Summary: A Prayer for the New (Church) Year
Happy New Year! No, this is not a “Max Webber” greeting. Max (a member at St. Peter), as you know, likes to greet people with “Happy New Year!” no matter what time of year it is just to get a reaction. I, however, am very serious when I say “Happy New Year!” because even though January 1st is a month away, this Sunday, the first Sunday in Advent, marks the start of a new Church Year. As we kick-off this New (Church) Year I thought it would be fitting to come up with some New (Church) Year resolutions. What is it that you want God to do with your spiritual life this year? If nothing comes immediately to mind, then let’s use Paul’s prayer in our text as our prayer for the New (Church) Year: Lord, deepen our faith, and increase our love.
Paul’s prayer was originally for Christians living in the Greek city of Thessalonica. Paul stopped by that city on his second missionary journey and preached for three Sabbaths before being run out of town. Even though Paul had only been there a short while the Lord blessed his message and a number of people, both Jews and Greeks, were converted to the faith. The persecution of Christians, however, did not stop with Paul’s departure. Paul, therefore, was concerned for these new converts. Would they remain faithful in spite of the persecution? To find out, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how the church was doing (Acts 17). Thankfully, Timothy brought back a good report. Not only had the Thessalonians stood firm in the faith, they had spread God’s Word! It’s no wonder Paul said of the Thessalonians in our text, “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?” (1 Thessalonians 3:9) Parents who see their children stand firm in the faith even after they go off to college or to work in the “real world” understand well the joy Paul expressed in our text.
Still Paul knew that his work with the Thessalonians wasn’t finished. He went on to say, “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:10). Although the Thessalonians had demonstrated great trust in God’s promises, they still had a lot to learn about God’s Word. After all, Paul had only been with them for three weeks - just how much could he teach them in that short time? So what was it that Paul wanted to teach the Thessalonians yet? From the two letters Paul wrote the Thessalonians we learn that he taught them about the rapture, the antichrist, and church discipline. Do those seem like subjects you would teach “new” Christians? Probably not, in fact those doctrines don’t come up in our Bible Information Course until the last few lessons. That is perhaps unfortunate because we may give the impression that those doctrines are only for the “more advanced” Christian when in reality all Christians should know well every doctrine of the Bible. Indeed the writer to the Hebrews said, “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so” (Hebrews 6:1-3).