Scripture reading – 2 Thessalonians 3, Acts 18
While our Scripture reading is from 2 Thessalonians 3 and Acts 18, our devotional is taken from 2 Thessalonians 3.
Paul Requested Prayer (3:1-2)
Paul’s second letter to the believers in Thessalonica concludes on a loving, pastoral note. Evidencing once again his “shepherd’s heart,” Paul began the third chapter with a petition for prayer on his behalf, and those who ministered with him. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 expressed what should be the longing of every dedicated pastor (3:1-2). First, that believers would pray the “word of the Lord may have free course” (3:1). Facing growing opposition and persecution wherever the Word of God was preached, Paul urged believers to pray God’s Word would go forth with power and be readily received (3:1).
A second request was an acknowledgement of some who violently opposed the Gospel. Paul asked believers to pray he and his fellow ministers would be “delivered” from “unreasonable and wicked men” (stating such men “have not faith,” though some were in the midst of the congregation, 3:2).
Paul Urged Obedience to Spiritual Truths and Principles (3:3-4)
Facing enemies without, and opposition within the congregation, Paul reminded his readers, “the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil” (3:3). Friends may fail you, and foes oppose you, but the old apostle assured, “the Lord is faithful…and [will] keep you from evil” (3:3). Paul then affirmed his “confidence in the Lord touching [the believers of Thessalonica]… that [they would] both do and will do the things which we command you” (3:4).
An Exhortation to Work (3:5-11)
After exhorting the saints to spiritual growth (3:5), Paul concluded his letter with a direct, and practical tone (3:6-11). I am not sure what provoked Paul’s command regarding the lack of spiritual disciplines and the poor work ethic of some in the congregation; however, it appears to be a problem he had addressed before.
Like our day, there were some who professed to be of the faith in the 1st century, but were disobedient (“walketh disorderly”), and refused to walk and live according to the principles and precepts Paul had taught (3:6). Paul urged intolerance for any who refused to walk in truth, and to withdraw from their fellowship (3:6). What disorderliness or wrong was Paul addressing in the congregation? The answer was so practical, and elementary, some might label his concern as “petty.” In essence, he was addressing a character flaw among believers that is also epidemic in our day—Laziness!
Reminding the people of his example, Paul wrote, “7For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us” (3:7-9). As an apostle, he had the authority and right to be supported by believers and have his needs met (even as the Scriptures taught regarding the priests and Levites, 3:9). Yet, he had chosen to “labour and travail night and day” (3:7). Why? To the end not one of the believers could suggest he had been a burden (3:7b).
Having presented the sin (laziness; an unwillingness to work), Paul commanded a righteous course of action believers must follow to address the sin in their midst. Paul wrote, “if any would not work, neither should he eat” (3:10). Because they were not busy working, they had fallen into another sin… meddling in the matters or affairs of others! They were “busybodies” (3:11).
Closing thoughts (3:12-15) – If you have been a member of a church for a length of time, you will notice a congregation has its share of members who do not labor or work. Invariably, indolence is the seed that eventually bears bitter fruit (discontentment, malice, and gossip). We do not know the names of the slothful in the Thessalonica congregation, but we know they were unwilling to work or minister to others. To them, Paul commanded, “with quietness they work, and eat their own bread” (3:12). In other words…Get to work!
Caution – To those who are busy working and ministering to others, Paul exhorted, “be not weary in well doing” (3:13). Yes, it is our business to encourage those who are not working, to get to work. Should they persist in their laziness, Paul commanded, “have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (3:14). Don’t allow bitterness to well up in your heart, and tempt you to see the slothful as an enemy; instead, “admonish him as a brother (3:15).
Slothfulness and an unwillingness to work is epidemic. Many are eating at the government-welfare trough, even while desperate employers post “Help Wanted” signs. We should not, and cannot tolerate the same lethargy in the church.
Remember, if you don’t work, neither should you eat. (3:10)
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