A deep-rooted Christian friendship is valuable beyond measure. It is for this reason that Paul closes his letter to the Thessalonians by emphasizing friendship.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19–28. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:25–28:

“Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (ESV).

Paul asks the Christians at Thessalonica to keep him and his coauthors—Timothy and Silvanus (also called Silas)—in their prayers. Paul in no way viewed himself as beyond the need for prayer. He saw the prayers of others as powerful and much needed. The friendship of the church at Thessalonica was vital to Paul’s future work and ministry.

Today, prayer has generally become an excuse for inaction. We tell others that we will pray for them so we do not personally have to intervene. In juxtaposition, Paul and his colleagues took prayer very seriously. They viewed it as essential to ministry and life. Friendship rooted in prayer has the power to change everything.

But Paul does not just emphasize prayer; he is a man of action in both prayer from afar and in-person. He wants the Christians at Thessalonica to remember to be kind to one another. For this reason, Paul emphasizes the need for the common Graeco-Roman greeting of a kiss. We show a similar kindness through a hug. Paul also emphasizes that his letter must be read before the entire church, not just among a certain group. The kindness of his letter, including its tough love, must be shared with all. 

Paul then closes his letter in a typical fashion, emphasizing the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. In making this claim, Paul emphasizes that Jesus—the anointed one (the Christ) and the Lord of all—is first and foremost about grace.

Close friendships—based in the grace and kindness of Christ—can completely transform our lives. Let’s always remember their power. But above all, let’s remember the power of the grace of Jesus Christ the Lord among us.

What Christian friendships should you be investing more time into, through prayer and in-person? Who do you know that needs to be shown the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ today—and how can you show it to them?

 

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This Jesus’ Economy Daily Devotional is part of the series, “Be a Modern Missionary: 1 Thessalonians.” Image courtesy of Logos Bible Software.

God faithfully draws us closer to him, if we’re willing to listen. The power of this act can renew our very lives—giving us a new hope and outlook. This is why Paul emphasized this point at the close of his letter to the Thessalonian Christians.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19–28. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24:

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (ESV).

Paul has just finished saying that the Christians at Thessalonica should be careful to not quench the Spirit—meaning that they should let the Holy Spirit work among them (1 Thessalonians 5:19–22). He now emphasizes an important matter in this process: they must live as people who truly follow Jesus. In order for the Spirit’s work to be truly pure among them, they themselves must live pure lives.

God is always at work in our world and in our lives—even when we fail to acknowledge his presence. He is working to draw us closer to him, but we often resist. God desires for us to live his original vision for our lives.

Living a sinless life is not merely about a series of commands; instead, it’s about living in the presence of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we let the Holy Spirit work among us, resisting evil becomes less about commands; it becomes a lifestyle. When you’re constantly in contact with God himself, through prayer, sin and evil has no power over you. This is the point Paul emphasized in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18. When we become busy rejoicing and being thankful, we can’t be busy sinning.

God is faithful to carry out his work in our world and in our lives. We must trust him to complete that which he began in us—to make us pure before him. In surrendering to the work of God in our lives, we will experience the greatest power we can ever know. We will experience the Holy Spirit inhabiting our lives. This is the only way to prepare for Jesus’ return. 

In what ways are you not surrendering to God’s work in your life? What part of your life needs to be renewed by the Holy Spirit’s work today?

 

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This Jesus’ Economy Daily Devotional is part of the series, “Be a Modern Missionary: 1 Thessalonians.” Image courtesy of Logos Bible Software.

The Holy Spirit is at work in the world. But if we fail to listen to the Spirit’s prompting, we will miss the opportunity to be part of God’s work. It is for this reason that Paul the apostle said, “Do not quench the Spirit.”

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19–28. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:19–22:

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (ESV).

In this age of rationalism—where “what you see is what you get”—it’s easy for us to excuse the spiritual. We veto the power of the spiritual in favor of what we can see, feel, and touch. Likewise, in the time of the early church—where mystery cults emphasized spiritual experiences—Paul saw this as an issue. 

At the church at Thessalonica, it seems that certain members were deemphasizing the power of the spiritual. This is likely because the spiritual experiences in Graeco-Roman religions were often performances; they were used for control and power. If a person has a special anointing over their life, or is part of an elite priesthood, it is difficult for anyone else to argue against them. Abuse of power becomes easy for the deceptive, hyper-spiritual individual.

For these reasons, churches often deemphasize the role of the Holy Spirit. We can’t see the Spirit or control its actions, so we neglect the Spirit’s importance. We also bring up the many examples of people using the name of the Holy Spirit to excuse mind games and performances—for the sake of wealth and power.

But this abuse of power does not represent the Holy Spirit. Instead, it represents an act of evil. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, represents all that God—according to the Bible—stands for. The Holy Spirit works to heal and love; to move a community toward the goodness and holiness that is in God’s essence.

Similarly, prophecy, when used appropriately (when pure) represents a word from God himself. This word will never be for the gain of an individual or elite group. Prophecy that is of God will align with the proclamations of the Bible; it can be tested. We can see if it is truly good or evil by how it aligns or misaligns with God’s values as proclaimed by Scripture. 

To “not quench the Spirit” means to allow for the Holy Spirit to do its work among the church. We desperately need the very hand of God upon our communities. We desperately need the Holy Spirit’s comforting and loving actions among us. We must not quench the Spirit among us, but instead seek the good it offers.

In what ways have you quenched the Holy Spirit’s work in your life? How is your church properly (or improperly) utilizing spiritual matters, such as prophecy?

 

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This Jesus’ Economy Daily Devotional is part of the series, “Be a Modern Missionary: 1 Thessalonians.” Image courtesy of Logos Bible Software.

Our world is full of pain and turmoil. It is a struggle to face the daily news and still be hopeful. Paul the apostle had a solution for facing a hurting world.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12–18. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV).

No matter how difficult today may be, no matter what news may reach us, there is always a reason to rejoice. Jesus has made a great sacrifice for us on the cross—offering us relationship with God eternal—and that is always worth celebrating. Furthermore, despite the pain and turmoil, God is on the move in our world. His Spirit is here and present among his Church—that is also worth rejoicing in.

But the pain is still here, isn’t it? We must pray about the pain. We must pray without ceasing. We as Christians are to be in constant communication with God. There should not be beginning or end to our conversation with Jesus.

Our times of prayer—when we reflect upon the Almighty and his grace to us—should lead us to give thanks. Despite what circumstances may come our way, we can always be grateful for God—that he has given us this world to live in and relationship with him.

It is the will of God that we learn to have a thankful heart. Thankfulness has the power to change our entire lives. It has the power to transform every conversation and circumstance into an opportunity.

We pray and God answers—for that we can be thankful. We rejoice and we draw closer to God—for that we can be thankful. We have an opportunity to know God himself—for that we can be thankful. 

What are three things you can be thankful for today? What are you praying about now, and how can you continue your conversation with God throughout your day today?

 

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This Jesus’ Economy Daily Devotional is part of the series, “Be a Modern Missionary: 1 Thessalonians.” Image courtesy of Logos Bible Software.

The current American generation is generally content to go to work and then live behind a screen. Idleness is slowly destroying our communities and our lives; it’s enslaving us. While the church at Thessalonica struggled with idleness for different reasons, Paul’s words to them are directly applicable to us. 

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12–18. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:14–15: 

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (ESV). 

We have professionalized the role of the Christian with the title “Pastor.” And this has led many people to believe that there is little need for them to work for Jesus. Instead, they attend Sunday services and pay for the work of the church by dropping cash in the offering bucket.

We must combat this mentality. All of us as Christians have a primary calling—to serve Jesus with everything we have. 

At Thessalonica, it seems that many Christians had stopped working altogether. This could be because they viewed the return of Jesus as so imminent that there was no need to work. It may have also been that people were abusing the sacrifice of wealthier Christians—living off their charity. Either way, instead of working, a whole group of Christians were idle.

For those who are struggling or weak, Paul desires for the services of the church to help them. And Paul realized that patience is required when helping the impoverished, marginalized, and hurting. Nonetheless, people who can work should step up—both to the work of the church and to earn a living.

The primary mode of ministry is bi-vocational. We work to live. And we turn our work into ministry. But we primarily work for Christ, so that we may continue his work of love to a hurting and broken world. 

Christianity is based in love and self-sacrifice. People will inevitably abuse this. When they do, we should not seek recompense; nor should we expect those in need to be able to repay us.

We must seek the good of everyone, despite the difficulties that emerge from offering people self-sacrificial love. And we must each seek to do our part for Jesus and his ministry among us.

In what ways are you living idly—and how can you change that? In what ways can your church community offer self-sacrificial lov,e while asking others to do their part when receiving it?

 

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This Jesus’ Economy Daily Devotional is part of the series, “Be a Modern Missionary: 1 Thessalonians.” Image courtesy of Logos Bible Software.

We all need accountability. And we all need leadership. Any person who believes that they do not need to be accountable—or is beyond the need to be led by others—has seriously missed a basic point of being human: we’re flawed and prone to fail. Near the close of his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul emphasized this point.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12–18. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:12–13:

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (ESV).

Paul writes these words right after he reminds the Thessalonian Christians of the great hope of Christ and the need for them to live pure lives (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3–6; 5:5–6). It is only after this reminder that Paul turns to the issue of respecting church leaders.

Paul’s transition can seem a little sudden and unexpected but it actually makes perfect sense. Paul understood that without accountability and strong leadership that the church at Thessalonica would fail. He also understood that he and others had made great personal sacrifices to establish the church (compare 1 Thessalonians 4:11–12). Paul requests that the Christians at Thessalonica respect this sacrifice and thus listen to their leaders.

For Paul the issue of respecting leaders was directly tied to the peace of the church. It’s difficult for us to respect church leaders today, because of how many leaders have failed us. And this is why there is so little peace in our church communities. We’re prone to suspicion and individuality; we thus place our interests above Christian community.

I’m not suggesting blind trust here. I’m also not suggesting that you follow a leader while quietly “respectfully disagreeing.” Both responses are a type of passive-aggressive behavior that doesn’t do anyone any good. We should hold our leaders accountable and to a high standard. But leaders who self-sacrificially love Jesus—who are accountable to others—should be emulated. We should listen to their vision and the suggestions they make for our own lives. We should walk hand-in-hand with our leaders in transforming our churches and communities.

We all need accountability in our lives. We need people who will ask us if we are closely following Jesus. We need people who will admonish us to confess our sins and repent. Leadership and accountability can transform our lives and our communities. 

Who are you accountable to—do you need more accountability in your life? Who are the church leaders you follow and how can you show them more love and respect?

 

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This Jesus’ Economy Daily Devotional is part of the series, “Be a Modern Missionary: 1 Thessalonians.” Image courtesy of Logos Bible Software.

The hope of Christ should change absolutely everything about our lives. It should rock the very core of our being, prompting us to live inspired lives. It is this message that Paul the apostle boldly proclaimed to the Thessalonian church.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:8–11:

“But because we are of the day, we must be sober, by putting on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation, because God did not appoint us for wrath, but for the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live at the same time with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as indeed you are doing” (LEB).

Elaborating on his analogy of light and darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5–7), Paul further encourages the Thessalonian church to live as people of “the day.” They are to live in the light of Christ—as people who embody Jesus’ values, sacrificially loving God and loving others. Christians are to live in the full freedom of the salvation Jesus offers.

Often the message of the Bible is portrayed as one of wrath and anger. But God does not desire for anyone to bear the full weight of sin—instead, he has appointed Christ to die on our behalf, so that we may experience unmerited grace (compare John 3:16–17; Isaiah 52:13–53:12). God has made a way for us to enter into relationship with him. And that is a message that should never get old and can never be said too often.

As Christians, we should take up the call of faith like a breastplate of protection; we should embrace the message of hope like a helmet. God’s love and grace is all the safety we need (compare 1 Thessalonians 5:1–4). 

The gospel of Jesus is so powerful that it transcends this life. It is not just grace for the living, but also for all believers who have died. Resurrection is available to all who believe. When Jesus returns all who have died will be resurrected, to a new and eternal life with him.

It is this wonderful and glorious message that inspires Paul to tell the church at Thessalonica: “Encourage one another and build up each other.” The message of Christ is so encouraging, yet we far often use it as a weight or measure against others. Let us instead wrap others in the love of Christ—inspiring them to live inspired lives for Jesus. 

In what ways is your life “uninspired”—how can you change that through prayer? Who do you know that needs to receive the full grace of Christ today—so that they can be inspired to live an inspired life?

 

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This Jesus’ Economy Daily Devotional is part of the series, “Be a Modern Missionary: 1 Thessalonians.” Image courtesy of Logos Bible Software.

Being Christian requires awareness—both self-awareness and awareness of what’s happening in the world. God is on the move, always; we must be aware of where and how he is moving. Paul reflects on this point in his letter to the Thessalonians.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:5–7:

“For you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. So then, we must not sleep like the rest, but must be on the alert and be self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night” (LEB).

Just before this passage, Paul notes that Jesus will return at an unknown future time. He also notes that Jesus’ return will surprise those who do not follow him (1 Thessalonians 5:1–4). Paul now turns his attention to how Christians should live—today.

Believers in Jesus must remember their identity in Christ—as sons of light (compare John 1:4–14). We represent God to a world living in darkness, of sin and illusion. There is an illusion of security and peace (1 Thessalonians 5:3). There is the illusion that sinning is actually a trivial matter (1 Thessalonians 4:1–8). We must remind people in our hurting world that Jesus came not to condemn them, but to save them (John 3:17). And that life with Jesus is so much better than what sin and illusions of security can offer.

It is easy for us to become complacent, like those sleeping the day away. Paul tells us that we must instead be alert and self-controlled. We must be aware and present—ready to do the work of Christ. We must walk away from temptation and embrace the calling of Christ on our life (1 Thessalonians 5:6–7).

Our world is hurting and in need—will we answer the call?

In what ways has your walk as a Christian become like someone sleeping on the job? How can you be more aware of the needs of your community and our world?

 

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This Jesus’ Economy Daily Devotional is part of the series, “Be a Modern Missionary: 1 Thessalonians.” Image courtesy of Logos Bible Software.

Much of our lives are built on the hope of tomorrow. We have no trouble wasting today, for tomorrow will always be there. But as Christians, we have a call of urgency—there is a seriousness about the value of today. Paul the apostle emphasized this point when writing to the church at Thessalonica.

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:1–4:

“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief” (ESV). 

If Jesus came today, where would he find you? This question has been asked so many times in churches that it seems cliché. But this question hits on a substantial point: Jesus promised that no one would know the day or hour of his return (Matthew 24:36–44). We must always be prepared—diligently doing the work of Christ.

Paul’s primary point is that rather than trusting in other people for our future, we must depend on Jesus. Our focus must be upon Jesus—for he is the only one who can promise anything of substance. Despite Paul’s commands, Christians often exchange focus on Christ for focus on our nations and leaders. While we may claim that Christ is our fortress, we act as if the security of our homes and nations is paramount. We put it above caring for the poor, impoverished, marginalized, and outsider (Matthew 25:31–46).

“Peace and security” is what world leaders, especially dictators, have promised throughout history. In fact, the Roman Empire regularly used the slogan of “peace and security” as a promise to its citizens. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:1–4 that emperors can’t actually fulfill that promise. Hope cannot be placed with the Empire.

Paul tells us that those who look to the world for their salvation will find themselves surprised when Jesus returns. While Paul kindly tells the Thessalonian believers that they will not be surprised, he is also subtly reminding them to act as if Jesus really is Lord over all. It’s as if he is saying: “You know the truth, don’t forget—for I know you’re tempted to do so. The Emperor won’t save you.” Do we need the same reminder?

In what ways are you living your life as if Jesus is not Lord over all, who will return? In what or whom are you placing trust over Christ; and how can you change that?

 

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This Jesus’ Economy Daily Devotional is part of the series, “Be a Modern Missionary: 1 Thessalonians.” Image courtesy of Logos Bible Software.

Jesus is coming again. This incredible hope should prompt us to be people dedicated to making our world a better place—to the service of Jesus.

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18. Reflect on 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18:

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (ESV).

The great controversy surrounding this passage—and the arguments for or against the “rapture”—has led many people to lose sight of what this passage is all about. It’s about Jesus coming again as victor—to fully inaugurate his reign. And the theme of the overall book—how Christians should live for Jesus—suggests that Paul speaks of this matter to both inform and inspire the Thessalonian Christians. He actually makes this point clear in 1 Thessalonians 4:18: “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 

Paul’s point is not to create controversy or arguments—or to make it so that we can know precisely what will happen, in what order, upon Jesus’ return. Paul’s point is encouragement. And this encouragement is rooted in what is often overlooked in this passage—the resurrection of the dead. 

First Thessalonians 4:13–15 shows that explaining the resurrection of the dead is Paul’s aim. Jesus’ return will bring about the resurrection of the dead. Thus, we do not need to worry for Christians who have died. This is Paul’s encouragement: Christ is victor over all of this world and all of this life, including death.

Resurrection glory will come to all who believe (compare 1 Corinthians 15:52–55; Daniel 12:2). Jesus’ resurrection makes it possible for all who believe to be resurrected.

Furthermore, 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 shows the power of Jesus over evil. When Jesus arrives to earth as King, in all his glory, believers will be forcibly united with Jesus—evil forces will not be able to stop this action.

Jesus’ victory cannot be stopped. It should inspire us to take actions on Jesus’ behalf. It should make us believe that we can do all things through Jesus (Philippians 4:12–15). It should make us love more fully and truly—for love is what mends God’s plans together. Upon the clouds as victor Jesus will come.

In what ways does Jesus’ return inspire you and comfort you? What actions is God asking you to take today—on his behalf?

 

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This Jesus’ Economy Daily Devotional is part of the series, “Be a Modern Missionary: 1 Thessalonians.” Image courtesy of Logos Bible Software.

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