The Lord Causes You to Love[1 Thessalonians 3]
9For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, 10as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith? 11Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; 12and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; 13so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
This chapter has two thoughts that I would love to have time to explore more - the idea that we are destined to suffer and the truth that God is the One who causes us to love others. Are they related? In the first part of the chapter Paul reminds them that he sent Timothy "to strengthen and encourage" them in their faith. When he left he know that they were being persecuted. Remember in Acts they had dragged Jason out of his house and shouting accusations," These men who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things." (Acts 17:6-8). Paul had sent Timothy to remind them, "so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know." vs.3-4.
Paul was thankful to find that in spite of the suffering they were enduring, the people in Thessalonica had continued in their faith. But he was also anxious to come back to them so "that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith." What part of faith was lacking? He wanted them to know that God was the one who was going to continue to do the work in them. God was the One who causes them "to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people."
What a relief - they really weren't going to be able to love each other or the ones persecuting them. God's love was not something they would have to drum up themselves. They were going to need to ask God to do the impossible - cause them to increase and overflow in love. He was also the One who will do the work in them - "that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints."
I praise you God that You have called me to suffer. But You are the One who will cause me to increase and overflow in love. You are the One who is doing the work of perfecting my faith. Thank You for Your grace (power) that is at work in me. Cause me to let You do that work and to cease striving to do it myself.