1 Thess. 3: 6-13
The report of Timothy contains many good things which we will be looking at today.
I. Good news (1 Thess. 3:6)
A. When Timothy returned from his mission to the Thessalonian church, he had a wonderful report. Paul referred to Timothy’s report as good tidings.
B. Paul received the good news that his converts were standing fast, not only in the faith, but in charity as well. Truth and charity go together.
C. The Thessalonians were strong in faith toward God and love toward His apostles. Though Paul did not mention their hope explicitly here, he did so implicitly by referring to their desire to see the apostles again; they were looking forward to this. The fact that the Thessalonians looked back on the visit of the missionaries with pleasant memories and looked forward to seeing them again evidenced their genuine love for the apostles. Paul loved them too, and reminded them by restating his longing to see them again.
Illustration 1: Operative Faith
A Christian farmer was constantly jeered at by a non-Christian because he would not work on Sunday, went to church, and gave his tithes to the Lord’s work. At the end of a poor harvest season the non-Christian said to him, “Where is your God? He has certainly failed you, hasn’t He?” “Oh, no,” the Christian said, “my God does not close His books at the end of the harvest season.”
Illustrations of Bible Truths.
II. Comfort (1 Thess. 3:7-8)
A. Paul said, Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith. (1 Thess. 3:7) Paul describes his own condition as affliction and distress. Affliction means “intense pressure a state of pain, distress, or grief.” Distress speaks of “an extreme crushing pressure.” Paul was enduring many burdens and sufferings, but he says he was comforted by the Thessalonians’ faith and stand.
B. Nothing filled the apostles with joy like news that their converts were standing fast in the Lord. This was the desired result in all their ministry; in this they found their greatest fulfilment. “Standing fast in the faith is really “standing firm in the Lord.” Such a relationship strengthens one to withstand the storms of life.
Illustration 2: Christians
As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: “It’s a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians—and I am one of them.”
Moody Bible Institute’s, Today In The Word, June, 1988, p. 18
III. Paul’s Prayer (1 Thess. 3:9-13)
A. The force of Paul’s rhetorical question is, “We cannot thank God enough for you because of all the joy you have brought to our hearts by your endurance in these trials.” It is noteworthy that Paul thanked God for the Thessalonians’ behavior; he did not take credit for this. Paul acknowledged that their endurance was really a tribute to the work of God in them (cf. Phil 2:13). He commended the Thessalonians, but also recognized and acknowledged the hand of God at work in their lives.
B. The wonderful news of the Thessalonian believer’s faithfulness blessed the heart of Paul. He breaks out in prayer for their continued growth and faithfulness. Notice three characteristics of Paul’s prayer.
1. He prayed that their faith might mature (1 Thess. 3:10). Paul asked God to make it possible for him to minister to them personally, but God did not answer that request. Paul longed to see them again; he longed to minister to them and help bring their faith to maturity. The word translated “perfect” has the meaning of “adjust, equip,” It is even used for the mending of nets (Mark 1:19). Our faith never reaches perfection; there is always need for adjustment and growth. We go “from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17).
2. Paul’s second request was that their love might abound (1 Thess. 3:12). Times of suffering can be times of selfishness. Persecuted people often become very self-centred and demanding. What life does to us depends on what life finds in us; and nothing reveals the true inner man like the furnace of affliction. Some people build walls in times of trial, and shut themselves off. Others build bridges and draw closer to the Lord and His people. This was Paul’s prayer for these believers, and God answered it: “The charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” (2 Thess. 1:3).
3. Paul’s third request was for holiness of life (1 Thess. 3:13). Again, it is the return of Jesus Christ that motivates the believer to live a holy life. Our Lord’s return is also a source of stability in the Christian life. Where there is stability, there can be sanctity, and where there is holiness, there is assurance. The two go together.
C. Notice that Paul’s prayers for his friends were not careless or occasional. He prayed night and day”; he prayed “exceedingly” which is the same word translated “exceeding abundantly” in Eph. 3:20. True prayer is hard work. Epaphras must have learned from Paul how to pray for people: “always laboring fervently … that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12).
D. Paul ended this chapter with a reference to the place of the saints at the return of Christ. He prayed that his converts might stand blameless and holy before God at Christ’s return. Since all believers will be transformed to be like Christ when He returns (1 John 3:2), Paul could not be referring to our personal condition in heaven. He was referring to our lives here on earth as they will be reviewed at the Judgment Seat of Christ. We will never face our sins in heaven, for they are remembered against us no more (Rom 8:1; Heb. 10:14-18). But our works will be tested, and you cannot separate conduct from character.
Timothy’s report to Paul indeed was a good news and Paul the Apostle was comforted. Paul was in affliction and distressed but because he had known that the Thessalonian believers were standing fast in their faith. He prayed that the believers will continue to
grow spiritually and continue to grow in faith and live a holy life until the day that the Lord Jesus Christ comes.