“How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experience before our God because of you, as we pray very earnestly night and day to see you face to face and to complete what is lacking in your faith?”
1 Thessalonians 3:9-10
Givers and Receivers
Think about the greatest gift you’ve ever received from another person. Maybe it cost the giver a lot of money. Or maybe it was more of an original gift idea that took them a long time to create. Or perhaps it was just something simple that was given to you at a time when you really needed it.
We’ve all received something at one point or another that just really made us want to return to the favor. But what if we just don’t have the means to do so?
Thoughtful and Thankful
Today’s passage is all about the thoughtfulness of God, the greatest Gift Giver, and the thankfulness of Paul as a result. This Bible verse begs a simple question that’s a little more difficult to answer than it first appears: Can I return God’s favor?
The apostle poses this rhetorical question to the church here in 1 Thessalonians 3:9: “How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experience before our God…?” How can we dare to match His infinite generosity? How can we take steps to give back to Him what we’ve received?
Can I Return God’s Favor?
The short answer is no, we can’t return the favor of God. But this verse wants more for us than this short answer gives. While we’ll never be able to muster up enough of…well, anything to give back to God all that He’s given to us in Jesus, we can still follow in the footsteps of Paul as he writes what he knows they can do in response.
He writes to the church about how they themselves “pray earnestly night and day to see [them] face to face and to complete what is lacking in [their] faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:10). This is a two-part response to God’s generosity in the grace He has given. One, they pray wholeheartedly that the Father would have His way in the hearts of their fellow believers. And two, they remain eager to gather together and grow together, building up one another in the faith.
Celebrating His Extravagance
This passage isn’t so much a means of working hard to give God back what He has given…because we just don’t have it in us to do that. Rather, it’s an example of how we can respond to His good grace, stewarding those around us well so that the gospel would continue to move in power.
So, the question isn’t “Can I return God’s favor?” but rather, “How can I revel in it so that others will see and experience it themselves?” It’s a call to celebrate His extravagant love! It’s committing ourselves to walking thankfully, joyfully, and earnestly alongside our fellow believers on their journeys in the faith.
Do you find yourself in a works-based faith where you feel pressure to return God’s favor? Or do you find yourself in restful faith where you feel the peace of simply responding to the work that Christ has already done? Take a moment to reflect on the message of God’s love and thank Him for His extravagant love for us in Jesus.