1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:13comment (0)
December 22, 2008
By Robert Olsen
Related Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:13
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
WHEN OTHERS CARED FOR YOU
1 Thessalonians 2:17–3:13
Paul and Silas had been forced to leave Thessalonica because of persecution (see Acts 17). Despite this sudden departure, Paul made sure the Thessalonians knew they were still thinking of them and wanted to come back and see them again. However, Paul was prevented from returning because of the work of Satan. Paul finished this section by offering great words of encouragement, strengthening the brothers and sisters in that city. There are two important issues in this passage. First, Satan is alive and well today in the 21st century. We often marginalize his presence or impact, but we can see from Paul that Satan is still active in trying (in vain) to thwart the Lord’s activity. It is important to be aware of his schemes. Second, this passage demonstrates the importance of encouraging fellow Christians. Recall in your own life when a faithful brother or sister in Christ encouraged you. Building up believers in the faith enables them to renew their strength, because they are reminded that their strength comes from God Himself.
Since Paul was prevented from going to see the Thessalonians in person, he sent his trusted friend Timothy to encourage and strengthen the believers in Thessalonica. Paul knew the Christians in that city would face persecution. It is widely attested in the Bible that Christians should not be surprised at suffering for the gospel. The important matter, however, is that we stand firm in the face of these trials and tribulations. Being aware that the Thessalonians might become discouraged, Paul wanted to boost their spirits and strengthen them in the face of these troubles. It is important for us to remember Christians in difficult circumstances, to be praying for them and to support those who work with them. We have just celebrated Lottie Moon the missionary and raised support for global missions. This is one way we can become involved in encouraging and strengthening fellow believers, because by supporting missionaries, we are participating in their ministry and helping to aid Christians throughout the world, many of whom live in areas where being a Christian means being persecuted and even killed.
After Timothy’s visit to the Thessalonians, Paul was encouraged by the steadfastness of the Thessalonians. In the same way that Paul was encouraged by hearing of his brothers’ and sisters’ perseverance, we are encouraged when we hear stories of Christians in other parts of the world or even in our own country who face persecution with a resolve that only comes through Christ. Again, in thinking of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, perhaps you had the joy of hearing stories from missionaries about people coming to Christ in spite of opposition or of Christians who remained steadfast while facing intense persecution. Once again, Paul encouraged the Thessalonians who were reported to be remaining in the Lord, thanking God for them and praying their faith would be completed. Paul was not saying these Thessalonians do not have true faith or are in danger of losing their faith; rather he was interested in their continued spiritual growth. Just as Paul expressed his thanks for their faithfulness, it is desirable for us to write to fellow believers with whom we are friends but who are not with us. It is a great way of showing our love for Christ when we express our love for our brothers and sisters. Perhaps if you have been overseas on a short-term missions trip, then you can write to (or even call) those whom you met and encourage them just as Paul encouraged his friends in Thessalonica.
Paul inserted a prayer for the Thessalonians at this juncture, demonstrating his intense concern and appreciation for this group of Christians. Not only should this prayer encourage us to pray for fellow believers, but it also gives us a good model of what to pray for. Think back in your life to a time when you were prayed over or prayed for; remember the help it gave and how encouraging it was. It is no different when we pray for others, especially if we get a chance to pray for them in person. Of course, prayer is always important whether the person or people for whom we pray can hear it, but it certainly is encouraging if we can communicate our prayers either by praying in person or by writing them, such as Paul did for the Thessalonians. The final line of Paul’s prayer shows his hope and faith in the return of our Lord Jesus, the very hope that spurs on all Christians.