Monday, January 23, 2012
Finding delight, Week 3...
All delight for me this week was found squarely in meditating upon God's faithfulness to prove in me that He has chosen me, loved me, and is sanctifying me. I studied 1 Thessalonians this week.
1 Thessalonians is a book more known for its eschatological stirrings than anything else, but I found myself newly enamored of the epistle because I looked for delight purely in what God does and not in what I do. For what He does, He does perfectly, but what I do will always lack apart from Him.
I've honestly not always enjoyed studying the epistles because they contain long lists of instructions and exhortations on living as a Christian. Not that I don't like lists. I love lists. I use lists for getting anything and everything done around here. But I fall into the trap that most listmakers do, the trap of thinking that because I've crossed it off the list, I have succeeded.
Regarding laundry or the groceries, I really have only succeeded for a time. More laundry will reappear and my growing sons will quickly eat up the groceries, putting those things back on a list. Success is trapped by time.
When it comes to the lists of exhortations: make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, to work with your hands, to win the respect of outsiders, live in peace with each other, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone, and so on; I have usually skimmed through.
From the first reading, the list of exhortations stirs in me the sense that I will not sufficiently do or succeed even in the most temporary sense of fulfilling the instruction. I know my frailty. While I will add to my list something I have already done just so I can mark it off, I will not add to my list something I know will not get done. The idolatry of accomplishment has a siren song.
Reading 1 Thessalonians differently this time, with emphasis and a search for delight in God's list, reshaped my focus. Paul starts out in chapter 1, verse 3, with a list of thanks for the faith, love, and hope he sees in the Thessalonians, "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." He writes that he knows these things, these proofs of belonging to God, are of credit to God who has done them within the Thessalonians by His election of them, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you," (1Thess 1:4)
The credit here goes fully to God. It is His list of what He is accomplishing in me. I am not removed from the responsibility of response to believe what He has said, but I am assured that His choice of me proves the list has been done, is being done, and will be done.
Regarding the exhortations on how one must live to please God, my eyes and heart zeroed in on chapter 5, verses 22-23, "May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it." The accomplishment of the list from beginning to end will rest in Him. My confidence is not in my faithfulness but in His. He, the Lord Himself, is my delight.