“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)
We know our faith is growing when our love is increasing. Christian circles can often elevate knowledge over love, charisma over character, and the gifts of the Spirit over the fruit of the Spirit. We may impress people with what we know, but we influence them with how we love. Love trumps them all! Paul emphasizes the essential of love like this in 1 Corinthians 13:
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” (Vs. 1-3)
“… But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.” 1 Corinthians 8:1 (NLT)
How well are you loving others? As we spend time alone with God in prayer, Bible study and worship, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the nature of your love. Is it Christ-like? Are you increasing in love for others? Is your love sacrificial? Does it put others needs above your own? In what ways would you say your love is growing?
More often than not, we are the worst ones to evaluate our own lives when it comes to spiritual growth. Like these people to whom Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians, it’s easier for others to see the spiritual improvement in our faith journey when we miss it completely. Notice how Paul addresses these Christ followers, thanking God for them because he saw their faith growing more and more and their love for each other increasing! How do you think that made them feel to read that? What an encouraging word that must have fueled their faith in the midst of the suffering they were enduring through severe persecution.
In his first letter to them, Paul prayed,
“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” 1 Thess. 3:12 (NIV)
Now, in this second letter to them, he is affirming that God has answered his prayers for them! Their faith was growing more and more and their love for others was increasing!
Let’s personalize this time together and ask the hard question: Is my faith growing more and more? How can I know? Check your love quotient. Ask yourself, “Is my love increasing?” These two go together, don’t they? It’s hard to say your faith is growing if your love is not increasing. How do you know either is happening? Connect this week with a trusted friend and ask them to be candid and honest with you. Look for ways to stretch your faith and exercise your love for those around you. Don’t be afraid to risk awkwardness.
“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)