Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
In her book, Humble Roots, Hannah Anderson writes about how often, it’s the little things that can be most destabilizing when dealing with stress. When we struggle to keep up with small day-to-day tasks like email and laundry, she writes, we realize just how much in our lives really is outside of our control. I was reminded of this as I read 1 Thessalonians. In this letter, Paul and his friends address the Christians in Thessalonica. So much has been going on there, but this seems to be one thing they are struggling with.
In the letter, Paul encourages them to live faithfully to Jesus, beginning Chapter 5 with a list of what they are to do. It would be easy to walk away from this with a checklist, to try and do it by our own power. A few more things to do to achieve godliness. And yet, if they kept reading, or listening as the case may be, they would have heard something like this:
Yes, it is important that you become this way. Too important, in fact, for God to leave it up to you. God himself is the one who will sanctify you–renew you completely. God is the one who will keep your whole spirit, soul, and body blameless. Don’t add it to your checklist, you’d never be able to cross it off.
To be called by God into his family also means to be sanctified, or made holy, by God.
This is both immensely encouraging and somewhat frightening. The older I get, the more aware I become of my sin, shortcomings, and brokenness. The older I get, the more I realize how little power I have to really change any of it. The most genuine growth in my spiritual life in the past five years has looked something like this:
In Scripture or prayer, I notice an area of deep need, sin, or struggle in my life. I bring this area to God in prayer, sometimes to a few friends. I ask for the Lord to be at work, changing me, making me attentive to Jesus and to his invitations to follow him. At some point in the future, I notice some tiny amount of progress and wonder where it possibly could have come from. As I reflect, I see the evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit, making me more like Jesus. What a mercy that our God is at work from the moment we believe, making us into the image of his beloved son.
Though, or perhaps because, becoming like Jesus is one of the most important parts of our growth in faith, as people we have so little control over it. This letter is meant to encourage us as it encouraged the believers at Thessalonica that the God who is sovereign is good and can be trusted to do what he says he will do.
There are many moments of my day where I am nearly overcome by how much there is to be done– at work, at home, in my own heart. I am confronted with the startling realization that I am not equal to the tasks before me, though I may imagine myself to be.
Here we find encouragement for our daily lives. If the most important thing, that we are made into the image of Jesus, our beautiful Savior, is already taken care of, already in progress, not dependent on our efforts, but secured for us in Jesus and offered to us by God as he calls us into his family, then there is rest for us here in the midst of all that we cannot control.
- That which most needs doing is secure, we do not carry a heavy burden all on our own.
- The same God who is making us new in Christ walks with us in a world that is shockingly outside of our control.
- This is good news because everything becomes a part of what he is doing– the good, the bad, the painful, and the downright confusing.
God sweeps these things up into his plan of redemption, as he makes this world new again and makes us more like his son. This is how we can sing with Mary, as we stand on the precipice of the unknown, “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
- Read The Song of Mary from Luke 1:46-55
- What things in your life cause you to feel overwhelmed or dismayed? Can you share these with Jesus?
- What is the story of how God called you to be a part of his family? Are there things in the story that you didn’t control? What would you like to say to God about these things?
- What would it look like for you to meet Jesus in the places where you feel overwhelmed, dismayed, or without control? Can you ask him to meet you there?