2 Thessalonians 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