First, I’d like to thank the Benton Harbor community for accepting my family and I as some of your newest residents. These last several months have been a whirlwind, but because of your kindness, the transition has been that much easier. We look forward to being a part of this community for years to come.

As we enter into this new year and decade, although we face many challenges, we also have much to be grateful for.

As someone new to this community, I wondered what I could say that would be of some encouragement, especially with so much turmoil surrounding us. But then, by divine intervention, I was reminded that before closing 2 Thessalonians, St. Paul asked God to bless the people with three divine things.

The first was peace. Some understand peace to mean all manner of prosperity. But the apostle meant peace with God: (a) peace in their own conscience (b) peace among themselves and (c) peace among others.

This peace he desired for them always, in everything, and by all means. The gift of peace is God’s, who is “the author of peace and Lover of accord.”

And of this we may be firmly assured, that we shall neither have peaceable dispositions ourselves, nor be at peace with others, unless the Lord of peace himself give us both.

Secondly, he prays that the presence of the Lord be with them.

Moses intensely desired the divine presence of God to go with him and the Israelites to the land of promise. From his own words to Jehovah himself, Moses pleads, “if thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.”

He knew full well of the absolute need of God’s presence to guide them, but also that his presence really included every other good thing.

Paul felt as did Moses. He was sure that if the Lord was with the Thessalonians, all would be well with them.

My friends, we need nothing more to make us safe and happy, nor can we desire anything better for ourselves, our family and friends, than to have the Lord’s gracious presence with us. His presence will be a guide and guard in every path we may go, and a real comfort in every condition we may be placed.

It is the presence of God that makes heaven to be heaven, and the presence of God will make this earth, although cursed with sin and sorrow, like unto heaven. If God be with us and for us, he’s more than the world against us.

Lastly, Paul ask that the Lord’s grace be with them.

Whatever the distinction of the Thessalonians for their inherent virtues and gracious qualifications, Paul knew that it was only God’s sovereign grace, and not their own merit, that must be relied upon for obtaining any temporal or spiritual mercy from the hands of God.

Although he commended them for their faith, love, patience and other spiritual gifts, he still closes and crowns them all by asking God’s grace and favor for them as the cause of all they stood in need of or could expect.

This grace and favor flows to us through Jesus. Paul delighted and trusted in it. It made him the saint, preacher and hero he was, and it is no wonder that he loved his Thessalonian converts with a deep and holy passion. Paul took his leave of them with these precious words of blessing.

Just as Paul asked God’s blessings for the Thessalonians, I ask God’s blessings of peace, presence, grace and favor for our community, too.

Today’s Insights was written by the Rev. Kenneth E. Robinson, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Benton Harbor. Insights is written by area clergy to give different viewpoints on a variety of topics. It is published each Saturday in cooperation with the Berrien County Association of Churches. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of member churches.