The first chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians begins and ends with grace: “grace and peace to you” in a salutation and the “grace of our God” in a closing prayer. Paul often included prayers in his letters to the churches he established. In yesterday’s reading Paul indicated that he continues to offer prayers of thanksgiving to God for the exemplary faith, love, and steadfastness of the Thessalonians.
Recently I complimented an elderly woman in my neighborhood on her dark brown shearling coat with matching hat. She responded, “Thanks for the encouragement.” Her comment prompted me to think about compliments in a new way. Indeed, sincere compliments are a form of encouragement, as is intercessory prayer.
In today’s reading, Paul includes a prayer of encouragement to the Christians in Thessalonica, “asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith.” Their steadfastness, love, and faith continue to grow, even in the face of persecution, because of Paul’s pastoral ministry, which includes intercessory prayer. We too are called to intercessory prayer.
Like the Thessalonians, we need encouragement and prayer as we seek to live out our call to discipleship, especially in our vocation and daily life ministries. Through God’s grace we can reflect the same type of commitment and thus honor God, even as we suffer and face difficulty.
Thank God for family, friends, and others who have encouraged you in your journey of faith. Think about and pray for those who need your prayers of intercession.
Habakkuk stands aghast at the “destruction and violence” all around and wonders how justice never seems to conquer. At the end of the reading, God contrasts the proud, whose spirit “is not right in them,” with the righteous who live by faith. The psalmist delights in God’s righteousness and in the commandments of God; however, he admits that “I am small and despised.” The psalmist’s “trouble and anguish” appear in Second Thessalonians also, but here the “persecutions and the af ictions” endured by the faithful serve a particular end: They stand as signs of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel reading Jesus tells Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house,” which reminds us that the righteous who live by faith are not necessarily the socially or religiously acceptable.
• Read Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4. What situations in your life and world cause you to cry out to God, “How long?”?
• Read Psalm 119:137-144. Who have you known who trusts God implicitly? How has that person’s example helped you in the past? How might you let it help you in the future?
• Read 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12. How will you offer Christ’s peace to someone you meet today?
• Read Luke 19:1-10. Jesus’ interaction caused Zacchaeus to trust God and straighten out his life. Where and with whom might God be leading you to share with others the heart of Christ?
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