1st Thessalonians Chapter 3
1st Thessalonians 3 1So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2We 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, 3so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. 4In 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. 5For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy 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.
6But 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. 7Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. 9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13May 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.
In verse 3 they are reminded to expect suffering. Paul says in Acts 14:22 that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And Jesus predicted intense suffering for His disciples in the time before the end.
Matthew 5: 11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 10: 16-23 16I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17"Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21"Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
But He promised salvation to those who endured.
Matthew 10:22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Paul regarded his own suffering as a mark of his authority as an apostle of Christ.
2 Corinthians 6:4-10 4Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Your troubles may be a sign of effective Christian living: whether Satan is attacking you because you worry him or God is using your problems to build character and perseverance. Or to make you more compassionate. We don’t turn to God for a life free of suffering. While there is nothing wrong with asking Him to take away some suffering, we have to continue to love and praise Him if He chooses not to. And to persevere if that’s His plan and to know His grace is sufficient.
So – Timothy went to see if they were falling away during the hard times and he was immensely relieved to find they were standing firm in their faith and in their love for each other and for Paul.
But Paul tells them in his prayer for their holiness that their love must extend to all men for them to be like Christ. If we are full of God’s love it will overflow onto others. And that doesn’t mean just being polite. We are to pray for others and actively and positively show our love to them. Let me challenge you to look for opportunities daily to show that love!