Paul, Silas, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. 1 Thessalonians 1:1.
Welcome to the 5 T’s: 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus. Two thousand years after they were written, we are still reading them and drawing wisdom and encouragement from them. These five letters comprise 5 general letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to a church and to friends. They are 5 of the 13 New Testament books written by Paul, which were actually letters instead of books, and they deal with ministry, encouragement, matters of faith, prophecy, and advice on matters of church practice. Coolest of all, each of them starts with a flourishing greeting which finishes in praying for God’s grace and peace to the reader. In reality, all of Paul’s letters start this way (though in the Timothy letters he prays for grace, mercy, and peace).
Have you ever started a letter like that? Instead of a Christmas letter, this year my wife and I sent out a New Year’s letter (mainly because we were away from home over Christmas). I’d like to think someone will be reading my holiday letters 2000 years from now the way we’re reading Paul’s but it’s 99.9% unlikely. If they did, I’m sure that (like yours) they didn’t begin with such flourish.
Are you in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? Sure you are, you might say; you believe. But have you ever really had someone ask you about it? At the start of a new year (and a new series of books), where are you in God and your Lord? Let’s keep it real: it isn’t up to us to determine where God has us. It IS up to us to make the choice about whether or not we care about it, though, and what actions we should do if we find ourselves feeling separated from Him.
Make no mistake: God is never away from us. If we feel distant, it isn’t because of anything He’s done; sometimes it isn’t even things we do. Instead, things cloud our hearts that keep us feeling away from Him. Or the enemy tricks us into thinking God is far when, in fact, He’s as close as can be. When that happens, it’s important to remember Paul’s flourishing greetings that end with grace and peace. They’re reminders that God’s undeserved and unfathomable love is always with us, and that the peace only He gives is always within us.
His grace and peace are all throughout these five letters we begin reading today. Look for them and you’ll see that. What’s more, you’ll be in Him more as you do so. He’s in you already.
For further reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:1, Acts 15:22, Acts 16:1, Romans 1:7, Titus 1:1, 1 Thessalonians 2-3.
Lord, infuse me with Your grace and peace. Thank You for inspiring these letters into Paul so long ago.