A Final Word
3:1-5 Finally, brothers, keep on praying for us, that the word of God may run its race and receive its crown of glory--as it does in your case--and that we may be saved from these wicked and evil men, for the faith is not for everyone. You can rely on the Lord who will make you steady and who will guard you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you both do and will do what we command you to do. May the Lord direct your hearts so that you may feel the love of God and display the endurance which Christ can give.
Once again Paul comes to the end of a letter with the request that his people should pray for him (compare 1 Thessalonians 5:25 ; Romans 15:30 ff.; Philemon 1:22 ). There is something deeply moving in the thought of this giant among men asking for the prayers of the Thessalonians who so well recognized their own weakness. Nowhere is Paul's humility more clear to see. And the fact that he, as it were, threw himself on their hearts must have done much to bind even his opponents to him, because it is very difficult to dislike a man who asks you to pray for him.
But in spite of his love for and trust in men Paul was a realist. The faith, he said, is not for everyone. We can be certain that he said it not cynically but sorrowfully. Once again we see the tremendous responsibility of free-will. We can use it to open our hearts and we can use it to shut them. Faith's appeal is not selective, it goes out to every man; but the heart of man can refuse to respond.
In the last verse of this passage we see what we might call the inward and the outward characteristics of the Christian. The inward characteristic is the awareness of the love of God, the deep awareness that we cannot drift beyond his care, the sense that the everlasting arms are underneath us. One of the basic needs of life is security and we find that need met in the consciousness of the unchanging love of God. The outward characteristic is the endurance which Christ can give. We live in a world where there are more nervous breakdowns than at any time in history. It is a sign that more and more people have the feeling that they cannot cope with life. The outward characteristic of the Christian is that when others break he stands erect and when others collapse he shoulders his burden and goes on. With the love of God in his heart and the strength of Christ in his life a man can face anything.
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