A “Community Devotional” based on 2 Thessalonians 1

2 Th 1:1Silas and Timothy helped the Apostle Paul plant the Thessalonian church. This opening benediction mirrors the one he used in writing his first letter (1 Thessalonians) about six months earlier. Paul spent most of his time during his missionary journeys surrounded by other fellow-workers. His ministry to the new assemblies of believers sprouting up around the Roman Empire flowed out of the community of fellow-workers he was a part of and led. Thus his writings reflect relationship since they were written from community to community. Paul was also sensitive to the fact the existence of this community reposed in and relied upon the community experienced among the three persons of their Triune God (v. 1b). As a small group leader, consider ways you can prepare for each gathering with the company of other group members. When it comes to composing the course and content for upcoming gatherings…be a collaborator versus a conductor. Also, remind group members of how the bulk of the Scriptures originally flowed among bands of believers, not so much individuals. Your small group is part of this succession which, like the early Church, lives and moves and has its being within the community of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (v. 2).
2 Th 1:3As he did in his first letter, Paul uses family language to show his deep-seated connection with those who were enduring persecution (1 Th 1:4). Faith and love are inextricably tied together. A believer cannot grow in faith if he is not loving others. As he is loving others, his faith grows, and as his faith grows, he is empowered to love more. Community, therefore, nourishes love and faith by providing the healthy relationships for both to grow together. It was the faith and love of these believers that enabled them to stand up under the oppressive forces of the persecutions and trials referenced in the next verse. When your small group gathers, an environment is created for the love and faith of your group members to be built up. When people share struggles during your times of prayer, follow Paul’s example and find ways to love into their problems by listening, praying, and offering practical helps.
2 Th 1:4A network existed among the early believers. Churches knew about each other and encouraged one another through times of trial. Our church is itself a community. It is also a part of the worldwide community of local churches. The rise of globalization and networking in our world today is advantageous to the Church’s mission. This new reality will help to expand upon a similar one that existed among the first-century churches. Brag about your small group! That’s right…tell about what God is doing in the lives of people in your group so our church’s leadership can ‘boast’ about it to others. This is done not to show how you’re better than somebody else. It’s done to better others. Paul loved to tell a church what the Lord was doing in the life of another church in order to strengthen it. So share your stories!
2 Th 1:8Those who know God are friends with Him. Obedience comes out of knowing Him and the experience of being in His presence. There is a kind of kinetic energy that is built out of the interplay between our relationship with God and our obedience to Him. Community helps to accelerate this and use it in our own spiritual formation (cf. verses 3-4). Accepting the Good News means assimilating it to our lives, which shows our love for the Lord and everything He has done for us. Biblical commandments are sign-posts showing us the way to grow in intimacy with God. So use relational language when encouraging your small group participants in their spiritual growth. Answer the ‘why’ by sharing how obedience reveals our loving commitment to the Lord versus obligatory compliance to abstract rules.
2 Th 1:9-10The result of being ‘shut out’ from the Lord’s presence is everlasting destruction whereas community is pregnant with life and peace. Inclusion means relationship with God and His people now and for eternity. Our connection with Him is necessary if we are to experience His presence and His glorification in us. In other words, Jesus will receive praise and honor from all believers in us. That’s amazing, isn’t it?! Our relationship with God is actually the basis of Christ’s own magnification that will signal the inauguration of His Kingdom being established on earth. There is a spiritual interconnectivity that exists among all believers and community is how we can tap into its collective power. The community of your small group is itself a sign of the heavenly environment of God’s Kingdom and opening your group can help lost people enter into the Lord’s presence so they won’t be shut out on the day of judgment. Loving community grows out of obedience to the Gospel and displays itself in ways that enable the world to see God (1 Th. 1:3-8; 2 Th 1: 3-4; 1 Jn 4:12). Others will come to experience God’s presence when they see the Gospel expressed in the lives of those who know Him (Jn 13:34-35; Acts 2:42-47). So how can your small group participants proclaim the Good News by living in love? What are some ways your group can extend its kingdom influence to those who have not yet entered into the knowledge of God and obedience to His Word? Consider how the ‘one anothers’ like “be kind and compassionate to one another” (Ephesians 4:32) or “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5) can be exercised in different social circles and public spaces.
2 Th 1:11Healthy community with God and His people is sustained by prayer. Paul knew this, which is why he and his companions constantly prayed for the believers in Thessalonica. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses.” (Life Together). This truth compelled the apostle and his fellow-workers to love on the Thessalonian church in this way. The web of relationships that existed among the early churches (cf. verse 4) provided a supportive network for God’s will to be accomplished in and through His people. The fact Paul and his apostolic band were praying for every good purpose and every act prompted by their faith shows they really knew the believers in Thessalonica. Community and the prayers springing up out of it empower believers to live out their calling in a way that pleases the Lord and furthers His kingdom purposes. The relationships and ministry partnerships forged in Christian community allow believers to know each other so they can be informed and pray for one another in strategic ways. This verse also explains why our church believes it is important for you to be interconnected with other leaders (small group leaders like you and a coach). Ongoing communication and prayer for one another ensures our spiritual encouragement and effectiveness. This is why there is infrastructure to our church’s small group ministry and monthly communications.

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