Week of May 23

The Essential Oil of Peace

Read: 1 Kings 4-5; 2 Chronicles 2; Psalm 101; 2 Thessalonians 3
“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. . .As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.”
2 Thessalonians 3:3, 13, & 16 ESV


John of the Cross once said, “Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you remember Christ crucified and be silent.” I know why he recommended this approach to suffering, but embodying it seems extraordinarily difficult (1 Peter 2:23). I also know from personal experience that it certainly helps to have someone walk alongside of us when we endure hardship. The Thessalonians had endured some stiff suffering because of their commitment to Christ, so Paul writes to strengthen and encourage them. They were “pressed out like grapes,” but they did not whine (see 1Thessalonians 1:6)! Paul stands in their behalf and expresses powerful words of hope and help that will guide us when we must endure trouble in the Christian life too.

Let's See What the Bible Says

We find a valuable pearl of counsel in the form of Paul’s encouragement in verses 1-5. Let’s link the letter together well before I call attention to his treasured words. He has just responded to their concern over false and troubling eschatological (end times) teaching (2:1-17). He now uses this place in the letter to address several ethical concerns and begins with the call to spread the word despite evil, faithless people who opposed Paul and his associates.

How may we gain the victory when faced with specific challenges like the one presented in chapter 2, or the more general ones that we face in the Christian life? Paul reminds them of their common Lord (v. 1), their common experience in suffering (vv. 2-3), their common fellowship in prayer for one another (v. 1), and their common effort to spread the message of hope. The word Paul uses for effort indicates a runner who strives to do well in some endeavor. We would say, support one another and “carry on!” Their common experiences had produced uncommon community! Let’s consider the significance of our church families.

We have before us a bit of a case study in church difficulty. Paul addresses those who were living idle lifestyles (ongoing, not temporary) and had become apparently disruptive influences in the life of the church. The exact nature of their behavior is not clear, but it had become a serious hindrance to church health. This situation is sandwiched between exhortations to those within the church who were living properly (vv. 6, 14-15). I believe that there is a kernel of application that we may take away for our devotional benefit.

Our lifestyles matter to the health of the whole community of believers. Some folks in that church were living contrary to apostolic teaching (vv. 6, 10) and the example of working hard (vv. 7-9). They also were busybodies—perhaps end-timers who believed falsely that the day of the Lord had already arrived (v. 12; cf. 2:2). Regardless, we need to bring forward the emphasis on brotherly and sisterly “commonality” that I wrote above and see the focus on a recognized “Christian lifestyle.” This was evidence of “the tie that binds,” as we sing. The unmistakable blessing of commonality is the peace of Christ!

Paul concludes the letter with a prayer for peace, but scholars are divided as to what it refers. It could apply to the preceding section on church discipline, or it may stand on its own as a broad benediction to the entire letter. Was it for those who needed discipline, or does it serve as a benediction? Yes! I do not see a need to parse the benediction. It is a prayer of blessing that is always fitting in a church that holds all things in common. Many of our churches take a few moments in each service to “share the peace.” I believe Paul encourages being at peace and tells us how to achieve it. Let’s make application.

Let's Deepen Our Walk

I recall mowing my home lawn and the lawns of some widow women when I was a teenager. Our lawnmower did the job well, but I noticed after some time that it began to sputter, then stall after I had been mowing for a short period of time. After a few minutes, it would start again, but it would soon begin to sputter and shut down. It had gas, but what I did not know was that the oil had never been changed and the reservoir was virtually dry. The engine parts were not properly lubricated which caused extra friction and generated much heat inside. It shut down when it became too hot.

Let’s consider some steps toward corporate spiritual growth. Now, I am going to throw open the door a bit wider and insert a pastoral word here. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the body of Christ were to pray continually for the common blessings of peace to fall upon the lives of all believers rather than to breathe the fire of criticism on them? The peace of Christ is the oil that prevents fellowship friction and overheating. This commonality takes place when the true church, who calls upon Christ as Lord (v. 1), invokes His blessings of grace and peace (v. 16; “Lord of peace”).

Let's Think and Discuss

1. What are several peace-building actions that you feel led to contribute to your church? Pray and ask the Lord to make you an instrument of His peace.

2. For families: The theme of Christians extending the peace of Christ runs straight through the New Testament. Paul wants our families and our church families to be reminded that this is an instruction from our Lord. A good way to help discuss and practice peace-building is to make a long sign with large letters, P-E-A-C-E, written down the page. The bigger sign and letters the better.

Lay the sign on the floor and supply colorful magic markers. Encourage your children to help you to think of words that start with each of these letters that describe how your family can be peace-builders. Let them fill in the sign with pictures, symbols, and words or phrases. Remind them that Paul was thinking about worshiping the same Lord together, walking together through hard times, praying together for one another, and sharing Christ’s gospel together. Your family does this, and your church family should also be doing this. Have your children take your family sign to your pastor and show him what they have been learning from Paul about building peace in God’s family.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock