Welcome back friends! If you have just stumbled upon this post, we are taking a journey through 1&2 Thessalonians, seeking God’s instruction and encouragement to us. We live in very confusing times, particularly here in America where wrong has become right and right has become wrong. America is not God’s time piece, but we know the foundation of our blessed nation was established based on Godly principles and trust in the Almighty God. A great number of our founding documents clearly state that.
Israel is God’s time piece, and the prophets of old foretell a time when all nations, including America, will abandon Israel, they will be attacked (Ezekiel 38-39) and, as many Bible scholars believe, that event could open the door for the Antichrist to rise, boasting of a false peace plan. The Bible calls that the tribulation. But before that occurs, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 says this will happen:
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who remain, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
We see signs of the tribulation and, thus, know the rapture is soon to occur. Therefore, we are studying the apostle Paul’s teaching to the Thessalonians about how to live in this time. We’ve made it to 1 Thessalonians 3, so please read those 13 verses.
Paul seems to focus on three things, and we will do likewise:
- Mature faith of the believers. (Verses 1-5)
- Abounding love of the believers. (Verses 6-8)
- Sanctified (“Set Apart”) lives of the believers. (Verses 9-13)
The first word of verse 1 gives us direction. One of my favorite Bible teachers used to say, “When you see the word ‘therefore’ in Scripture, stop to ask what it’s there for!” Typically, it points to the verses immediately preceding it. So, go back to 1 Thessalonians 2 and get a running start into chapter 3. Read verses 17-20 of chapter 2. How would you summarize those verses?
Paul expressed his deep longing to see the Thessalonians again, but was hindered by Satan. Yet, the end of chapter 2 tells us he was overjoyed with believers there because they were following God’s Word and were now the glory and joy of Paul and his missionary team. Then, we go to chapter 3. (Chapters are not “inspired.” Chapter breaks were put there many years after God’s Word was written, in an attempt to make the manuscripts easier to read.)
Mature Faith of the Believers (verses 1-5)
Chapter 3 begins where chapter 2 left off, with Paul’s admiration of the Thessalonian believers. What is not stated in these chapters (but elsewhere in Scripture) is that believers in those areas were facing extreme trials and hardship. Paul longed to be with them, but couldn’t because entering the hostile city would result in his arrest, and perhaps that of the believers in Thessalonica. However, Timothy, a brother and co-worker in the Lord, was sent.
- According to Philippians 2:19-22, describe Timothy’s character.
- According in verses 2 and 13, what do you think Timothy’s mission was?
- According to verses 3-4, describe what the Thessalonians (and Paul) were facing.
You’re right! Timothy was sent to exhort them in their faith so they could stand steadfastly in the midst of the affliction they faced. As Christians, we expect to face trials. This world is not our home, and the evil of this place tugs at us continually to discourage us and keep us from living a life of faith. But, when the wind blows, faith grows!
Check the wind! If you want to rise above it, you must learn to fly. Every pilot knows, to get an airplane off the ground, point it into the wind! In fact, the heavier the load, the more important it is to take off into the wind. The greater the headwind, the sooner you get off the ground, and the same is true spiritually! When the winds of affliction blow, we must turn directly into it and allow the Lord to be the wind beneath our wings, taking us above the storm! (This corresponds to our Run to the Roar teaching a few weeks ago.)
Only mature faith, grounded in full assurance of God’s truth and His care for us, gives us the courage to nose into the wind!
Abounding Love of the Believers (verses 6-8)
There is no doubt Paul loved those brand new Christians! He was also assured of their salvation because they were committed to God’s Word and their lives reflected it. Their growth brought Paul peace! After Paul sent Timothy to them, the young disciple reported back to Paul. What was his report, according to verses 6-8?
According to verse 7, Paul was in distress and affliction and it was the faith of those believers that brought comfort. Their love abounded to each other and to Paul because they were standing fast. The idea of “standing fast” is to be stationary while persevering. Think of a very tall tree firmly planted, withstanding hurricane-force winds. Similarly, winds of adversity and affliction were blowing, but those believers stood tall and unmovable. Are you standing fast…or flapping in the wind?
Write out James 1:5-8 on a sticky note or a note card and keep it handy.
Sanctified (“Set Apart”) Lives of the Believers (verses 9-13)
Paul’s heart longed for them and he offered up at least 3 prayers on their behalf:
- That their faith would mature (verse 10). Paul longed to see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith. Compare that to another prayer Paul and Timothy offered up to a different body of believers in Colossians 1:9-12. Paul prayed they would be supplied with all that is lacking in their faith. He also knew that mature faith results in fellowship and growing together in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:17-18) Is your faith lacking? Immerse yourself in God’s Word! Paul, Timothy, Peter, Jesus and others continue to exhort us through the Word of God to grow in our faith.
- That they would increase and abound in love of one another (verse 12). Tough times reveal what we are made of, and can be times of selfishness. They will cause us to either build walls around us to escape, or build a bridge toward the Lord. Thinking of one’s self only builds walls. Paul’s encouragement was for them to keep their eyes on others and increase and abound in love.
- That their hearts would be established in blamelessness and holiness (verse 13). The imminent return of Jesus Christ helps us all to stand taller and straighter! Paul said to establish your hearts blameless in holiness. “Establish” means to keep in position, to lift up and keep up. Romans 12:1-2 is a great example of how to do that.
The Lord’s return is imminent, and it draws us to holiness. Finish strong by meditating on these passages that guide us into holiness:
Our lives reflect our soon-coming Savior when our faith is mature, our love abounds and our lives are set apart for Him!
BTW – Are you finding references at the end of every chapter, reminding us of the imminent return of Jesus? He’s coming for us! See you tomorrow, as we sail into chapter 4!