In this first letter to the Thessalonians Paul begins in chapter 1:4 by recounting how the gospel - preached with the Holy Spirit’s power and full conviction - had touched and transformed the lives of many. This transformation was so plain to Paul that he declared in 1 Thess. 2:1 that “our coming to you was not in vain” and how in 1 Thess. 1:9, “they had turned from idols to the living God.” He calls them imitators of God in 1 Thess. 1:6, and boasted about how their testimony had gone forth not only in their immediate surroundings, but also to far away places (1 Thess. 1:8).
Paul also called them his hope and joy, the crown of exultation, and glory (1 Thess. 2:19, 20), and broke out in ecstatic praise when he got news that they were doing great in their walk with the Lord even though he had not visited to impart what he thought they were lacking in their walk with the Lord. Even after hearing how great they were doing – Paul still continued to pray for them to increase and abound in their walk with the Lord. He admonished them to abound more and more in pleasing the Lord (1 Thess. 3:12).
Finally in chapter 4:1, Paul acknowledges that these guys were actually doing great – that they “were pleasing Him in every way.” Still, Paul finds a way to ask them to “excel more” – “abound more.”
The reason for this I think, is because Christian maturity is never finished on this side of eternity. No matter how far a Christian has come in love and holiness there is still room to abound more and more in his exercise of grace, his discharge of duty, his perfection of holiness, and his determination to excel in every area of life.
So when Paul says I want you to excel or to abound more in your walk with the Lord or I want you to excel in pleasing the Lord – what he is actually saying is that: I am thankful to the Lord that you are doing well, but there is no stopping now, there is no slacking now, no time to become complacent, no time to settle down in a contented comfort zone, there is still room for some improvement. Paul understood the dangers of a casual, laid-back and lazy faith. So he is motivating them to excel.
So how do we excel in pleasing the Lord? Here are a few tips:
- Keep doing what you are doing now, if it’s working
- Beware of distraction and attractions and demonic conspiracies
- Don’t forget that your best defense is your offense
- Remember the good old fashion – watch, study, pray, obey
- When you slip, don’t get caught sitting there – get up, dust off, move on
- Challenge yourself, set goals, journal about it
- Make yourself accountable, help others
- Do a periodic spiritual inventory
- Don’t stop, press on toward the mark of excellence, pursue it with intensity until Jesus returns
The list goes on. Thanks for reading – join the conversation. We would like to hear from you.