1 Thessalonians 4 (1)
Pray Psalm 23.1-3.
The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4.1, 2.
1. What does it mean to abound more and more in one’s walk with the Lord?
2. Paul uses two different prepositions to describe our relationship with Jesus. What is the significance of each?
What does Paul, as a shepherd of the Thessalonians, want for them? Probably more than what they wanted for themselves. Struggling to remain unshaken in the face of persecution, the Thessalonians might have found it difficult to think in terms of “increase and abound” or “abound more and more.” Isn’t there a time when our faith in Jesus is simply good enough?
Not according to Paul. His language here is reminiscent of his exhortation to the Ephesians concerning God Who is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3.20). If we’re not growing in the Lord, if we’re not working our ministry as agents of His grace and truth, if we’re not experiencing increasing fullness of joy in Jesus, it’s not because the Lord or His Word are not reliable. It’s because we don’t “ask or think” with the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16; Phil. 2.5-11).
If we don’t have large aspirations and great expectations for our faith, we’re not likely to exert ourselves much for Jesus, or to realize much growth or fruit in Him. Paul’s job, as a shepherd in the Lord’s flock, was to raise the bar for Jesus’ sheep and to encourage and equip them to labor faithfully at getting over it, and to teach them to think in terms of always raising the bar of love.
And Paul was earnest about this: he urged and exhorted or encouraged the Thessalonians to press on in their faith. He did not suggest that abounding more and more in their God-pleasing walk was an option. He expected every believer to embrace this outlook on faith. This is what Jesus commands us (cf. Jn. 15.12-17). Paul, in the Lord Jesus – in His authority and together with the Thessalonians in His Body – reiterates the instructions he had given the Thessalonians through the Lord Jesus – that is, by way of revelation from Him.
Persecution is no excuse for laying low in the faith. And if persecution is no excuse, neither are laziness, inconvenience, busyness, distractedness, or anything else. Jesus commands us to abound more and more in love and every good fruit, and Paul was simply echoing Him. We are walking with God and pleasing Him when this is the manner of our lives in Jesus.
1. Do terms like “increase and abound” and “abound more and more” describe your outlook on the life of faith? Explain.
2. The goal of a Christian’s walk is to please God, not ourselves. How can we know what pleases God? Is what pleases God what you choose to do always? How can it become more so?
3. Paul seems fairly urgent about the Thessalonians continuing to abound in love and a God-pleasing walk. Who in your life fulfills the role Paul did for the Thessalonians? Who in your life needs you to fulfill that role for them?
…he who is engaged in the service of Christ draws himself out of the turmoil and stormy billows of life and takes his seat upon secure and lofty ground. For what position can be loftier or more secure than that in which a man has only one anxiety, “How he ought to please God”? John Chrysostom (344-407 AD), Letters to the Fallen Theodore 2.4
Urge and encourage me today, O Lord, that I may walk in a manner pleasing to You, and that I may…
Pray Psalm 23.
Like the Good Shepherd, faithful shepherds provide for their flock, lead and refresh them, help them to know rest and peace, and point them forward to the day of their being united forever with the Lord. For whom will you do these good works today?
Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 23 (The Gift of Love: Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire)
Because the Lord my Shepherd is I shall not want, for I am His!
He makes me lie in pastures full; I rest in Him by waters still.
My soul He quickens and will bless; He leads in paths of righteousness.
Though I may walk in death’s dark vale, I shall not fear – He will not fail!
The Lord is ever by my side; His rod and staff with me abide.
A table rich for me He spreads; with oil my Lord anoints my head.
Goodness and mercy, full and free, shall ever after follow me,
and in the house of God, my Lord, shall I abide forevermore!
T. M. Moore
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Forward today’s study to some friends, and challenge them to study with you through this series on 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Each week’s lessons will be available as a free PDF download at the end of the week. Get a copy for yourself and send the link to the download to your friends. Plan to meet weekly to study Paul’s ministry and prepare for your own.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).
More and More
- T.M. Moore
- January 7, 2019
Paul was urgent that they should keep growing.
1 Thessalonians 4 (1)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.