“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.” 1 Thess 1:3-4
Paul and his companions were writing their friends in a city that had visited previously to teach and encourage people about the good news of Jesus. They talk about in the previous letter how much they truly loved them and believed the best for them. As they begin their second letter to their friends in Thessalonica they talk about how happy they were about them and they point out two key things that I believe are vitally important to our communities as we continue to follow Jesus Christ.
Growing in Faith
The first thing that they are thankful for is that the family of God in Thessalonica were growing in faith. This first point of celebration shows us that it’s so important that our communities of Jesus followers are to always be growing in faith and that this should be something we celebrate. So, how do we know when we are growing in faith? This should be obviously demonstrated not only by what we say but shown by what we do.
Our faith is proved by our works. The kind of works that prove that faith is growing in us may actually look like us taking risks to be in obedient to God. It may look like doing things that are bigger than we are as a community. Big and small leaps of faith should be commonplace in our midst. We should be constantly cheering one another on as we walk in bold obedience to God’s word and His leading. When our communities are growing in faith it creates momentum not only in our corporate relationship with Jesus but also in our corporate impact for His kingdom. God celebrates a community that is exploding with bold faith.
Growing in Love
The second thing that Paul and his friends point out that was worthy of celebration was that their love for everyone and for each other was increasing. We can see that growing in love was vitally important to the success of the Church. In fact, Paul goes on to state that they actually would brag to the other churches about how this group in Thessalonica were growing so much in faith and love!
Just like faith, growing in love is demonstrated and is tangible within our community and seen from outside. God celebrates the big and small steps that we take as communities to love one another. Love is demonstrated when we see value in another person and make the choice to do something for them to show them how much we value them. The family of God should be filled with words of affirmation, signs of endearment and random acts of kindness. Jesus created a movement that would be rooted and grounded in love and would look more like family than an organization.
One last thing that is vital to see are the things that Paul did NOT celebrate as he wrote to his friends. He didn’t mention how fast or slow their church was growing in number. He didn’t celebrate how much their finances and accounts were growing. He didn’t celebrate how much bigger their buildings were. A lot of what we celebrate today and the way that we measure success is so far from the way the early church family viewed things. God is calling us back to a place of purity in heart where we begin to measure ourselves by the standards of scripture.
May we all look at our families, churches, organizations, and movements and ask ourselves today:
- Are we growing in a bold faith that causes constant dependency on God’s grace and keeps us from any signs of complacency?
- Are we growing in love for one another in such a way that is obvious to the world around us?