1 Thessalonians 3:1-9
Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, 2 and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, 3 and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. 4 Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. 5 That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless. 6 But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. 7 So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. 8 It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. 9 How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence.
When it comes to trials Paul now reminds us that trials and trouble can cause us to:
- Surrender to temptation.
Paul cared about their faith with regards to temptation. Temptation can cause us to surrender to Satan and sin. Satan loves to hinder God’s work and wound God’s people. In 1 Thessalonians 2:18 Paul pointed to this when he said: “We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us.” While Satan will try to make the road impassible, with God it is not impossible. Now the name that Paul uses here in 1 Thessalonians 3:5 for Satan means tempter because that is what he does. In the beginning, he tried to tempt Eve in the garden and later Jesus in the wilderness. You see a time of trial and testing has its own special issues of temptation. As you think about when the devil came to tempt Jesus to turn stones to bread, you will recall that he did it at the end of the 40 days of fasting, when Jesus was hungry. When did the devil tempt Judas to betray Jesus? He did it when all their hopes and plans seemed to be falling apart. Satan is not just an opportunist, he is a strategist. He has a short term plan for your destruction and he has a long term plan. But he looks for those moments when he can step in with his lies and suggestions. Those times when you are tired or discouraged, those times when you have taken hit after hit and he looks for an opportunity to deliver the knockout punch. That’s what Paul was worried about concerning these believers. One of Satan’s biggest tools is to “tempt” us to bail on God. We are tempted to:
- Doubt God’s goodness. The tempter whispers in our ear that God has forgotten us, that He doesn’t care, and that He isn’t good.
- To retaliate against others with anger and resentment.
- To give in to despair and discouragement. Maybe you’re sick and you feel as if you’ll never get better again. Perhaps you feel rejected and alone. Maybe you’ve lost a job and feel that you’re not qualified to do anything.
Trials can cause causalities even for the most courageous of Christians. We need to remember that Satan is a powerful foe who will do everything in his power to prevent the spread of the Gospel. He influences people to prevent believers from sharing their faith. He kept Paul from returning to the Thessalonians to encourage them. He tempts believers to fall away and give up on their faith. In John 10:10 we are reminded of his goal: “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” His plan is not just to maim you but to murder you and take you out. What is Satan stealing and trying to destroy? Whatever he can, your joy, your hope, your faith, your love. He wants to rob you of your riches and leave you destitute and in rags. Don’t give into his schemes, but instead listen to James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” You don’t have to listen to and live in his lies. Instead of submitting to his lies submit to the Lord. It’s here that Paul reminds us that even in the tough times we can
- Succeed and have success vs 6
Here in verse 6 is the only time Paul ever used the term “good news” outside of its regular meaning of preaching the good news of the gospel. The message about their spiritual status was so pleasing to Paul’s ears that it was like listening to the Gospel all over again. In verse 6 Paul reminds us that we overcome our trials by faith.
Faith in God’s Person Character—that He is good and makes no mistakes
Faith in God’s Word—that it is true no matter what happens to us
Faith in God’s Purpose—that He is conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ
Faith in God’s Promise—that He will never give us more than we can bear
Faith in God’s Presence—that He will never leave us.
Faith in God’s Power—that He can deliver us
There are benefits and blessings to trials and one great result of trials is that it increases our faith, 1 Peter 1:6-7, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” He is perfecting, establishing, and preparing you for glory. Never lose sight of where it all ends. The Bible continually points us to the eternal purposes of God. American religion is focused on what I can get right now. There is certainly a supply of God’s grace and goodness for the here and now, but if that is all you can see then I am afraid you will be vulnerable in your journey. When you take the prospect of eternity out of Christianity and simply make it a philosophy for successful living you will have moment by moment disappointment. Persecutions and trials can stir up greater boldness, zeal, and determination. They can stir up compassion for others who suffer in the same way and enable us to comfort them. Paul sent Timothy to encourage the believers and is himself encouraged in the process. He rejoiced even in the midst of continued persecution because knowing that they were standing firm in their faith even in the face of great testing was the greatest encouragement he could have received. In essence, Paul was saying: “I can face my trials because I see how well you are facing yours.” Someone is watching you right now, the trials you are facing are revealing your faith, what is really in you. Is how you are handling hardship encouraging or discouraging those around you? What do others really see in you? Because how you handle adversity reveals who or what you are really trusting in.