As we come back to our study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we pick up in chapter 3 verses 1-5. The birth of this church is found in Acts 17:1-9 where Paul preached and taught in the synagogue that Jesus is the Christ, the king of a new kingdom. That certainly got Paul and his team (Silas and Timothy) into trouble with the Jewish authorities and the leadership in Rome. Because of that, after the church was established, they were run out of town and moved along to Berea and then to Athens. After some time, Paul received reports about the continued trials and afflictions that the Thessalonians were facing. Paul had great anguish and concern for the hardships he heard about and sent Timothy to establish and encourage them in their faith.
Paul had told these young Christians that affliction and trial were part of the package when following after Jesus. (3:3-4). For the Christian, affliction and suffering are universally experienced and appointed for a good, wise and holy purpose.
We will be looking at this section under three headings: Concern, Affliction and Faith. As we prepare our hearts for Sunday’s teaching, read 1 Thessalonians 2:17 – 3:13 for the fuller context.
Some study questions to consider for this section (3:1-5):
1. According to 3:1-5, when Paul could bear it no longer and needed to know how the church was doing, what did they decide to do?
2. According to 3:1, how was it a sacrificial act to send Timothy back to Thessalonica?
3. According to 3:2 and 3:5, what was Timothy’s mission in going back to Thessalonica?
4. According to 3:3-4, why did Paul suspect that the young church might need their faith encouraged and strengthened?
5. According to 3:5, what happens to some people who appear to be believers? Who is the tempter? Have you ever known someone who appears to be a believer, but when trial and affliction came, they abandoned the faith? Read the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-23. According to the text, who is the rocky ground hearer? How do we harmonize the parable of the Sower with John 10:28-29?
6. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Throughout church history, Christians have relied on God more in times of trouble than they have in times of ease. Can you think of any examples of that? We are a needy people dependent on Christ and his gospel in all things and at all times regardless of our circumstances. While we are exhorted to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10) by walking in the Spirit under God’s gracious providence, we most especially should turn to God in times of affliction and trial. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. What should our posture be to God’s providence regardless of the circumstances? Why?