THINK: Is your life making a mark for God on the world? Are you inspiring hope in others, or are you letting others dictate your destiny? Regardless of what you see or don't see, one thing is certain: God is doing His part. He's saved you, restored your purpose, given you opportunities and empowered you for spiritual success. Are you doing your part? Are you letting His joy show? Are you living worthy of identifying with Jesus? Are you relying on the Holy Spirit to help you communicate Christ's message, not just in words but in power? This doesn't mean that things will be easy or automatic. Remember, God's power is most evident in the face of opposition and is best demonstrated by people who aren't inhibited by what others may think or do.
RESPOND: In what ways are faith, love and hope crucial to your work for Christ (v. 3)? What is significant about the fact that "God has chosen you"? (See 1:4 note.) What are your responsibilities in living up to that calling? Why is it so important for Christ's message to be conveyed not only in words, but with power? Where does the power come from, and how can you operate in this power? (See 1:5 note.) What are the effects and results of the gospel when delivered in power? How can showing joy through suffering inspire and influence others for Christ? Where does such joy come from (v. 6)? What was the great hope of the Thessalonian church? (See 1:10 note.) Why is it important for you to anticipate and rely on the same hope? What are some of the symptoms, dangers and consequences of trying to gain approval from people rather than God? (See 2:4 note.) How can you guard against this tendency? In what way was Paul's gentleness and sacrifice an example to all Christian ministers? (See 2:7 note.) Why is it important for those who serve and minister for Christ to be "holy, righteous and blameless"? (See 2:10 note.) How can we ensure that we "live lives worthy of God"? (See 2:12 note.)
PRAY: Ask God to help you live in such a way that you can convey His message not just in words, but in undeniable power. Ask Him to help you maintain obvious joy, even through the most difficult times. Give Jesus thanks for rescuing you from wrath and giving you the hope of eternal life with Him.
ACT: Is there any issue or aspect of life in which you're showing more concern for people's approval than for God's? Change your perspective and do what honors God, regardless of the fallout with people. If you have been unnecessarily harsh with someone, apologize and make the effort to demonstrate gentleness and encouragement.
THINK: Some believers obsess over their spiritual enemy, seeing the devil behind every obstacle in their lives and giving Satan more "credit" than he deserves. Then again, many people disregard the devil or even doubt his existence, which can be even more devastating spiritually. You need to be sober about Satan and his schemes, while recognizing that as God's child, you have power over the enemy and need not fear him. This doesn't mean you won't face trials, so be prepared to endure difficulty, with confidence that God has given you the ultimate victory.
RESPOND: What does Paul mean when he says, "but Satan stopped us"? (See 2:18 note.) What insight does this provide into Satan's strategies, power and ultimate subordination to God and God's people (cf. vv. 8, 11)? Why and in what way must Jesus' followers prepare to face "trials"? (See 3:3 note.) Why and in what ways can Christians be particularly susceptible to temptation when they encounter difficulty, opposition and persecution? Though they should not fear or obsess about the devil and his activity, why is it still crucial for Christians to take Satan seriously and be alert to his schemes? (See 3:5 note.) Why is it vital for Jesus' followers to "be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes"? (See 3:13 note.) What does this imply for our daily lives?
PRAY: Pray for wisdom and insight to recognize Satan's strategies and for strength and discipline to overcome temptation during difficult times. Ask God to help you be blameless and holy as you anticipate Jesus' return.
ACT: Though you shouldn't worry about people's approval, or the fact that you'll never find complete acceptance from non-Christians, it's still appropriate to consider how they view your life. Could anyone you know - Christian or not - have a legitimate complaint against you because of your attitudes, behaviors or character? Have you treated anyone in a way that doesn't reflect God's grace and compassion? If so, make a conscious effort, with God's help, to change that aspect of your life. This may include making an apology or settling an issue with another person.