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1 Thessalonians Chapter Three, Faith In Action

In our study of 1 Thessalonians chapter three, we continue our look at the letter that Paul wrote to the "church" that he started in Thessalonica (modern Greece). This chapter shows us how Paul taught them to be disciples and not just converts.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-3

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.

The trials that Paul speaks of are described in Acts 17 where things got so bad in Thessalonica that Paul had to leave the city in the middle of the night. Now, he is saying that they could not stand it any longer but just had to know how the believers there were doing. He sent Timothy to check out the situation in Thessalonica and to bring back a report of the body of believers. Paul also says that the trials that they had experienced there had not taken God by surprise.

1 Thessalonians 3:4

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.

Paul is reminding them that he knew that the persecution was going to happen because that is what happens when you follow Christ. The same is true for us today as Jesus said that we would be persecuted as well.

1 Thessalonians 3:5

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 might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

Paul knew that persecution was coming and that the new believers in Thessalonica would face trials. He was concerned that the devil would snatch away their seeds of faith as described by Jesus in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew chapter 13).

1 Thessalonians 3:6

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.

Paul is rejoicing in the good report of Timothy concerning the Christians in Thessalonica. As a body of believers, we can rejoice at the triumphs of the other parts of the Body and hurt with and for the parts that are struggling.

1 Thessalonians 3:7

Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.

Nobody wants to work day after day and year after year without any sign of accomplishing something. Therefore, even when it was difficult, Paul and his team were encouraged by the fact that the efforts produced results (fruit). In John 15, Jesus said that if we remain in Him we will bear fruit. We do not always get to see that fruit immediately but when we do we can be encouraged just as Paul was in this verse. It can also remind us to ask ourselves if we are producing any fruit and if we are not to get back to Jesus as that is the only way that will produce a harvest.

1 Thessalonians 3:8 & 9

For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 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?

We truly live when we bring others to knowing and trusting in Jesus. Paul was filled with joy because of the fact that people's lives were changed and they were living by faith in God. It never gets old seeing people turn to God and being saved from hell. That, my friends, is really living!

1 Thessalonians 3:10

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

At this time, they did not have a Bible like we do today and so it was harder for them to gain knowledge. Paul simply wanted to teach them more about their faith in Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 3:11

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you.

Paul had learned that he could only go where God opened the door for them. He was able to listen and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in directing his steps. We need to understand the same thing in that we cannot do anything on our own but we can do all things through Christ. We are called to follow Jesus and that means we have to listen and go where he tells us. It may be a foreign country or a simple visit to a neighbor. Either way, we must listen to the prompting of the Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 3:12

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

Paul's wish for the Thessalonian believers is quite simple and that is an increase in love. God is love and that is how His people will be made known. Paul wants them to draw closer to God so that they will love people more and that love will lead more people to accept Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 3:13

May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Paul's final prayer for the believers here is for God to give them strength to follow Jesus. It is not easy to be holy but that is our calling and we cannot do so on our own. Paul knew that the ability comes from God through the working of the Holy Spirit.

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