Todays reading may help...
Thursday, November 20, 2003 Gregory of the Decapolis
Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-14 Nativity Fast Gospel: St. Luke
Inner Work: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-14, especially vs. 13: "For this reason we
also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which
you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in
truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe." Notice
in today's Epistle, as the verse just quoted reveals, that "the word of God"
is both something that is heard and something that works in the Faithful. St.
Paul lived with the Thessalonians (vss. 9,10). In the process, he also
discipled them in the Faith (vss. 11,12). The Apostle notes two results in this
verse:1) the Thessalonian Christians received "the word of God," and 2) the
"word of God" continued to work effectively within them.
Do you see that St. Paul's second use of the preposition ‘in' (vs. 13)
shows that the work which God accomplished ‘in' the Thessalonians was inner
work, creating a spiritual change in them? In addition, the whole of the passage
shows why they were then subjected to tangible, physical suffering (vs. 14):
apostolic work, though inward, invariably will have outward results.
St. Paul first reminds the Thessalonians that it was he who preached "the
Gospel of God" to them (vs. 9). God's inner work, in order to reach hearts,
must be proclaimed to physical ears. Some years later, in his letter to the
Roman Christians, St. Paul expanded on the necessity of preaching for
conversion. "How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? and how
shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear
without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14). In Romans, he even notes that God is the
One Who provides the preachers: "And how shall they preach, except they be
sent?" (Rom. 10:15).
The obligation of those whom God sends is to preach good news, to preach
God's word, never to preach their own ideas. The preacher must be diligent to
present himself "approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). When these things happen,
God the Holy Spirit anoints the preaching with His action, and, for those who
open the door of their heart, He enters with the divine gifts of faith and
life in Christ. Where does all this happen? ‘In' the heart of the hearer who
becomes a believer.
Preaching is unquestionably necessary, but it must be matched by godly
living. Potential converts, and all Christians, must see the observable results
of the unseen work of God within. Hence, the Apostle declares that the
character of his "labor and toil...night and day" placed no "burden on any" (1
Thess. 2:9). And, he reminds the Faithful in Thessalonica, they had witnessed
"how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who
believed" (vs. 10). Consider what he says. Christians need to see prayer and
worship lived piously in order to take up the "inner work" of the Gospel for
themselves. They need to see Christ-like models of fair play and of the godly
treatment of all persons in order to trust echoes of the Lord's truth in their own
hearts and to live the word of God in their own lives.
While the combination of preaching and exemplary living is necessary to
encourage inner, cooperative work with the Spirit, the same is also true of
discipling. In this passage, St. Paul considers the elements required in the
training of disciples: exhortation, encouraging, and challenging (vs. 11),
activities that nurture God's people and help them walk "worthy of God" (vs. 12).
When such effort is met by open hearts, the Faithful become "imitators of the
churches of God" world-wide (vs. 14). Given the fallenness of this world,
however, also note St. Paul's final point: if the Faithful do not pray to God nor
seek with reverent fear His help, because of being hard of heart, blind or
having sin in their lives, they will encounter suffering (vss. 14-16).
O Lord, fill us with Thy Spirit, encourage our faint hearts, and turn us
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