1Th 3:9-11 “For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.”
Have you ever received a gift that was so wonderful you felt the need to thank the giver over and over again? We may even use the phrase “I can never thank you enough!” Certainly, those of us to whom the Lord has revealed Himself and His salvation know something about this feeling. But when was the last time we stopped to marvel at His love and provision for the church?
Paul is rejoicing before God for His mighty work among the saints at Thessalonica. He knew that he, Silas, and Timothy were not with them long enough initially to see them firmly grounded. Yet God used this occasion to demonstrate to these men again that the church is in His capable hands. God establishes the church and, by His grace, we serve. Their steadfastness and the witness that it was to Paul that God was watching over them filled him with great joy.
We need to remember to always give thanks to God for the preservation of His saints. I am not just talking about our eternal deliverance from sin. It should fill us with joy and amazement to consider that throughout the ages, despite constant adversity and the so-called “higher learning” of men, Almighty God has caused His church to stand. It should give us great joy to bow before His throne and thank Him that He has blessed us to be a part of such a body.
Our thanksgiving should motivate us to pray for God to continue His blessing and acknowledge that He keeps the church. We should pray fervently, abundantly, and with confidence in the Lord that we might see her countenance. Note that Paul did not say “that we might see your faces.” While Paul certainly demonstrates on many occasions his concern for individuals, remember that his main focus in this letter is the church (ch.1, v.1) as a single entity.
Paul desired to see the health of the countenance of the Lord’s church. He wanted to see her Husband reflected in her behavior. He wanted to be able to minister to her needs (that which is lacking) so that she would be absolutely confident in the grace and power of her Husband. We understand, as did Paul, that as ministers we do not bring our own provision but rather serve up that which is prepared by a higher source.
The word often translated as minister literally means a servant or waiter (as one who waits tables). A waiter does not prepare the meal nor does he determine what nourishment is to be set on the table. He waits on the will of the Master of the house and acts accordingly. We see again that Paul understood this clearly when he begins the statement in verse eleven with “Now God…” No matter how noble or zealous our desire may be, we must look to God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ to direct our way!
May it please God that we keep our eyes on Him and give thanks with great joy as we recognize the gift of His church and pray day and night for her continued wellbeing!