2 Thessalonians 3 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Sharon Kim, Gracepoint Berkeley

2 Thessalonians 3

7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.

These verses helped me to imagine Apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy and others working night and day, laboring & toiling with one goal in mind.  With the desire to see the Thessalonians growing in their newly found faith, these amazing church planters worked hard with their hands.  They thought about the future when the Thessalonians will be on their own trying to live out the gospel and these leaders wanted to model for them that as Christians we should be hard working people who can be financially independent instead of being idle & fleshly where they become a burden for others.  Maybe there were some people who were idle in the society or within the church Apostle Paul was concerned about and he gave this warning to the Thessalonians.  These leaders had the “rights” to not work and receive financial support as they sacrificed so much and came all the way, working hard to share the gospel with the church and teaching God’s Word.   But instead of thinking about their “rights,” their mind was on how to leave them with a model to follow that will help their spiritual growth.   Not just in this text, but no matter what part of life we look at on Apostle Paul’s life, one thing that comes out shining is his “love” for all the churches.  His heart is filled with concerns and desires for the churches, his life is filled with prayers for the churches.

In contrast, the thoughts of my “rights” surface in my heart so readily and so often occupy my heart.  This is especially true at the end of the day when I’m tired or when I’m focused on my needs or when I am focused on the things that I have to do.   I’ve noticed that when I am focused on people and their needs and am concerned over them, my mind is not thinking about my rights.  Surely, “loving people” is the only way to free ourselves from our excessive greed that focuses on our “rights.”  I realize that I also can be idle even though I am working hard and fully independent.  Being idle can be a state of mind where we are allowing our minds to wander wherever they want to go and this would surely be something that Apostle Paul wants to warn the church about as well.  Apostle Paul worked hard night and day, laboring & toiling and his heart was not idle.  Instead his heart was filled with people, thinking about their need for a model to follow, thinking about how they can grow in their faith and finish the race that they have begun.   In the same way, I want to commit my thought life to be not idle but to be thinking about people and their needs.

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Submitted by Sara Hong, Gracepoint Berkeley

Why was it important for Apostle Paul to consider himself an example, even in mundane character issues such as diligence?  How might our own character issues be important in bearing faithful witness to God?

It was important for Apostle Paul to consider himself as an example, because he was intensely aware of his calling as God’s servant and shepherd for God’s people.  He knew that every aspect of his life was closely connected to those of other believers, and consequently guarded his behavior (in even mundane character issues such as diligence) in order that as an apostle of God, he would set the right example for newer believers to follow.  He was especially careful to embody what he preached to others because, as he says elsewhere, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:27).  Although I may be tempted to make the excuse that my character issues are not that crucial in how I bear faithful witness to God, it’s clear from Paul’s example that it is very important.  My commitment to the people God has placed in my life does not leave me room to make excuses for my sin or character issues.

What are some character issues need to grow in, and what specific steps do I need to take?

Some character issues I need to grow in are my people-pleasing tendencies and my desire for emotional comfort.  As a middle child, I grew up constantly trying to smooth things over, and I wanted to appear to be someone who brought peace to relationships; I just wanted to avoid conflicts at all costs, because they made me feel too uncomfortable.  This is a very worldly and superficial way to think, and it is especially dangerous in the context of ministry, since the Bible makes clear that we should speak the truth in love and urge people to leave sin.  I need to heed the words that Jeremiah spoke to the priests of his time, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).  The Bible reserves the harshest rebukes for people who have the title of being some kind of a spiritual leader, but who do not share God’s heart to bring them to repentance.  I need to ask myself, am I someone who is satisfied with “band-aid solutions” and soothe people with words of peace when there is no peace?  I need to repent for how I dishonor the high standards of God when I don’t correct, rebuke, or exhort people to greater obedience.  Some specific steps I need to take in are the following: when I see someone do something questionable or unloving, bring it up with that person right away and point it out; be committed to the principle of speaking the truth in love so that in all things, we can grow up into him who is the head, Jesus Christ; take ownership over everyone, rather than just people who are directly with me, and be alert to their behavior.  Finally, I cannot have the strength or perseverance to follow through with these things unless I’m constantly praying about this humanistic tendency within me, and seeing how it harms my relationship with God and harms the precious people God has placed in my life.

Why does Apostle Paul seem to be making such a big issue out of ‘idleness’?  How can one be ‘idle’ and a ‘busybody’ at the same time, especially in spiritual matters?

Apostle Paul seems to be making a big issue of ‘idleness’ because such people “are not busy; they are busybodies.”  Some people had quit their jobs in anticipation of Christ’s return, and Paul writes to the Thessalonian church to clarify that this is not something to be emulated or praised, since they’re being destructive to the church.  The apostles had great reason to believe in the imminent return of the Lord, but they didn’t allow themselves to relax in any way.  Instead, they worked hard among them and gave up their right to be financially supported by the church.  Someone can be “idle” and a “busybody” at the same time when they’re failing to take ownership over their own responsibilities.  This involves not just earning the bread that they eat through diligent hard work, but the spiritual diligence of being faithful to the Word of God and prayer.  As our entire church gears up for the busyness of fall outreach in a few weeks, this is an especially pertinent warning to heed for myself.  I need to prioritize my time in God’s Word and prayer all the more and, in this way, not become a mere busybody.

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