Repetition Helps With Learning
1 Thessalonians 3:6-10
1. Recognize the Context:
Paul continued to express the anxiety he and his co-laborers experienced concerning their absence from Thessalonica. Their concerns for this young believing community reached a tipping point, so they had to take action.
Some, including Paul, remained in Athens, while Timothy was sent back to Thessalonica. His mission was to strengthen and encourage them in their faith. The missionaries wanted to make sure this new church was firmly established in their faith and not unsettled or shaken (verse 3). They were concerned that the trials and afflictions the Thessalonians experienced might damage their faith.
Paul provided two reasons why they shouldn’t be shaken in their faith. First, trials are an inevitable part of the Christian life. Second, he had warned them about the hardships they would encounter, and in fact, they had experienced persecution and hardship because of their faith in Christ.
In verse 5, Paul couldn’t stand being uninformed about their condition. He was concerned that the tempter had led them astray. Ultimately, this would have nullified Paul’s effort and that of his co-workers.
2. Read the Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10
6 But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. 7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9 How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
In this section of chapter 3, Paul returned to several themes previously introduced in the letter. This was Paul’s writing style. He introduced ideas early in his letter and continued to circle back to them and develop them further. Remember, these letters would have been read to the congregation. Not everyone had their own papyrus copy before them. They would have had to pay attention and listen carefully.
In verse 6, Paul was overjoyed with the news Timothy brought back concerning the faith of the Thessalonians believers. This is the third time he has used the word faith in the first six verses of chapter three. Timothy went to strengthen their faith (3:2), Paul had to know the condition of their faith (3:5), and now he had received positive news about their faith (3:6). But Timothy also recognized their love. More specifically, they have fond memories of Paul and desired to see him as much as he wished to see them.
Even though Paul was experiencing persecution and hardships (Acts 17), as was the Thessalonian church, he was encouraged about their faith. So those who were to be encouraged by Timothy (verse 2), were now being encouragers to Paul (verse 7).
In verse 8, Paul stated now we really live. For Paul, even in persecution, living life was “now possible” because their faithfulness had been confirmed. Again, Paul exhorted them to continue to stand firm in the faith, as they had been doing.
Verse 9 presents Paul’s third mention of thanksgiving (1:3, 2:13). He used a rhetorical question concerning the expression of "enough thanksgiving to God." The obvious answer to the question was, “you can’t express enough thanksgiving to God.” This thanksgiving returned Paul to the notion of joy. (1 Thess. 2:19-20).
In verse 10, the expression of constant prayer is repeated (1 Thess. 1:2). Paul prayed he would get to see them again face to face. In doing this, he wanted to supply what was lacking in their faith. This statement seems somewhat odd because he had nothing but positive things to say about their faith. It would seem Paul is not referring to deficient elements in their faith. Instead, they needed to grow and develop in light of his premature departure.
In typical Pauline fashion, he used a three-step approach.
1. “You’re doing great at this!”
2. “Keep it up!”
3. “Here are some ways you can improve!.” (Chapters 4-5 will provide the areas of needed improvement)
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, prayerfully consider who or what encourages your faith.
Today, prayerfully reflect on who or what brings you joy.
Today, prayerfully consider who or what causes you to be thankful.
Today, prayerfully reflect on areas you might be lacking in your faith.
To do: (remember actions from faith always with the Holy Spirit’s help)
Given the prayer suggestions above, what can you incorporate into your life today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers.
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)
Repetition was one way inspired authors highlighted something important.
Note the reoccurring themes found in this passage.
These themes include-faith, encouragement (giving and receiving), joy, hardships, and persecution, thanksgiving for God's people, praying continually.
Go back and read through chapters 1-3. If you don't mind writing in your bible, underline the repeated words.
Remember, when things are repeated in Scripture, they are significant.