Thursday, April 07, 2022

2022.04.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Thessalonians 3:2–5

Read 1 Thessalonians 3:2–5

Questions from the Scripture text: What two things did they send Timothy to do (1 Thessalonians 3:2)? In what, specifically, was he to encourage them? What did the apostle not want to happen to a single Thessalonian (1 Thessalonians 3:3)? To what are believers appointed? Who should know this? How had the Thessalonians come to know this (1 Thessalonians 3:4a)? How was this verified (verse 4b)? What couldn’t the apostle stand not knowing (1 Thessalonians 3:5a)? By what means could the Thessalonians have been shaken (verse 5b)? What would this mean about the apostle’s ministry to them (verse 5c)?

Unbelief is encouraged by being told how pleasant things will be. But faith is encouraged by being told more accurately—namely that it is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God. On the one hand, we will have those tribulations. On the other hand, since our entry has been secured by Christ, then our passage through the tribulations must also have been secured by Him.

So it was that at the end of the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to the churches that they had planted, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). That’s how they strengthened their souls!

Now, he has sent Timothy “to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:2). How? By reminding the Thessalonians that they were “appointed to this” (1 Thessalonians 3:3b). Appointed to what? Afflictions (verse 3a)!

Those who suggest the possibility of a painless Christianity would put you on ground where you will easily be shaken. 1 Thessalonians 3:4 isn’t Paul saying “I told you so” in a gloating fashion but rather “this is exactly why I told you”—and am telling you again: so that you would NOT be shaken.

In fact, this “I told you so” comes with a great amount of love. So much love that just not knowing if the Thessalonians had held up under affliction was itself a great affliction to Paul. He could not endure (1 Thessalonians 3:5) not knowing if their faith had endured! 

Why was it such a big deal to him? Because if their “faith” had not held up, then his labor would have been “in vain” (end of 1 Thessalonians 3:5). It’s a word that means “empty” and the same word translated “foolish” in James 2:20. In both places, Scripture speaks of what appeared to have been faith but was not. Here are these dear ones, whose glory at Christ's return the apostle anticipates, and the agony of waiting to hear that their faith was genuine was greater to him than just about any earthly affliction (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28–29). 

So, let us be strengthened by being told about the afflictions through which we must go. And, when they come, let us rejoice that things are just as the Lord has faithfully told us. And, let us be honest with other believers about what they too must go through. Finally, let us care enough about other believers that we would rather go through great earthly pain than learn that their faith did not turn out to be genuine.

What afflictions are you going through? What afflictions are other believers that you know of going through? What are your expectations for the circumstances of your earthly life? What are your expectations for how you will get through them?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You both for telling us plainly that we must go through affliction, and that You will bring us safely through it, into Your kingdom. Forgive us for when we fail to find Your faithful Word encouraging, or even desire that things would be other than You have said. And grant unto us to be unshakeable by affliction, we ask, through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH231 “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right”


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