Strengthened in the Faith
1 Thessalonians 3:1-5
1. Recognize the Context:
In verse 17, Paul was concerned about his absence from the Thessalonian church. He qualified his departure as only for a short time, since he was determined to get back to them. Paul had an intense longing to return to this new church in Thessalonica, and he communicated this with strong emotive language.
Paul repeatedly attempted to return to Thessalonica, but Satan blocked their way. He needed to return to visit this believing community. The Thessalonian church and the relationship he had with them, represented the fruit of his ministry as an Apostle to the Gentiles. They were the certainty of Paul and his co-laborers’ God-given work, the fruit of their labor, and their joy.
2. Read the Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5
So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, 3 so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. 4 In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. 5 For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
In chapter 3, verses 1-2, Paul used the first person plural pronoun as the subject, since he 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 (Act 17:16-34), 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 (1:6, 2:14). This fear was justifiable because, in the Greco-Roman world, the practice of religion was to guarantee positive results. Therefore, it's easy to see how Paul would be concerned that the Thessalonians might abandon Christianity to return to their previous conventional religious practices.
In verses 3-4, Paul gave two reasons why they shouldn’t be shaken in their faith. First, trials are an inevitable part of the Christian life (John 16:33). 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 shifted to the first person singular, and he repeated the words of verse 1. He couldn’t stand being unaware of this church's spiritual condition. He needed to know about their faith. He was concerned that the tempter had led them astray. Ultimately, this would have nullified Paul’s effort and that of his co-workers.
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 where you are in your own faith journey. Do you need to be strengthened and encouraged? Are you allowing God’s word to do this? Prayerfully have a conversation with God about your current situation.
Today, prayerfully reflect on what unsettling trials you might be experiencing right now. Is there something or someone coming against your faith? Is it an internal response or some pressure from the outside? How is it impacting your faith journey?
Today, prayerfully consider how the tempter might be coming against you. How is he trying to lead you astray? Talk to God and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help.
To do: (remember actions from faith always with the Holy Spirit’s help)
Is there someone you need to strengthen and encourage in the faith? Prayerfully identify someone and practically list how you can help and do it.
Who do you know that is unsettled in their faith because of suffering, trials, and hardship? Ask God how you can be used to help and do it.
Is there a specific area of temptation, that the temper sends your way to lead you astray? Is there someone in your faith community you can talk with and receive accountability? If not, ask God to provide someone.
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)
Use a concordance or a website like https://www.biblegateway.com/ and search other verses on encouragement, and temptation.