May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance (2 Thess. 3:5, NIV).
My wife, Karen, and I have enjoyed visiting Mackinac Island on several occasions. When you cross the Mackinac Bridge, you can look to one side and see the vastness of Lake Michigan, and look to the other side and see the vastness of Lake Huron.
2 Thessalonians 3:5 is like that, bringing together—not two lakes—but two oceans, two worlds, two galaxies: the love of God and the perseverance of Christ. The word “perseverance” can also be translated “patience.” If you have a King James Bible, that is what you will find there—“the love of God and the patience of Christ.”
Paul prays that God will direct the hearts of Christian believers into the vast depths of God’s love and Christ’s patience. But where can you go to receive that direction? God speaks to you directly through His Word. He directs your heart as you read it and meditate on it. Here is a simple strategy that can help you to feed on God’s Word directly.
Restate and Apply
There are three simple observations we can make by restating and applying just one verse of Scripture, 2 Thessalonians 3:5:
1. We need love and patience, especially when we are tired of the battle.
2 Thessalonians was written to Christians who were experiencing the draining effects of the difficulties of life.
You may say, “Well, that’s me.” You have difficulties at home, tensions at work. You’re experiencing endless visits to the doctor, the wearing effect of ongoing pain. You have difficulties in your marriage, a wayward son or a wayward daughter. And you find yourself saying, I need love, and I need patience!
2. God can give us the love and patience we need.
Notice something wonderful about this verse. Paul is not asking Christians to do something for God. He’s asking God to do something for them!
He’s saying to these Christians, who are being persecuted, “I see what you’re up against, and I’m asking God to do something special for you. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s patience.” The whole point is that our heavenly Father is able to give His children the love and patience we desperately need.
3. We can ask God to give us what we do not have.
If these Christians were brimming with love and overflowing with patience, there would be no need for this prayer. So, what’s the point of this prayer? Paul is asking God to give them what they do not have: “Lord, give us the love and patience we need. You have love and patience in abundance. We don’t. Give us what we do not have.” This is a wonderful prayer.
You, too, can ask God to do this for you by praying: Lord, fill my dried-out heart with Your love. Fill this frantic life with the peace and the patience of Christ.
These observations form a very simple meditation on this one verse of Scripture.
Feed Your Soul
I want to encourage you to make simple observations for yourself as you read the Bible every day. Read a few verses. Then pick one, and write out two or three sentences to restate and apply what it says. Children can do this!
Get a hardback notebook. Write out the verse. Then write out, in your own words, what the verse says and how it helps you. As you begin this practice, twenty years from now it will be your joy to look back on what God has taught you.
Don’t just read the Bible and rush on. Take what God is saying into your life. Do this for a few minutes every day, or at least start by doing this a few times a week. As you do this, you will get better at it. God’s Word will bear fruit in your life.
Some of you are in the habit of reading devotionals. That’s good, but if you have been doing that for many years it may be time for you to move beyond feeding your soul on other people’s thoughts.
Try feeding your soul on the Word of God directly. Ask God to help you. Get a friend to encourage you. A year from now, you will be amazed at how much you have grown.
This article is adapted from Pastor Colin’s sermon, “The Love of God and the Patience of Christ”, from his series, Staying the Course When You’re Tired of the Battle.