighty and can do everything; and that he is all-wise and may do everything; but that he is all-love and will do everything – there we draw back. As I see it, this ignorance is the greatest of all hindrances to God’s lovers.”

Do you really understand and feel loved by God? Regardless of how you measure up? You see, most of us believe His love is conditional, based somehow on our performance. He falls in and out of love with us to the degree that we fail to obey or live up to His standards. That is anything but biblical. It is a lie of the enemy that goes all the way back to Eden. If we could ever grasp the reality of God’s love for us, it would change the way we love Him and others. We would want to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as much as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37). We would want to love one another to the same degree and in the same manner we ourselves have been loved and are being loved by God – selflessly, sacrificially, non-judgmentally, completely, constantly – just out of gratitude for the way in which we have been loved (John 13:34-35).

The more we focus on and understand the love of God for us – and realize He has placed the same capacity to love within our hearts in the form of the Holy Spirit, the more love will flow from our own hearts towards others – including the unlovely people in our lives. But Paul expressed one more desire: That God would also direct our hearts into the steadfastness of Christ. Paul is speaking about endurance – the “grace to bear up under” – no matter what the cost. The steadfastness or endurance Paul wants God to focus our hearts on is the kind Jesus had. It’s a “bravery of perseverance” in faith and in all good words even when everything seems to be against us. It’s an endurance in the midst of tribulation (Romans 5:3-4), in the midst of suffering (2 Corinthians 1:6), in the midst of reproach (Romans 15:4-5), in the midst of persecution and distress (2 Corinthians 12:12), and in the midst of affliction (2 Corinthians 6:4). Jesus persevered. He didn’t quit. He finished what he began. And so should we. So we should be motivated by the love of God and marked by the steadfastness of Christ. both are our models for life on this earth as God’s children. They are the two things we need so that “we do not grow weary of doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).

Father, direct my heart into Your love, so that I may understand it more and more, and be motivated by it more and more. So that I will love like I am loved. Show me the steadfastness of Christ. Let it be my example. He endured the cross. He despised the shame. All so that I might have eternal life. He did the will of His Father, against all odds. He was able to say, “it is finished.” May I be able to do the same thing one day. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Thessalonians chapter 2

“God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Vs 13-14

Paul reveals another one of his constant prayers for the church – his gratitude to God for His having chosen them for salvation. It is God who rescued them from the guilt, power, and punishment of sin and provided them with a new heart, a new inheritance, and a future free from sin and its affects. The salvation they received is the same one we have received. It is a gift from God – undeserved and unearned. And it becomes our possession through the work of the Holy Spirit through sanctification.

Paul gives a glimpse into this process called sanctification. It begins at the point at which God chooses us. He chose us even while we were still in our sins (Romans 5:8). but because of what Christ has done on the cross, God sees us as righteous. When He looks at us, He sees us covered and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. We are positionally holy. But we still have a sin nature and live in a world filled with sinful people. The enemy is out to destroy us and to tempt us to live according to our old nature and not in keeping with the new nature we have in Christ. So God begins this process of internal transformation – called sanctification – through which the Holy spirit makes our external behavior and internal motivation (heart) take on the character of who we are in Christ. We become increasingly more like Christ in our character and conduct – living out our new identity as sons and daughters of God. This sanctification process is a life-long one and it is what the Holy Spirit is doing inside each of us as believers. But Paul says we have a role to play as well. It involves our “faith in the truth.” This is our active consent to the truth about Jesus and His redemptive work as revealed in the Scriptures. In other words, we must believe that what the Bible says about who we are in Christ and about what He is doing in our lives through the Spirit. Our salvation is through the sanctification process and accompanied by an active, vibrant faith that believes in and obeys God’s Word concerning our new life in Christ.

Paul says it was for this He called us…that we might gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice that Paul doesn’t say that God chose us for salvation and stop there. He clearly states that it is a salvation that is marked by the process of sanctification and the presence of faith. That is God’s plan. His salvation is NOT just a ticket to heaven, a get-out-of-jail-free card that keeps us out of hell and guarantees us a place in heaven. No, God expects our salvation to be accompanied by change, here and now. He has called us so that He might progressively change us into the likeness of His Son – NOW! That’s why He gave us His Spirit. That’s why He gave us His Word. That’s why he left us and didn’t take us to with Him at the moment He called us. We are being transformed into the same image (Christ’s) from one degree of His glory to another (1 Corinthians 3:18). We are works in process. We are being conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). And one day we will be like Him (Philippians 3:20-21).

Father, thank You  for choosing me. I am blown away by the fact that You chose me in spite of me. I didn’t deserve it. Yet You sent Your Son to die for me. You had Your Spirit open my eyes so that I could understand the value of the gift being offered to me. And based on my minimal faith exhibited in my acceptance of that gift, you placed me in Your family and called me Your son! Now You are transforming me into the very likeness of Your Son Jesus Christ. You have given me His nature and are now allowing it to become who I am in everyday life. Thank You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Thessalonians chapter 1

“To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Vs 11-12

If you ever want to know how you should pray for the body of Christ and for other believers, just take note of the prayers of Paul. His prayers for the believers under his care are a window into his heart and an indication of his clear understanding of what it is we need to survive and thrive in this world. Here he does not ask God to remove the “persecutions and afflictions” (Vs 4) the Thessalonians were enduring. In fact, he tells them their relief will come “when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire” (Vs 7). No, Paul doesn’t try to pray their pain and suffering away – he prays that God will “fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power (Vs 11).

Paul prays that God will count them worthy of their calling. This has nothing to do with earning their way into heaven, but it has everything to do with the effort they put into living lives that reflect their calling. Paul is praying that they may live and act as ones who have been called by God. In fact, Paul commends them for doing so when he says that their perseverance and faith in the midst of suffering and persecution is a clear indication of God’s righteous judgment. The very fact that God rewards His children with the strength to endure is proof positive of their calling and His righteousness. They are living worthy of His calling of them because He has given them the strength to do so.

Paul goes on to describe what a life lived worthy of its calling will look like. It will “fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power” (Vs 11). Paul seems to be saying that every desire or determination prompted by goodness (a fruit of the Spirit) and every faith-inspired work will not be left unfulfilled or unfinished. He is praying that God will accomplish this by His power – the power of His grace working in them. He is praying for their continuing and increasing sanctification.

So why does Paul pray in this way? So that the name of the Lord Jesus might be glorified through their lives. Jesus’ work in their hearts reflects glory on Him. When we live worthy of our calling, the name of Jesus is glorified because it is proof that He is who He said He was and accomplished what He said He would do. Our lives can and should bring glory to Jesus. They should be exhibitions of His life-changing, grace-filled power to redeem, renew, and reclaim that which was lost. Paul is praying that we, as believers, should see our every resolve, motivated by the goodness within us, be completely fulfilled or come to fruition. He prays that every deed that is done in faith be completed. Because those two things are worthy of our calling as children of God. They glorify the name of Jesus on this earth and we see His name glorified in our own lives! We see His power exhibited in our daily lives and we grow even stronger in faith and righteousness.

Father, may my life more increasingly reflect the worthiness of Your having called me. May my desires, motivated by goodness, be fulfilled. May my deeds, motivated by faith, be accomplished. So that Your Son might be glorified in my life on this earth. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Thessalonians chapter 5

Faith. Hope. Love.

Those three words are our antidote for surviving in the midst of a sin-filled culture where the darkness of moral depravity surrounds us. We are sons of light and sons of the day, yet the world we live in loves the darkness. Jesus Himself was “the Light of men” (John 1:4) and He came to shine in the midst of the darkness, but “the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5). Jesus would later tell His disciples, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus also warned His disciples that, “for a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light; so that the darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light” (John 12:35-36).

Paul reminds us that we are sons of Light. So we are to be alert, awake, sober, and diligent – living our lives in the light as sons of Light. And how do we do that? Faith, love, and hope. Paul says that we are to equip ourselves with a breastplate made up of faith and love. Those two qualities are like iron and ore that when heated in the furnace of life produces an alloy of incredible strength and durability. You cannot have one without the other. Love that is not based on and mixed with a faith in the grace-filled love of God is merely human sentimentality that will prove insufficient when put to the test. Faith that is not accompanied by and expressed in love for God and others is nothing more than a mental assent to the reality of God, but without any real expression in our lives. Paul warned that ” if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2). My faith must be expressed in love. My love must be grounded in faith.

But if I want to truly survive as a son of Light in a dark world, I must have hope. But not just any hope. It must be the hope of salvation – that what God began at my conversion, He will complete. Paul says, “for God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (Vs 9). Salvation is out destiny. It isn’t a past event, but a future reality. Yes, I was saved, but I am being saved every day. And I will one day be saved when God calls me home or His Son returns. My hope is in the certainty of my future salvation – when I will obtain or gain possession of my salvation in its final form. Hope is what protects my mind from despair, disappointment, thoughts of defeat, or the temptation to give up. That is why Paul refers to it as a helmet. It is what surrounds my mind and protects it from the blows of the enemy that attempt to destroy and incapacitate us.

Faith, love, and hope. They are essential for life in this world. They are the qualities of the sons of Light. They prepare us for the battle in which we find ourselves. Paul describes them as military armor. We wear them because we know we are at war and cannot survive without them. They protect us and preserve us. So we should never leave home without them.

Father, may my life be increasingly more characterized by faith, love and hope. All centered and based on the cross of Christ – the greatest expression of all three. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Thessalonians chapter 4

…that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.– Vs 1

The NET Bible translates the last part of this verse as “that you do so more and more.” Paul uses this phrase twice in this chapter. Here in association with the manner in which they walk or live their faith out on a daily basis. They are to excel still more — they are to live lives that please God and to do so more and more. The commands of Christ and their obeying of them are to be increasingly more a part of their lives. Why? Because God’s will – His desire or purpose for their lives – is holiness that is becoming increasingly deeper, greater, more pervasive, and influential over their day-to-day lives.

And Paul is speaking to us as well. He gives us practical, everyday examples of what this progressive, aggressive sanctification or growth in holiness should look like. He says it should impact the morality of our lives, especially sexual morality. As we increase in holiness, our desire to live sexually immoral lives should decrease. My holiness should impact how I use my body, including my eyes, hands, and mind. Because God did not call me to lives a life of impurity, but holiness.

Paul says that as we excel still more we will love more. Both our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as those who are outside the family of God – our lost neighbors, friends, coworkers, and all those with whom we share this planet. Paul gets really practical when he says, “we urge you … to aspire to lead a quiet life, to attend to your own business, and tow work with your hands” (Vs 11). It seems according to 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, that there were some who were not doing this. Paul says this kind of practical, progressive holiness will show those outside of Christ what it means to live a decent, quiet, godly life. One that is characterized by diligence, faithfulness, and responsibility. As we increase in holiness we don’t become “other worldly” but instead we show what kind of life mankind was meant to live prior to the introduction of sinn and the effects of the fall.

Excel still more! Do so more and more. So how are we doing? Is our holiness increasing? Paul is not saying we need to get more holiness. Because in Christ, we have been made holy. We were set apart by God as holy at salvation. But we are to increasingly live out who we already are in our daily lives. It is to become increasingly more apparent that we are indeed holy by the way we act, react, think, talk, walk, live, and relate to others. Not in our own strength, but through the Word of God and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. I can live an increasingly more holy life because I am a holy person possessing the presence and power of God. Holiness is in my new DNA. It is my nature. It is who I am!

Father, I want to excel still more in my holiness. I want to live out of who I am – according to my new identity in Christ – not my old sinful nature. I am not just a “new and improved” me, but a whole new creation in Christ with a brand new nature – the nature of Christ Himself living in me. My heart is new because Christ is there. I live under new management with a new power available to me I didn’t have before. I live by faith in the Son of God. According to His power, not mine. Living His life, not mine. Help me to live a life of personal integrity, grace, and courage – more and more everyday of my life.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Thessalonians chapter 3

We were comforted about you through your faith; for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.– Vs 7-8

Paul is obsessed about the condition of their faith. In fact, he mentions it five different times in this chapter. He says he Timothy “to strengthen and encourage” them in their faith. He was anxious to “find out about” their faith, because he feared that Satan might have tempted them to fall away. He rejoiced over the “good news” of their faith and love brought to him by Timothy. Even in his trials and sufferings Paul found comfort through the news of the ongoing faith. They had stood firm. But Paul continued to pray “night and day” that he could see them again and “complete what is lacking” in their faith. Their faith was more than simply a belief in Jesus and His death, burial and resurrection. It was a living, active faith that continued to express itself in the face of persecution, trials, the attacks of the enemy, and sufferings of all kinds. Faith is dyanamic, not static. Their faith was being tested and Paul acknowledges that it had deficiencies. It was not complete or finished. It never is this side of heaven. Paul even expresses his desire that their faith “increase” in verse 12. In verse 10, he says that their faith was lacking, but then he says, “may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all people.” The increase refers to their faith. Paul is asking that the Lord Himself cause this to happen so that their faith would grow and be accompanied by a tangible love for one another.

Our faith should be increasing daily. And one of the ways God causes this to happen is through the “heat” of everyday life. People, circumstances, and situations all test our faith. Paul knew that their faith, if weak, would let them down and cause them to give in to the temptation to respond in their flesh instead of faith. They could be tempted to get angry, give up, grow weary, take matters into their own hands, doubt God, and start believing the enemy. But Paul says that they stood firm (Vs 8). They didn’t cave in. They grew up in their faith. They grew stronger. Faith tested results in a stronger faith, because it proves the reliability and trustworthiness of God.

It is less a revealing to God of the quality of our faith than it is a revelation to us of the dependability and power of our God. It is the object of our faith that gets proven, not the quality or quantity of our faith. But as we learn to trust Him (faith in action), our faith grows. So let’s thank Him for the opportunities masquerading as trials that will show us just how great a God we serve!

Father, thank You for increasing my faith daily by bringing into my life situations, circumstances, and people that test just how much I am leaning on You, how much I trust You, and how dependent I am in Your strength versus mine. Thank You that You regularly prove your faithfulness to me. You have never given me a reason to doubt You.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Thessalonians chapter 2

For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.– Vs 19-20

Over in 2 Corinthians 10:17, Paul said, “But, let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” In 2 Corinthians 11:30 he said, If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” In 1 Corinthians 1:31, he said, Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” But now, as he writes to the Thessalonians believers, he talks about receiving a “crown of boasting.” Sounds like a disconnect, doesn’t it? Paul seems to be saying that he is going to be able to boast about the people he has led to the Lord at His second coming. He refers to the Thessalonians believers as his crown of boasting or exultation. In the NET Bible study notes it says, “Paul uses boasting or exultation to describe the Christian’s delight in being commended for faithful service by the Lord at his return.” Paul specifically refers to the role he has been able to play in their coming to faith in Christ. Being able to stand before the Lord and see those whom Paul has helped introduce to Christ was what was bringing him joy and giving him hope right now! He had his eyes on the future and decided any hardship or suffering he had to go through in order to take the gospel to the Gentiles was well worth it because one day he was going to get to stand before the Lord and see all those who came to Christ because of his faithful service.

What about me? What drives me to teach the Word of God day after day? What motivates me to tell others about Jesus and potentially face rejection or even ridicule? Is it the hope I have in that future day? Is it the joy I feel in knowing that I am playing a small part in their spiritual new birth and growth? Even in the face of Satanic opposition, Paul wanted to see the Thessalonians again, so that he could be a part of their lives. He was willing to suffer so that they could grow in their faith. It brought him joy. In fact, Paul tells them, “you are our glory and joy.” They make him proud, like a father watching his child walk across the stage at graduation. They bring him joy, like the joy of a parent at their child’s wedding day. For Paul, playing a role in the spiritual lives of others was everything. It was why he existed. It was what he lived for. It was his purpose for life. And when he was in the middle of doing it, he was in his sweet spot.

Shouldn’t that be true of you and me? Isn’t that why we are here? Yet we spend so much time finding our glory and joy in other things. But God has given us the same job as He had given Paul. Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:18: “And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him.” That is our job. That is our commission as believers. To bring others back into favor with God. To help them restore the relationship that has been lost because of sin. We do that by introducing them to Christ. And when we do, like Paul, we will discover it to be our greatest joy and delight. And nothing will motivate us more than thinking about standing before Jesus some day and seeing the faces of those who have come to know Christ through our efforts standing there with us! Now that’s motivation.

Father, forgive for letting other things, the things of this earth, to become my joy and glory. They are worthless and valueless. They will not even be around when I stand before Your Son. But people will be. They are the only thing that lasts. So help me see that doing my part in the ministry of reconciliation is the reason for my existence. It is why I am here. May I daily discover the joy of helping others come to Christ and grow in Him. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Thessalonians chapter 1

“For they themselves report … how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.” – Vs 9

What’s the report on me? What would people who know me have to say about me if they were asked about my faith in Christ? I’m talking about the people I work with, live with, rub shoulders with in everyday life. Would they be able to report that there has been a change? Would they testify that they had seen a marked change in my behavior, my words, my lifestyle?

As Paul begins his letter to the believers in Thessalonica, he commends them for their faith. He tells them that he is constantly praying for them and thinking about their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Vs 3). He says they became “imitators of us and of the Lord” (Vs 6) and “an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (Vs 7). These people had undergone a dramatic change. These were converts from pagan religions. They were Gentiles who had walked away from their faith in false gods and turned to the one true God. They exchanged lifeless gods for a living God. And it had made a dramatic change in the way they lived their lives.

So what are the dead idols in my life? They tend to be those things I worship or find worth in that can’t deliver what I want from them. Things like success, money, material things, recognition, popularity, and entertainment. All the things this world offers up on an everyday basis. All I have to do to find the idols in my life is see where I spend my money and my time. They are the things in my life that I wake up worrying about or that I find myself thinking about. They occupy my time and invade my thoughts. I fear losing them or dream of attaining them. I desire them and pursue them. I expect of them what only God can deliver.

And that is what makes them false gods. They can’t deliver. They’re not real, so they can’t bring real satisfaction. They are lousy replacements for the one true God. So the Thessalonians “turned to God.” They literally turned around and changed their direction from pursuing false gods to God Himself. And the people around them could see it. So what if we began to turn from all those things we still worship in our lives? What if we began to turn to God and away from our obsession with material things? What if we looked to Him for our satisfaction and sense of identity instead of in our career, the size of our home, the make and model of our automobile, or the size of our bank account? What if we began to find time in the Word more entertaining and satisfying than the mindless trash on TV? What if we began to turn from all those things that we hold so near and dear and can’t seem to live without and began to understand that our hope is in Jesus and Him alone?

I think the world would sit up and take notice. They would report that there has been a change in us. They would see it in our actions and in our affections. We would truly be imitators of the Lord (Vs 6) making it our highest priority to pursue the things of His kingdom first and making the attainment of His righteousness more important than anything else in our lives (Matthew 6:33). And that kind of living is hard to ignore. So let’s do it. Let’s turn from the lifeless, little gods of this world and turn to the living, true God and make Him our sole object of adoration and attention. When we’re down, let’s turn to Him instead of some temporary form of entertainment. When we’re feeling unloved or under appreciated, instead of trying to boost our self-esteem with another purchase, let’s remember that we are loved by the God of the universe. When we’re worried about our finances, let’s turn to God before we turn to the bank or some other lending source. They may help with your fiscal situation, but only God can help with your spiritual one.

They themselves report…. What will they report about us?

Father, I want the report about me to be a good one. I want those around me to see You in me. I want them to report that I daily turn from the gods of this world to the one true God. That I am not looking for the false gods of money, materialism, popularity, and prosperity to satisfy my needs and desires. Instead I am turning away from those things and turning to You. I want You to be my greatest desire and the object of my time and attention. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men